Pastor Dale Kaufman
Sunday Sermon – October 26, 2003
On May 14, 1988, a school bus full of children, teens, and chaperones traveled down Interstate 71 to Radcliffe, Kentucky. They were on their way home from a church outing at a Cincinnati amusement park. But in the town of Carrollton, Kentucky, a drunk driver heading the wrong way down a highway in a pickup truck slammed into the bus head on. The bus burst into flames, killing 24 young people and three adults. 30 other people were injured. The pickup driver, Larry Mahoney, was a repeat drunk driving offender. He survived, sustaining only minor injuries. His blood alcohol concentration was 0.24 percent, substantially more than the legal limit in Kentucky. In just a few terrible moments, more than 57 families were shattered and an entire community was in shock. Some lost sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, parents and countless friends. Others now had to help surviving loved ones recover from injuries and trauma.
On September 2, 2003, Maurice LaGrone was driving a car containing his girlfriend and her three young children outside of Clinton, Illinois. No one is quite sure what happened, but the car was driven off a boat ramp into a lake. Maurice and his girlfriend made it out alive, but six-year-old Christopher, three-year-old Austin, and 23-month old Kylie drowned. Maurice was charged with driving under the influence. Now none of us in this room, at least I hope, would think about getting behind the wheel of a car if we were under the influence of dangerous substances. If we had something in our bodies that was changing the way that we thought or the way that we acted, we hopefully would not get behind the wheel of a car. We know that the risks would be too great. That we could hurt or possibly kill ourselves or others, especially someone we love.
But I’m concerned, because there seem to be a lot of Christian families that are “driving under the influence.” Not of drugs or alcohol, but of unbiblical ideas and philosophies. Christian families that are sinning — and the effects of those sins are far reaching and long lasting. I have to tell you this morning that I am going to meddle in your lives a little bit. I like doing that. My wife asked me this morning if she should be prepared, like get her flame-retardant suit on or something like that, and I told her no, it is okay. I like to tell the truth and sometimes the truth hurts, and what I may say to you this morning may be a little uncomfortable for you to hear. It may hurt a little bit. It may sting just a little bit. That is okay. Let it if it needs to. See, the Bible says that the sins of the fathers last for generations. The way that your family drives today is going to have a huge impact on the future.
One event can change the future, or a series of events can change the future, or a series of things that you believe as a family maybe can change your future for good or ill. I want to look today at four ways that families are driving under the influence of the culture that is around them.
Complacency is basically just a feeling of self satisfaction. A feeling like, hey, everything is going great. We have arrived and so you get kind of lazy. You get kind of apathetic. Let’s face it, we are a blessed people. Most of us to one degree or another are living the American dream. We have cars, we have houses, we have a TV or two, we have a computer. We all have food enough to eat and we have a nice church to take our family to. In our honest moments, we know that we have got more things than 75 percent of the world has. We are rich, we are fat, and we are happy. And except for the occasional tragedy that strikes, most of our lives are pretty smooth. But maybe we have become an “ant freeway.” What is an ant freeway? Let me read you a story: A guy by the name of Will Eisenhower was a counselor at a Bible Camp one evening. He tells this story: “It had been an exhausting day. The guys in my cabin were asleep and I was dead to the world. Then there came a dim awareness. Ants were crawling all over my body. I was so tired and sleep felt so good that I actually resisted rousing myself. I knew that if I aroused even a little bit, I would have to acknowledge that my sleeping bag had become an ant freeway. I did not want to know the awful truth, so for at least several seconds I tried to fight it. At some deep level I told myself that sleep was the reality and the ants were a dream.” Well, you see, complacency is sort of like sleeping through an ant attack. If your family is to survive, it must be roused from sleep. One of my favorite things to do and my favorite class to teach is a class called “Understanding your Teenager” and I do it for parents. It is about a 10-12 week class–depending on how long they can handle the things I throw at them. It always amuses me to see the reactions of parents to some of the things that I talk about in that class or to some of the content that I have in the class in terms of the things that are out there in the world that their teenager may be exposed to and they kind of go “I never knew,” “I had no idea.” This is actually my fourth church where I have taught that class and every church that I have been at where I have taught that class consistently has had parents stating “Wow, I had no idea that my kids were facing this kind of struggles and that there were these kinds of things out there in the world.” You see, as Christians, we are insulated. We insulate ourselves very well and we want to be insulated from the garbage that the world throws at us. But, the reality is that we can never be fully protected — and in our complacency, the devil seizes the opportunities to make our families “ant freeways.” Think about it. How many times have you as a parent, let’s say or as a child… how many times have you said “Wow, I am just going to drift along.” I am just not going to think about what is out there. I don’t want to think about the horrors of the world around me. I don’t want to think about all of the bad stuff that is out there. I just want to be cozy. I just want to be protected. That is okay, but Satan can take advantage of those times and before we know it, we end up as ant freeways, all of these little critters crawling all over us.
