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The Single-Parent Family - Acts 16; 2 Timothy 1

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Some of the most struggling and lonely people in our congregation may be those who are single parents. They may be moms, dads, divorced, or never married. They may be young teenagers; they may be older grandparents—but they all have this in common: they are raising children by themselves. Does the Bible speak to this? Are there any clues for Christians to understand so we can help bear the load of single parents among us? Yes, there are. Let’s take a look at them.

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The Single-Parent Family
Acts 16; 2 Timothy 1
Skip Heitzig
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Some of the most struggling and lonely people in our congregation may be those who are single parents. They may be moms, dads, divorced, or never married. They may be young teenagers; they may be older grandparents—but they all have this in common: they are raising children by themselves. Does the Bible speak to this? Are there any clues for Christians to understand so we can help bear the load of single parents among us? Yes, there are. Let’s take a look at them.
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Outline

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  1. The Cultural Reality (Acts 16)

    1. Yesterday’s Ancient Culture

    2. Today’s Modern Culture

  2. The Caretaker’s Role (2 Timothy 1:5; 3:15)

    1. The Role of the Parent

    2. The Role of the Grandparent

  3. The Community’s Responsibility (2 Timothy 1:2)

Study Guide

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Connect Recap Notes: November 11, 2018
Speaker: Skip Heitzig
Teaching: "The Single-Parent Family"
Text: Acts 16:2; 2 Timothy 1

Path:

Some of the most struggling and lonely people in our congregation may be those who are single parents. They may be moms, dads, divorced, or never married. They may be young teenagers, they may be older grandparents—but they all have this in common: they are raising children by themselves. Does the Bible speak to this? Are there any clues for Christians to understand so we can help bear the load of single parents among us? Yes, there are.
  1. The Cultural Reality (Acts 16)
    1. Yesterday's Ancient Culture
    2. Today's Modern Culture
  2. The Caretaker's Role (2 Timothy 1:5; 3:15)
    1. The Role of the Parent
    2. The Role of the Grandparent
  3. The Community's Responsibility (2 Timothy 1:2)
Points

The Cultural Reality
  • Timothy means one who honors God. He was the son of a mixed marriage: his mother was Jewish; his father was an unbeliever.
  • Biblical scholars aren't sure, but Timothy's father may have died. If so, Timothy grew up in a single-parent household.
  • Yesterday's Ancient Culture:
  • In ancient Roman history, there is scant record of divorce. The first mentioned is Spurius Carvilius Ruga, who filed for divorce in 234 BC because his wife was barren.
  • Rome had conquered Greece, and Greek culture had a different moral worldview, so the Roman perspective on marriage and divorce changed. Also, various civil wars in the empire had adverse effects on marriage.
  • Today's Modern Culture
      • According to the New York State Courts, the number of single-parent families has tripled since 1960.1
      • Two main factors are the increase in the divorce rate and out-of-wedlock births.
      • Single-parent families raise nearly one quarter of our nation's children—three out of every ten families—making it one of the largest population segments.2
      • Of all the single-parent families, 88 percent are headed by a woman. Fatherlessness is one of the most harmful demographic trends today.
The Caretaker's Role
  • The Role of the Parent
  • Paul didn't mention Timothy's father in the text. Timothy's mother and grandmother raised him both physically and spiritually.
  • Other women in the Bible raised children alone: Hagar raised Ishmael (see Genesis 21), and Elijah helped a widow raise her son (see 1 Kings 17).
  • Solo parenting is stressful, hectic, and demanding.
  • The Role of the Grandparent
  • Grandparents play a key role in a single-parent family support system.
  • In America, 2.9 million grandparents are raising six million kids.
  • Though a parenting team of mom and dad is the biblical ideal, the influence of a godly person (grandma or grandpa) will help raise a child better.
The Community's Responsibility
  • What does the future hold for single-parent children? For Timothy, Paul became his spiritual father. Paul called Timothy a "true son in the faith."
  • Eventually, Timothy played a key role in Paul's life.
    • Timothy accompanied Paul on his second missionary journey.
    • Timothy went to Jerusalem for Paul to collect an offering to help other believers.
    • Paul sent Timothy to Ephesus as a pastor. There, Timothy dealt with false teachers and appointed spiritual leaders.
  • In all, Paul mentioned Timothy twenty-four times, saying he was like-minded, meaning equal-souled.
  • Paul took the initiative to engage, encourage, and mentor Timothy. In a broader context, mentorship—what we call discipleship—is the responsibility of the church.
  • The church can step in and be a family in these ways:
    • Assistance: Help families in need with practical things
    • Availability: Be available to listen, help, and guide; provide counsel and comfort
    • Mentor: Single parents tend to make a soul-mate out of their child, enmeshing their lives together. But for an emotionally strong relationship, both mom and child need outside mentoring. Still, don't expect a mentor to be perfect; we're all human. Do your best and entrust the rest to God.
Practice

Connect Up: Look up Genesis 1:26. The text states, "Let Us make man in Our image." This verse is the basis of God's triune interrelationship ("Us," "Our"), as well as humanity's interrelationship with God and others (we are made in His image). Because God is a community of Being (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), the Lord likewise created humanity to reflect community: family, church, etc. How does community give insight into the triune nature of God? Why do you think God values community, be it family, church, or society?

Connect In: Think about this: to be is to belong. Being human means we belong to others: God, family, friends, our community and the world. What core characteristics should a church community adhere to in order to support all people (single, married, young, old, etc.) in their journey with Christ? For help, look up Philippians 2:1-4. Notice key characteristics, such as comfort, love, fellowship, affection, mercy, like-mindedness, etc.

Connect Out: Pastor Skip mentioned that part of the church community's responsibility to single parents is to provide assistance, availability, and mentoring. Take a moment and discuss the implications of this challenge within the local church. What practical things can you do today? Learn to LOVE: Listen to them, Offer help, Value them, and Entrust them to the Lord through prayer. Take some time to pray for the single parents you know, asking God how you can assist them.


1 Susan Pollet, Esq., "Single Parent Households: Are the Children Growing Up in Them Really Alright?," December 17, 2013, http://ww2.nycourts.gov/sites/default/files/document/files/2018-09/ArticleSingleParents.pdf, accessed 11/12/18.
2 Thom S. Rainer, "5 Fascinating Facts about Single Parent Families," May 27, 2014, https://www.ouramericanvalues.org/5-fascinating-facts-about-single-parent-families, accessed 11/12/18.

Transcript

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The Single-Parent Family - Acts 16; 2 Timothy 1 - Skip Heitzig

[MUSIC PLAYING]

Start building the home of your future today, Smart Home. Well, I have with me one of the great families of our church-- if you don't mind me calling you one of the great families of our church. But it's what I consider you. You guys have not only been here a long time, but you've served in so many different capacities.

Steve, you've given announcements before. You've worked our radio. You just-- you guys-- and Nancy you work here and do so much for us. If people only knew. But now they do-- at least those who are watching this.

So what's unique about this interview is you guys are the parents of this beautiful girl here, Katie. You're Steven and Nancy Raymond, and she is Katie Milford. And she is the mother of four of your grandchildren, but she's a single mother. And so Katie, welcome.

Thank you.

We're glad you're here. You're not only a single mother, but you're studying to be a nurse.

Yes.

So this adds an incredible texture to this that you raise for children with help-- you have help of your parents-- but you're going to be an RN, a registered nurse. So you're studying, you're having to work, go to the hospital, and raise children, which is a crazy schedule, right.

It's a lot.

So you have how many children?

I have four children.

Their names?

Anna, Piper, Asher, and Calvin.

And their ages?

They are 5, 4, 2, and 2, so we got twins in there.

OK, so what are their personalities like? Are they all sedate, mellow, compliant.

Goodness. I don't know. You know I want to say what their personalities are, but then they'll change.

That's true, right.

So some of them are outspoken. Some of them kind of go with the flow more, and then it changes.

Huh, interesting.

So they're developing.

So boys and girls, what's the mix, again?

Two girls and two boys.

Oh, that's, kind of, a nice thing, isn't it?

If you don't mind, tell us what is a normal day in your household. When you get up, what time do you get up?

Between 4:30 and 5:30 usually I'm up, unless one of the kiddos pitter patters in and wakes me up earlier than that.

Really?

I've got one early riser.

Really?

Between 4:00 and 4:30, he's up, ready to go, so.

Wow.

Yeah, it's hard to fall asleep when you know a two-year-olds awake in your house.

That's a good point. OK, so what time do you go to bed at night?

11:00 to 2:00, sometime between 11:00 and 2. I was up till 4:30 twice this week and then went to sleep for about an hour.

Oh my-- so your sleep is very minimal.

Yes.

And you're having to study and raise these children, so. And you're smiling right now.

Yes.

This is amazing. OK, so then it's safe to say to answer that question, there's really no normal day. It varies. You have a routine. You have a schedule that is frequently broken.

Yes.

OK. And you've learned to live-- are you a hyper, kind of, organized person.

Yes, I have four calendars on my wall with my schedule and each of their schedules so that I don't miss anything. Yeah, and then if there's a hiccup or a conflict, I'm usually contacting my parents and trying to figure out how I'm going to get each kid where they need to be when they need to be there.

Yeah, so you organize things. But you've had to learn to be relaxed with organization, because life happens all the time OK, so as a single mother what would you say you're doing the best at?

I hope and I believe that all of my children know that they are loved, that I love them, and that the Lord loves them.

How do you convey that to them? How do you convey the Lord's love to them? And they're going to ask, yeah, but I mean where's dad and what happened and--

Yeah, I'm honest with them. I tell them that they're loved. I say your dad doesn't live with us anymore, but he says that he loves you. And you have a father in Heaven who's perfect. And I pray with them.

I say sorry a lot. I say sorry to my kids a lot, and I'm just honest that I'm a sinner too. Sometimes my patience is running out. And I'll just get in the car or--

But Katie, that's the best thing. What I'm hearing is that you don't skirt questions they ask you. You're just very honest with them.

No, I'm honest with them, and I am real about that we all need grace.

Yeah, that's so good. That's such a healthy lesson for any parent, but especially a single parent to hear.

So is there anything you would say you're not doing well at if I could be honest with you, the other directions. Is there something that's a real challenge for you?

I think being a single parent, I get really insecure. So I might think that I'm doing something well like set up a new discipline pattern for them or something, and then I don't have anyone to bounce it off as much.

Right, so reinforce it.

Right or reinforce it. So reinforcing discipline for them sometimes can be a challenge.

Do they try to--

Manipulate?

Yeah. And like in a two parent family, they're going to find the easiest target and manipulate that one to avoid the sterner ones. So would they do that with grandparents? Would they say, hey-- and maybe you can all chime in here, but would they know that mom would say no but you might say yes?

Yes.

And the opposite. And the opposite. And the opposite, because I am a little more strict, I think, than she is, so.

And you want to play the grandparent role, but sometimes you have to reinforce the parental guideline.

Yeah.

Right.

They know when to play who. I guess that's the best. They're pretty intelligent.

Kids are-- they learn quickly.

Right. So they get up a lot in the night, and here's a little story. I was babysitting one night. I think Katie had one of the kids in urgent care or the emergency room over night, so I was there with the other kids. And one of her kids got up in the middle of the night and looked down the hall and saw me there and just went, ah.

Because he knew I wasn't going to let him get out of bed in the middle of the night, where she might be more prone to do that. And he hustled his tail back into bed when he saw it was me. And yet at the same time, they may ask us to do something special with him that they wouldn't ask their mother too.

Yeah, I had a grandmother like you.

Yeah.

Yes, she would. When I saw her, I did that. But she-- I had such fond memories ever. She just had a loving but a firm hand. Wouldn't let me get away with stuff, and I was looking for somebody to let me get away with stuff.

Yeah, pretty much that's how it is. And they love me. They do.

OK, so Katie, how do you-- do your parents help you?

They do. They do a lot of running around, a lot of loading kids in the car and taking them to where they need to go. And then when I'm at work, I work as an LPN now as a pediatric licensed practical nurse, there with the kiddos.

Wow.

Yeah.

And then what else do they-- well, that's a lot, OK. Who else? Is that your only support?

I actually have a list of people I can call in times of--

Aw, that's good.

--the unexpected. And sometimes it might be 10 people I have to call before I can, can you pick up Anna from school? Her teacher called, and I need to go to class.

OK, let me drill down on that. You have a list. Do you recommend single moms make a list?

Absolutely. And asking people do you mind if I put you on a-- that offer to help.

This is good.

Yes, so a list for can I call on you if this happens or that happens? I need your help in this or that.

What about getting stuff fixed and done around where you live?

Oh, that's tough. I'd call on my brothers sometimes. Sometimes things just don't happen.

Is it the brother that I know really well?

Maybe.

OK, yeah. It could be.

Maybe so. Yeah, I had a mouse in my house last week that I caught, but I couldn't bring myself to take out the trash can.

Oh, no.

Yeah, what'd you do? Let him loose.

No, I had to call my brother to come take it out. Yeah. Yeah, so I have brothers that are supportive. And then sometimes stuff just doesn't get done. Sometimes the weeds are overgrown and the car gets taken to an oil changing place to get done, you know. But it gets done eventually.

Wow. So OK, I ask this question at the services, but I want you to speak to churches, to the body of Christ. What can the church-- have you found support from your church and in what ways? And in what ways can the church, churches, Christians, do better at supporting single parents?

I have found support in the church. My daughter goes to preschool here, and that's been amazing to know that she's getting fed the word of God daily at school. And the men's ministry has come and helped just with some really tangible things, getting-- they fixed our shower. They did some yard work. And knowing that my children can go to the children's ministry, and I can sit-in service and we can all participate in church.

One thing that was really great when I first became a single parent was that people were bringing us meals or asking when they could baby sit, and then that kind of waned off. So there's a continuous need as a single parent.

Because we forget probably, don't we? We'll say, oh, yeah, I'll help out then, but then--

Yeah, well, everybody has their own life.

Sure, but it would be nice to know that people are thinking about you.

Yes, absolutely. And one thing that I tell my friends who don't have children or don't want children is that they're leaving a legacy when they invest in my kids. They may not have children of their own, but when they come and they babysit for me or wash the dishes and get the kids in bed so that I can study, they're leaving a legacy in my children. And that's just a blessing.

That's a good way to put it. So I want to, kind of, segue into mentoring. Later on, they're going to get to some rough ages. And when they do, they do have the support. They do have your family. But what about maybe asking somebody in spiritual leadership? And it could be-- Steve could be grandpa, but just could you speak to my son or take him under your wing.

And I know that I've been asked in the past to do that, and I've just seen there's some people that are either in leadership that I'm just so proud of because they blossom. And not that I did anything. I just took them in a different direction, make them think about something, and just provided some strong leadership. Would that be something you'd ever say, hey, could you do that?

Oh, yeah.

And I do. I've got-- I have friends who have children that are older than mine, and they'll come over. And they're maybe six years older than my children, and I'll say why don't you go read with them. Look, here's this children's Bible. Why don't you guys go read together.

Yeah, this is-- that's a good point. So somebody that your kid's going to think he's cool.

Right. He's still a kid, but he's not an adult. But I can look to him.

Yeah.

So that's awesome, use examples that are just a little older.

So let me let me now switch to grandma and grandpa Steve and Nancy Raymond, what's the best part of being a grandparent?

I mentioned it in one of the services this weekend. For me, I think-- because I was so young. We were 20 and 18 when we got married and a second chance at parenting.

Yeah.

We know a lot of things now that we didn't know when we were younger.

But you guys were great parents. I remember you raising your kids. I thought you were great parents. We'd come over to your house, and our kids were friends. But so I just wanted to say that. You really are. But you're saying having a second chance, you can, kind of-- you have a different perspective.

Yeah, I mean, you saw me at my best. There's just times where as a younger parent I think I was quick to anger, and with the grandchildren, sometimes I laugh at things that would have really set me off in the past. So I've mellowed with age.

And I think I can be stern when they need that, but then as soon as they turn away, kind of, chuckle. Things aren't-- you pick your battles I think a little different than you do maybe when you're inexperienced.

What in your opinion as parents, grandparents of multiple children, what is she doing well? What is Katie doing well, as a parent?

I'm just so impressed. You heard about her schedule. And I just wouldn't-- I can't imagine having that endurance. And so many times things will come up, and I know Katie reminds me that the safety and investment and raising of the kids is just primary. And they are being raised in the love of the Lord in that His love for us is unconditional and that He wants the very best for us. That's what Katie gives to her children.

So you're giving her straight A's on that. That's good. There's obviously times where you are unable to be there for an incident if she calls. She has her list. You're first on the list or second. I don't know what they are, but.

They're number one.

OK, so there are certain times where your work schedule or your lives, you can't do it. So tell us about that. What's that like?

It's, kind of, really rough, because you want to be there for them. You want to do everything you can to meet their need. But then you have to recognize that you are not their provider. That the Lord is their provider. It is up to the Lord to meet the needs that she has, and you just, kind of, have to let yourself off the hook and trust him. And you know what? He always is faithful. It's really great.

Yeah, when I'm calling you for things, sometimes I'll preface it with you can say, no, but I need this and, kind of, remind you that there's other people that can help to.

Katie, you've always been a happy person. As long as I've known you, you've always been that funny, sweet, little, silly girl. And it's not gone. I mean, having the schedule you have, the children, the responsibility, you still have that. You still seem buoyant. Tell us how that works.

It's just a miracle. I don't know, because I don't sleep. So I don't know how it happens, except that I have the Holy Spirit and the joy of the Lord.

Do you ever get to a point where you just say, oh, man? It comes crashing down on you.

Well, my computer crashed this week, and I called my mom in tears. So yeah, there's little things that happen that are unexpected like your computer crashing that shouldn't be a big deal that, kind of--

thing

--that just go over the list. And that's when it's--

It's the straw that breaks the camel's back.

Exactly. And then it's nice to have someone to call at midnight and go, oh my gosh, and for them to pray with me or give me that extra boost that I need.

And it seems that you have the perspective of knowing this is the season. I'm studying now, but soon I'll be a nurse. And my kids will grow older, and they'll have a lot more breathing room and space. Do you ever think that?

No, I don't. I don't, because I don't know how things will change. I mean, they're going to get more activities. It's just going to get different. I don't think it's going to get easier, but it'll get different.

That's realistic. So what gets you over the hump now when you're in a crisis? What gives you hope and what gets you through?

Encouragement from others I think. I think that sometimes I just need a little encouragement from somebody else.

And do you see a payoff now? I mean, you're thinking-- my kids, I'm going to raise them in the Lord and they're going to love the Lord. What's the payoff for you now?

That they are loved. That they are loved now and safe now to the best of my ability. And when they say things like I love you, mommy. I love you, mommy, or thanks mom, that's a huge pay off.

Just that.

Yeah.

You have a deep love. You love being with them. That comes out. You show that. That's awesome. So now project 10, 15, 20 years down the road, the kids grow up. Things are different, not any less, like you said, but different. What's your hope for them?

The same. I hope then that they will know they are loved, and that they will be able to say how faithful God was in this time.

Beautiful. Beautiful. I love that.

And they'll all have a story of for the last 20 years this has been my life and this has been how God was faithful.

OK, now what about you guys? You're looking down, your kids, grandkids?

Just to see that investment that Katie's put into them to see how their lives-- the kids, the grandchildren will glorify the Lord and His kingdom. And just I guess that would be a reward to Katie for her investment. She's working so hard. So it's fun to watch them grow, and we're looking forward to seeing that future.

Yeah, and I think we don't yet know how God is causing all things to work together for good. And I'm very excited to see how He is. Because I know He'll show us.

I love your faith. You guys are a great example of a godly family. Thank you. Thanks for being here. Thanks for doing this, this weekend.

Thank you.

Bless you.

Would you please turn in your Bibles today to two places in the New Testament, the book of Acts chapter 16 and the book of 2 Timothy chapter 1-- Acts chapter 16 and 2 Timothy chapter 1. The series that we are doing is called the Smart Home, but we feel we would be dumb if we didn't include a large segment that makes up homes in America. That is the single parent family.

We're going to talk about that today. Every parent I've ever met belongs to the PTA. I don't mean the Parent Teachers Association. I'm talking about poor, tired, adults. It's tiring to be a parent. It's even more tiring to be a single parent.

Wanted, parent. Job description, long term work in chaotic environment. Candidates must be willing to work various hours, including evenings, weekends, and 24 hour shifts. Some overnight travel is required, including primitive camping sites and endless sport tournaments in faraway cities.

Travel expenses will not be reimbursed. Extensive career duties are also required. Responsibilities, must be willing to be hated temporarily until somebody needs $5 to go skating. Must be willing to bite tongue repeatedly. Also must possess the physical stamina of a pack mule.

Must be willing to face technical challenges like small gadget repair, mysteriously sluggish toilets, and stuck zippers. Must screen phone calls, maintain calendars, and coordinate production of multiple homework projects. Must handle assembly and product safety testing of a half a million cheap plastic toys and battery-operated devices.

Responsibilities will also include floor maintenance and janitorial work throughout the facility. Possibility for advancement and promotion, virtually none. Your job is to remain in the same position for years without complaining, constantly retraining and updating your skills.

Wages and compensation, you pay them offering frequent raises and bonuses. A balloon payment is due when they turn 18 because of the assumption that college will help them become financially independent. And when you die, you give them whatever is left.

It's hard being a parent, but imagine doing all of that alone. Imagine trying to raise children, balance the budget, keep a job, and remain sane. Some of you don't have to imagine that. That is where you live. You navigate that life as a single parent daily.

And today, I want to focus on this one large slice of the demographic pie in our country. The single family home is currently the fastest growing family form in North America. According to Pew Research, the Pew Research Society or group, they said and I'm quoting, "family life is changing. Two parent households are on the decline in the United States. The share of children living in a two parent household is at the lowest point in more than half a century."

Today, many families are headed by a mom. Some families are headed by a dad, though fewer. Yet, they are increasing in number. And others are headed by a grandparent who are raising their grandchildren. That is the reality we face.

What I want to do is look at three aspects of it. I'm going to look at the culture, the caretaker, and the community-- and I mean the church. And we're going to look at, in particular, a young man by the name of Timothy. You know of him in your New Testament. He became the protege to Paul the Apostle.

We're going to look at Timothy, Timothy's mom and grandmother-- both of which are mentioned by name in the Bible. We're going to consider his father. He is mentioned in passing. And then we're going to look at a very important person to Timothy, which really made him blossom beyond that, and that is his mentor by the name of Paul.

So we're going to begin in Act 16, and I'm going to start with the cultural reality. Let's look at the text. Acts 16 verse 1, "then he came to Derby in Lystra-- he being Paul and his associates-- then he came to Lystra-- or Derbe and Lystra, and behold a certain disciple was there named Timothy, the son of a certain Jewish woman who believed but his father was Greek. He was well spoken of by the brethren who were at Lystra and Iconium.

Paul wanted to have him go on with him. And he took him and circumcised him, because of the Jews who were in that region. For they all knew that his father was Greek. And as they went through the cities, they delivered to them the decrees to keep, which were determined by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem. So the churches were strengthened in the faith and increased in number daily."

We are in Paul's second missionary journey here. Paul has already been on his first mission trip, and now he's on his second missionary journey. And he is in part going through the same cities he was on his first, though, adding a few more. Now here he revisits a town called Lystra. Lystra happened to be in South Central what is modern day Turkey.

And we find that there's a young man named Timothy. Now Timothy is the son of a mixed marriage. What I mean by that is he had a Jewish mother. But this Jewish mother, it says, believed.

His mother believed. That is she was a Jewish follower of Jesus the Messiah. She came to believe that Jesus was indeed the Jewish messiah, and she put her faith in him. But it says that his father was a Greek. Now I'll get to that in a minute.

When Paul went through Lystra on his first missionary journey, that is probably when Timothy's mother and grandmother-- though not mentioned here-- was saved, believed. It says in chapter 14 that they made many disciples, and two of those disciples were Timothy's grandmother and Timothy's mother-- maybe even along with Timothy. Though, these women may have led him to faith in Christ.

So when Paul goes through the second time through this area, that's when he sees Timothy who is now about maybe three years old in the Lord saved. He's been saved three years. And he notices that he has matured significantly. So he asked Timothy to join his evangelistic team.

Now the name Timothy, it's two words put together. time means to honor and theos, God. So Timetheos that's Timothy. It means one who honors God. It was a name probably that his mother and/or grandmother gave to him.

Now Timothy's dad may have left the family, but my guess is that he's dead. And I say that because several commentators, one in particular-- and I'll quote him said, "the use of the imperfect tense instead of the present tense to refer to Timothy's father suggests that he was dead." So we have a linguistic clue that leads us to believe that Timothy was a son raised by a single mother with the help of a grandmother, as we'll see. But that his dad was dead. So he grew up in this kind of a home.

I'm bringing this up because single parenting is not as unique as you might think to this generation. It's been around a long time. And it was around even when Paul and Timothy 2,000 years ago were on the pages of the New Testament.

So let me take you back to New Testament times, and let me throw out something that may shock you. It shocked me when I found out. Did you know that for the first 520 years of the Roman Empire there is not a single recorded case of divorce. 520 years, not a single recorded case of divorce in the Roman Empire.

Now I'm not saying it didn't happen. It's just not recorded. But the first recorded case that we have is in 234 BC when a man named Spurious Carvillius Ruga divorces his wife, because she is barren.

She is infertile. She cannot produce for him an heir. That became grounds for divorce. He wrote her a bill of divorce, and he walked out. That's the first recorded case in the Roman Empire.

Scholars have struggled with this to try to figure out, why the change? Why do you go from hundreds of years without a single recorded case of divorce and then all of a sudden this? And after this, there is rampant divorce that takes place. And here's the reason they have come up with.

Rome conquered Greece militarily, but Greece conquered Rome morally. Rome conquers Greece, but adopts all of the values and cultures and immoral values and cultures that was part of Greece. So in adopting their values and being loose morally and loose with marriage and divorce, it got so bad that there were even jokes around the Roman Empire like this Roman jest-- marriage brings only two happy days, one when the husband first clasps his wife to his breast and the day when he lays her in the tomb.

Now that's quite a statement. To say a man only gets two happy days, the day he marries his wife and the day he buries his wife. That's how they were thinking about marriage. So this change in Roman thinking began to create a large number of single parent families during the latter years of the Roman Empire.

Add to that the civil wars that were taking place that we know historically happened, especially around the first century, and all of that has an adverse effect on marriage. Because you have now many women who have had husbands die in wars, and a lot of men have died. So there's no suitable replacement. So they raise their children alone.

That is what was happening 2,000 years ago. Now let's pivot from that, and let's make a comparison from that to our culture. Now single parenting is not new, as we've already seen. But the extent to which it has grown in our present day and age is unique. So according to an article written by Susan Polat this is found on the New York State Unified Court System website, the amount of single parent families has tripled since 1960.

Between the 60s and the 90s, there has been a 215% increase in single parent families and about another 15% added to that since then. Now there's several factors for this. I'm not to bore you with the research, but there are two major factors. And both of them you are aware of. Number one, the divorce rate is increasing, and number two, the amount of births out of marriage, out of wedlock births is also increasing.

But now listen to this. Let this statistic settle on you. Single parent families raise one-fourth of our nation's children. One-fourth of our nation's children are raised in single parent families. So three out of 10 families with children today are headed by a single parent. This makes this group one of the largest population segments in our society, to overlook that, to minimize that, to not deal with it as a church would be irresponsible. Because statistically half of all American children under 18 will live in a single parent home at some point in their lives.

Now currently, sadly, 88% of those single parent homes are headed by whom? A woman, a mother. There's a little bit of an offset to that. The single parent home run by a father is growing. That segment is growing, but still 88% of those homes are headed by women.

And that is because dads over the last several years have been bailing out of relationships. Fatherlessness is the most harmful demographic trend in our culture today. David Blankenhorn wrote a book called Fatherless America, and he wrote this, and I quote, "the United States is becoming a fatherless society. A generation ago, an American child could reasonably expect to grow up with his or her father. Today an American child can reasonably expect not to," end quote.

Now having said that dismal news, let me quickly flip the coin and say this. Some of the best people I have ever known were raised in single parent families. Some of the most responsible, godly leaders in the church that I know have been raised in single parent families. Some of the greatest people in history have been raised in single parent families.

For example, Sir Isaac Newton, great scientist and little do many people know a Christian apologist, believed ardently in the faith, raised in a single parent family. Economist, Alan Greenspan, the same. Dr. Ben Carson pediatric neurosurgeon at John Hopkins for years now the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. All of these and more were raised in single parent families. So that is the cultural reality.

Now let's turn from that and look at the caretaker for a moment, what the role of the caretaker, the single parent is. So turn with me to 2 Timothy chapter 1. We're going to introduce you now to Timothy's mom and grandma. Paul is writing this personal letter to his good friend now at this point and protege, Timothy.

2 Timothy chapter 1 verse 1, "Paul an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God according to the promise of life, which is in Christ Jesus to Timothy, a beloved Son, grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. I thank God whom I serve with a pure conscience as my forefathers did. As without ceasing, I remember you in my prayers night and day. Greatly desiring to see you, being mindful of your tears, that I may be filled with joy when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother-- here's her name-- Lois, and your mother, Eunice and I am persuaded is in you also."

Again, you'll notice there is no mention of Timothy's father, but there is the naming of Timothy's mother, Eunice, and grandmother, Lois. And not only that, but his mother's role is mentioned. What is the role? The genuine faith, Paul says, the real deal.

Your mom and grandma really believed in their life in Jesus, and they passed that down to you. That is their role. That's their primary role, and they fulfill that primary role passing faith, exemplifying faith, living out genuine faith. They lived it, you saw it, and now you own it.

Now turn over two chapters to chapter three. Writing again to Timothy chapter three, go down to verse 14. "He says, but you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of knowing from whom you have learned them." Stop there for a moment. Timothy, in part, learned a lot about his faith from Paul the Apostle. Paul mentored him. I'll get to that in a moment.

But even though Paul taught that to him, Paul is now going to go back further than that. And notice the next verse, "and that from childhood you have known the holy scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus." You learn the scriptures as a young Jewish boy.

Your mom taught you those scriptures. Your grandmother reinforced them. You heard that in the home, and they came to faith, authentic, genuine faith, and they passed that on down to you, along with learning the scriptures in that home.

So this becomes then what I want to focus on. This is the primary role, a spiritual heritage. If this is the only thing you pass on to your children, you have given them everything. A spiritual heritage is everything.

If you're getting them to heaven, whether they got an advanced degree in college or made straight A's on this or became valedictorian, that's so-- who cares? If you're setting them on the path to know Jesus Christ, you've given them everything. That's the primary role.

So every parent needs to learn this. But single parents because life is so stressful need to prioritize. You have a to do list, single parents. Let's say there's 106 things on it. You'll never get them all done. You'll never get them all done.

So get done the most important thing. The apartment may not be the cleanest, but you pray every morning with your son. You may not get promoted at work, but you share with your daughter the faith of Christ. You may not have as many friends as you'd like to have, because you're a single parent and life is stressful. But you take your kids to youth group, and you are implanting in them the most important thing and that is the spiritual heritage.

Deuteronomy chapter 6 is for all parents, but I'm thinking in particular of single parents. It says, "you are to love the Lord your God with all of your heart, all of your mind, all of your soul, all of your strength." But then here's the responsibility, "and you shall impress them on your children and on your children's children."

For years, I have quoted from Peter Marshall. Peter Marshall is just to remind you at one time was the chaplain to the United States Senate. Senate Chaplain, Peter Marshall, great guy, great speaker, great author. His wife is Katherine Marshall. He died, leaving her a single mother of a son.

She wrote about that. She said, I felt lonely. I felt very frustrated. I felt helpless. And she said, I depended on God. Every morning I had quiet time. Every morning I cried out to God on behalf of my son.

And I remember reading that and thinking God must take special interest in those prayers. If there are prayers that God is quick to answer, I think it's the prayer of a single mother crying out on behalf of her son or daughter. Because the Bible says, God is near to those who have a broken heart.

You remember the story in your Old Testament of a woman by the name of Hagar. You know about Abraham and Sarah. Sarah-- God said you guys are going to have a son, and they never had one for a long time. And so Sarah has the bright idea of, hey, take Hagar and have a child through her.

Hagar has a child named Ishmael. One day Sarah goes, I don't want them around anymore. So she tells her husband Abraham kick Hagar and Ishmael out of the house, out of the tent. So he kicks him out of the tent. They're wandering around in the desert.

So now you have a single mother with her child without any support system at all. So what does she do? What would you do? She prayed. I saw that prayer.

She cried out to God, and God miraculously verbally spoke to her from heaven saying fear not, Hagar. I will make your son into a great nation. God, it's as if he was just so quick to answer the prayer of that single mother in that case.

In Psalm 68, we are told that God is the Father of the Fatherless, and he is the defender of widows. Is God in His holy habitation? Now again, not all single parents are mothers. Some are dads. Some are grandparents. But the majority 86 to 88% are mothers.

Single parents feel emotionally stretched. They feel financially stretched. Life is hectic. It's demanding. And that's where, once again, those priorities come into play.

You can't do it all. Don't expect to. Give yourself a break, but zero in on what's most important.

I have a book I found by Dennis Rainey, an excellent resource. It's called I think Ministering to 21st Century Families. And there's a whole section about the single parent family, and he writes this-- I encourage single parents to stay focused. First, their hope must be in God. For unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain build it.

And he says, single parents may be more aware of their need for God's sustaining guidance than those in two parent families. Second, he suggests single parents need to pursue a relationship with a fellow burden-bearer, someone who can support them in their struggle raising children. A burden-bearer-- let me introduce you to Timothy's mother's burden-bearer, and that's her mother Timothy's grandmother, Lois. She's mentioned in this verse.

When I called to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother, Lois. Could it be that Lois was the first one to respond to the gospel message and Paul's first missionary journey? Probably. It dwelt first in her. She said, yes, Jesus is the Messiah. I'm going to follow him. And then Eunice, Timothy's mother, did, and then eventually Timothy did.

Grandparents play a key role in the support system of a single parent. Now in our modern culture, there's a new phenomenon that is growing. Not just grandparents helping children, but grandparents raising grandchildren-- taking almost full custody, because the parents of those children are not viable, are gone, are unengaged, are unable. There's a number of reasons for this, but there's even a name for it and it's called custodial grandparents. And custodial grandparents are grandparents raising the children.

The chief reason for this in our culture is opioid addiction. Drug addiction so attaches itself in some families that parents just can't raise children, and so grandparents raise them. In fact, there are now 2.9 million grandparents that are raising six million children in this category.

Back to Timothy, his dad is gone. Grandmother and mother have come to Christ. Grandmother, a mother raising Timothy. And you're saying, oh, poor Timothy. Are you kidding? He had stereo evangelism going on in his life, stereo Bible study.

He had mom telling him about Jesus and grandmother telling him about Jesus. He had mom telling him about Bible verse, and grandma reinforcing the Bible verse. And I bet they had different personalities. I bet maybe his mom was a little bit stricter, and grandma was a little bit softer.

Somebody once said grandmothers are mothers with lots of frosting. And maybe that was Lois in Timothy's life. But the grandparent, in this case, played a very significant role in not only having but passing on the faith to her grandchild. So that's the cultural reality and the caretaker's role.

Now I want to turn and look in a different direction, and that is the community-- the community's responsibility. And here, I'm drawing the circle around the church, all of us. And I want you to look-- same chapter, 2 Timothy, chapter 1. But notice this, verse 1, "Paul an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of life, which is in Christ Jesus, to Timothy, a beloved what?" Son.

He calls him a son. He didn't mean this literally. He obviously meant this spiritually, figuratively. "A beloved Son, grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and from Christ Jesus, the Lord." So dad is gone. Timothy is raised by mom and grandma, two women.

Paul steps in at some point, second missionary journey Acts 16 and becomes a spiritual father to him, a spiritual father. In 1 Timothy, chapter 1, don't need to turn to it Paul says, "to Timothy, my true son in the faith-- my true son in the faith." Timothy joins Paul, and eventually play such a key role in Paul the apostles life that I think it's safe to say Timothy became Paul's right hand man.

Joins his mission team in Acts 16, second missionary journey, goes on to Jerusalem with the money Paul collects from Gentile churches to help the poor believers in Jerusalem. Eventually Paul will send Timothy to Ephesus to pastor the church he started, and it wasn't an easy job.

Timothy had to deal with false teachers. Timothy had to raise up good spiritual leadership, and Timothy was up for the job. All said, if you were to look at all of Paul the apostles epistles, he mentions Timothy 24 times. Do you think he played a significant role in Paul's life? And it's because of what Paul did for him.

Now Paul will even say this-- and it's the only time he ever used this description of anybody. It was only to Timothy. It's the word like-minded. In Philippians chapter 2, he said, "for I have no one else who is like-minded who will naturally care for your need or estate as I have in Timothy." Very unique word in Greek. Like-minded, isopsuchos, it's a word that means equal soul.

He shares my soul. He would do what I would do. I would do what he would do. He has my values. I have his values. He thinks like I think. He's my very soul.

But here's what I want you to see. That didn't just happen magically. It happened intentionally when Paul invited Timothy on his team and Paul invested in Timothy and trained Timothy and mentored Timothy and then sent Timothy. And I just want to use all that to say that's our responsibility as the church.

Paul was a churchman. He was an apostle in the church. He was a busy guy doing apostolic things, but he took the time to invite him, to mentor him, and then to send him.

Here's an article I found in a single parent family magazine . It says a century ago, there were almost an equal percentage of single parents. Then it was due to desertion or death, as opposed to divorce and never been married situations. But what they had in those days was extended families.

The culture was different. Families weren't as mobile as they are today. Extended families were in that area, and they helped everybody out. So we don't have that anymore as much.

Ah, this is where the church steps in. We are the extended family. We can be the extended family. We can find these single parents, and we can offer that extended family support.

Again, Psalm 68, Paul-- or Paul, Paul didn't write Psalms. The Psalmist described God as a father of the fatherless, a defender of widows. But it goes on to say, "God sets the solitary in families." One of my favorite verses and descriptions of God, god sets the lonely, the solitary, the single, single parent in families. We are those families. The church becomes that family.

And since there are so many broken families, why not be the glue? Why not come alongside and offer a way to mend that brokenness. You say, well, how can I do that?

I'll give you three practical things all believers can do at some point. Number one, assistance-- this is very practical. Can I mow your lawn? Single moms would love that. We heard an interview with Katie, and when I interviewed her at length, she said one of the best things is the men's ministry came over, fixed my appliances, mowed my lawns, pulled my weeds, just helped out. That's assistance.

Second, availability-- be available. You say, for what? Here's one-- adult conversation, right. You single moms, you have conversations all day with your kids. But an adult conversation with someone where they can listen to you and respond to you and and weep with you, that's so important.

And when you're available, you can also be available to counsel them about ex-spouse issues, forgiveness issues. You can help them if they want to date again or remarry, what to look out for, what to look for. You can help them reenter the job market, practical skills.

So assistance, availability, and I'll add a third because it's Paul's role, a mentor. Timothy was Paul's son in the faith, he calls him. Paul was a spiritual father. And when you have a strong spiritual person step in to a relationship between a single parent and a child, it can be very beneficial and here's why.

It didn't happen all the time, but it happens enough that sometimes when you raise a child by yourself, you become so emotionally attached to that child you start looking to that child for the emotional fix that you would get like in a spouse. And you're looking for that child to become your soul mate. So boundaries are crossed and psychologists call that being enmeshed. It's not a good setup.

So a strong mentor can come in and offer direction and guidance that helps bring a little bit of necessary separation, the needed strength of a mentoring friend. So this is in a scriptural viewpoint single parent family. There was a mother. She's getting ready to deliver her second child. She's on the way to the hospital, and on the way, her six-year-old son gave her some parting wisdom.

He said, mom, make sure you get a receipt just in case we have to take it back. Well, parents don't get that luxury, nor would they ever want it. You don't take back your children. You can't return your kids, but you can rescue your children from an unfulfilled life. And you can do that easily by having strong ties with grandparents but with the body of Christ making the best of the situation with the resources God has given you.

Let me just say again don't expect perfection from yourself. Don't say, oh, I could have done more. I didn't do this today. I didn't do that today. But just do what you can and make sure what you can do is the very best. It's a spiritual heritage. So do your best and commit the rest.

I'm going to close in prayer, but I think it's appropriate if Katie Milford, whom I interviewed, would come out and lead us in prayer to close and pray for single families in our church. Thank you, Katie.

Father, thank you for your goodness, God. Thank you Lord that in our loneliness, you are there. Thank you for your comfort, Jesus, and your faithfulness. Thank you for the story on the other side of this.

God, I ask that you would give us all hearts that want to be available to one another and serve one another. That you'd give us wisdom on how to speak to our children, Jesus. And we praise you for them. We praise you for the joy of children, for parents and grandparents and friends alike and the joy that your Holy Spirit brings. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Amen. Amen.

We hope you enjoyed this message from Skip Heitzig of Calvary Church. How will you put the truths that you learned into action in your life? Let us know. Email us at mystory@calvarynm.church. And just a reminder, you can support this ministry with a financial gift at calvarynm.church/give. Thank you for joining us for this teaching from Calvary Church.

Additional Messages in this Series

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7/29/2018
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Meet the Architect
Psalm 127
Skip Heitzig
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In this first message of our Smart Home series, we focus on the foundational elements. Let’s meet the Architect of the home and the family—God Himself. His blueprints for the people He creates include satisfying relationships and integrated operation. We should make sure to build alongside of Him so that our homes become satisfying places of refuge, palaces of joy, and platforms for worship. Let’s take a fresh look at Solomon’s instruction.
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8/5/2018
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Get Prequalified—Finding a Mate
Genesis 24; Genesis 29
Skip Heitzig
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Dating can be exciting. It can also get weird and end poorly. I like the common sense of one who quipped, "Some people are unmarried for the same reason that some drivers run out of gas. They pass too many filling stations looking for their favorite brand!" Though dating was unknown in biblical times, let’s look at five principles in budding relationships to help you prequalify to build a solid, long-lasting, and satisfying Smart Home.
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8/12/2018
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Get Prequalified—The Minimalist Home
1 Corinthians 7; Matthew 19
Skip Heitzig
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Should the top priority of a single person be to get married? Can a Smart Home also be a minimalistic home—with just one occupant? Why is it that singleness is sometimes considered less acceptable than marriage? Can the single life be a full, enriching, and positive experience? Perhaps you’ve lost your mate or you’re still waiting to find one. Or maybe you’re happy to stay single. Today let’s consider singleness and celibacy in light of Scripture.
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8/19/2018
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Following the Blueprint—A Husband’s Love
Ephesians 5:25-32
Skip Heitzig
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To live in a Smart Home, occupants must follow the architect’s blueprint. God, the inventor of marriage, has given roles to husbands and wives so they can live together in harmony and joy. The basic role of a husband is to love his wife. This love is explained and described by the architect in the building documents found in Ephesians 5. This kind of love that a husband lavishes on his wife will enable her to fulfill her role with greater ease and deeper contentment.
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8/26/2018
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Following the Blueprint—A Wife’s Submission
Ephesians 5:22-24
Skip Heitzig
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When it comes to a family’s roles within the home, the “S” word (submission) can generate controversy. To modern ears, God’s standards can seem out-of-date and even distasteful to some. But I am suggesting that the quickest way to fulfillment for a married woman is to discover the freedom of her role as properly understood in Scripture. So let’s jump in and unpack this role and see how it is meant to correspond to a husband’s loving leadership.
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9/2/2018
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Building Your Future Home with Care
Ephesians 5:15-21
Skip Heitzig
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The construction of a house is no small undertaking. After the blueprints have been drawn up and approved, there are a series of steps to take to ensure the building is strong and durable. The verses we are considering today give us the preliminary features necessary to live peacefully with another person. Before the roles of family members can ever be exercised successfully, these considerations come first.
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9/9/2018
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Till Death Do Us Part—What You Need to Know to Make Marriage Last
Genesis 2; Mark 10
Skip Heitzig
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Is a lifetime commitment to a spouse even reasonable? Does permanence have to become a goal if it means a couple just has to grin and bear it? What if a marriage hinders one’s personal growth and self-fulfillment? Today I want to make a case not just for getting married but also for staying married. Let’s go back to the divine architect’s original prototype to understand what He had in mind when coming up with this idea of marriage.
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9/16/2018
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The Master Bedroom: Components of Marital Intimacy
Proverbs 5:15-21
Skip Heitzig
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Being intimate with your spouse involves more than just sex (though it certainly includes that). Intimacy is a sense of caring and affection in which one can be totally vulnerable with someone without the fear of being hurt or misunderstood. The physical/sexual factor should only enhance that. Intimacy is essential if a marriage is going to thrive. Let’s recover four components of marital intimacy.
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9/30/2018
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Communication Breakdown
Nate Heitzig
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God’s plan for the family is to build, strengthen, and protect it. But Satan has declared war on the family as he seeks to undermine, weaken, and destroy it. The statistics are staggering: the divorce rate has risen over 700 percent in this century, and there is one divorce for every 1.8 marriages. Since communication is key to oneness in marriage, Nate Heitzig examines the Scriptures to find how to deal with communication breakdown in a marriage, both how to prevent it and how to repair it.
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10/7/2018
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A Smart Home...with In-Laws?
Genesis 28-31
Skip Heitzig
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Every wedding creates a blended family. Marriage not only joins a man and a woman, it blends the extended family of mothers-in-law, fathers-in-law, sisters-in-law, and brothers-in-law. The odds for dysfunction run pretty high. Today we consider the roles of God, parents, in-laws, and married children doing life together. How can in-laws be prevented from becoming outlaws? Four principles apply:
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10/21/2018
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Money Matters for the Smart Home
2 Corinthians 9:6-15
Skip Heitzig
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The issue of money in a marriage is a primary source of conflict and worry, so much so that this conflict often leads to collapse. How can a married couple handle their finances so the marriage relationship isn’t damaged? Using an example of the apostle Paul’s plan to raise funds for the Jerusalem church, let’s get some solid pointers on the believer’s (and hence believing couples’) relationship to finances. Like it or not, money matters.
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10/28/2018
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Looks Can Kill: Winning the Battle with Temptation
Matthew 5:27-30
Nate Heitzig
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Many have heard the saying, "If looks could kill…" The truth is, looks can kill, spiritually speaking: temptation leads to sin and sin leads to death. In this teaching, Pastor Nate Heitzig examines two admittedly uncomfortable topics: temptation and adultery. In light of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5:21-31, two strategies emerge for how to stop temptation before it starts, and how to stop temptation once it starts.
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11/4/2018
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A Mother's Role in the Smart Home
1 Samuel 1
Skip Heitzig
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A mother's love is great—it sets the standard of unconditional love. God has done and continues to do great things through women. The Bible records numerous faithful and spiritually fruitful women, such as Jochebed (Moses' mother), Ruth, Esther, Elizabeth, and Mary. In 1 Samuel, we meet Hannah, a woman whose faith modeled three powerful truths about mothers.
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11/18/2018
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The Fundamentals of Family and Fatherhood
Ephesians 6:1-4
Nate Heitzig
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The American family is in crisis, and children are among its many victims. Evidence of the effects of broken families on children is everywhere: 12 million teenagers are drug addicts, teenage suicide has risen over 400 percent, and 1.5 million teenage girls will become pregnant out of wedlock (650,000 of those pregnancies will end in abortion). According to the Los Angeles Times, the most reliable predicter for these behaviors is family structure. If there has ever been a time for a godly upbringing, it is now. In this teaching, Pastor Nate looks at the fundamentals of a healthy family, including parents’ responsibility to their children and children’s responsibility to their parents.
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12/2/2018
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Patching Holes in the Smart Home
Song_of_Solomon 5-6
Skip Heitzig
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Most marriages are marked by periodic skirmishes, but did you know that disagreements can actually strengthen your marriage instead of weakening it? A lot will depend on how you patch the holes left by a disagreement. Conflict resolution is an essential skill that will minimize permanent relational damage. Let’s take a look at Solomon’s marriage to his Shulamite bride, the first fight they had, and their final reconciliation.
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12/9/2018
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Divorce: When the Dream Is Shattered
Matthew 19:3-9
Skip Heitzig
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Not every smart home stays intact. Infidelity, as well as other factors, can shatter the dream of happily ever after. To be honest, this message today will not be an easy one to deliver nor will it be easy to hear. Jesus must have shocked His audience by His answers here to their questions. But my heart goes out especially to those in our flock who have been hurt by these things, and my prayer is that healing will come your way.
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12/16/2018
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Getting Smart about Remarriage
1 Corinthians 7
Skip Heitzig
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Three-fourths of divorced men and two-thirds of divorced women will eventually remarry. That’s the present reality of the American relational landscape. Some of you have walked through the pain of such a breakup. The question for us is always a scriptural one: Are there biblical grounds for remarriage? Yes, of course. When a divorce occurs for one of the following reasons, a remarriage is appropriate.
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There are 17 additional messages in this series.