Romans 2:12 says: “Do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world.” I love the way the Message translation puts it, it reads like this: “Don’t become so well adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking.” Let me ask you this question: How does your family fit into this culture, the culture of the world without even thinking about it. Here is the most common way; I think that we do it today, that we fit into the world around us. It is called over-scheduling. I am going to meddle a lot here. In my hand I have a Palm Pilot. PDA, Personal Digital Assistant. I borrowed my wife’s because hers is in color. Mine is black and white. I am not bitter about that anymore, but for a while I was — well, not really. These things are great and I have come to rely on mine and Pastor Jeff relies on his a lot more than I do mine, and my wife relies on hers and maybe you have one of these as well or know of somebody who has one. Typically, what I have found is that these things get pretty full. Maybe you don’t use one of these. Maybe you just use a regular planner or a DayTimer. Take a look at that. Take a look at your kid’s planners, you know kids today have planners as well, some even carry their own PDAs. We are over-scheduled. We are over-committed. Take a look around. People rushing from one thing to another to the next, to the next, to the next and we never seem to stop. We never seem to slow down long enough for God to talk to us. What is the voice the Bible says that God uses? A still, small voice. When your life is over scheduled — when you have got it all down, when you have the month, the year all planned out — when you have every moment of every day filled with something, God’s voice cannot get in. If God’s voice cannot get in, then He cannot change your life. He cannot change your kid’s lives; he cannot change your family’s life. You have compromised. In the area of your over commitment, you have violated Romans 12:2 and are conforming yourself and your family to this world. Now, that is a pretty harsh statement. Whatever area that you are over committed — and I will tell you that every one of us is, myself included — whatever area you are over committed in your life you are violating Romans 12:2 because you are conforming yourself to the pattern of this world. You have become so adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking and God has a hard time getting through.
This is how it works. This is Ice Mountain natural spring water. It is really good. Very nice, pure and clean and I am going to take a drink because I have been talking a lot. Wonderful stuff. Tastes very good. Well, you can probably see where I am going with this. This is how God wants to work in your life. This is the kind of spirituality that each of us should have: pure, unsoiled. Clear as mountain spring water. But what happens when we throw in a little additive (dirt). Anybody want to drink this now? We muddy our spirituality many times as families. We do this when we compromise what God has said in His word and do things that we ought not to be doing.
Let me bring up a touchy subject: Holidays. We have Halloween coming up on Friday. Halloween is a high satanic holiday. I don’t know if you are aware of that or not. We don’t talk a lot about Halloween in our church. We tend to just kind of let it go by the wayside. We don’t really want to call attention to it and I think that is fine, but this morning I really thought about it and thought we need to talk about that. What kind of message do you send your kids, parents, if you say to them that we are going to celebrate Halloween? See, Halloween is not a Christian holiday. Halloween is a holiday to our Enemy. I think we need to do some thinking about that. What kind of message do we send our kids when we say “we worship Jesus on Sunday morning but you know, this Friday you can go out and dress up like a witch or a devil or a demon and you can go around and take candy from strangers.” The origins of trick or treating are very deeply rooted in pagan worship. What kind of message do we send our kids? I think we send them a muddy one.
What about Thanksgiving? Well, Pastor Dale, that is a patriotic holiday, a time when we give thanks. We gather around the table and we give thanks. But you know what Thanksgiving is fast becoming is nothing more than a harvest holiday. In fact, if you go to the stores, you see harvest themes. There is nothing wrong with harvest themes but I have noticed over the years that God has been taken out of Thanksgiving a little more each year and if as Christian families, we fall into that, then we are compromising. If we say that we will just gather around and eat turkey and pumpkin pie and all that stuff and we forget to thank God for it, then it is nothing more than a harvest holiday.
What about Christmas? Well, Christmas, that is a Christian holiday. We celebrate the birth of Jesus. How many of you have told your kids about Santa Claus? Aww, come on Pastor Dale, St. Nicholas back in the 4th Century A.D. He was the precursor of Santa Claus. I agree, you are right, and to be honest with you, I don’t really have a problem with Santa Claus as long as my kids know that Santa Claus is nothing more than a myth. That there is no jolly, fat elf that comes down the chimney and gives them presents on Christmas morning, that the reason we are celebrating Christmas is that we are remembering the birth of Jesus. My son, Isaac asked me last night, we were watching of all things, a SpongeBobSquarePants Christmas special. My kids had seen it in Blockbuster and begged my wife to rent it. It is not even Thanksgiving yet and they want to watch Christmas stuff. I like SpongeBob SquarePants, it is great but the first cartoon was about Santa Claus and Santa coming to Bikini Bottom — that is SpongeBob’s home. They were talking about Santa Claus and Isaac was sitting in my lap and he looked over and said “Daddy, is Santa Claus real?” Now, I have always told them that Santa Claus is not real from the time that he was very little up until now. But I don’t know if he hadn’t gotten it in his head or whatever, and you know, I thought to myself, all right, if I tell him yes then I can’t use this illustration during my sermon. So I said, Isaac, no, Santa Claus is not real. He is a myth. He is a fun story that people tell around Christmastime. But, Isaac, you know the real reason we celebrate Christmas, don’t you? He said “Yeah, the birth of Jesus.” I said, “That’s it!” You see, I have a problem with talking about Santa Claus as if he is something real, even to our very young kids. I think they deserve the truth. I think if we muddy their spirituality in even just those small ways, then we set ourselves up for problems later on down the road.
And while we are on touchy subjects–how about church attendance? What message do you send when just about any excuse will do for you not to go to church on Sunday morning? I’m tired… I guess we won’t go to church today. Football games – Michigan is playing Michigan State. Gotta go see that football game – Jim (ed. Note: the church treasurer), could you draft my final paycheck, I think I may be getting it soon? Gotta play golf on Sunday morning. Now I am meddling. It is just too hard to go to church, or you know, I just don’t want to sit through another boring sermon from Pastor Dale, you know he preaches the boring stuff all of the time. I like Pastor Jeff a whole lot better. What message do you send to your family when just about anything will do? If the waters of your family’s spirituality have gotten muddy, then I think it is time to let God to some purifying. I can’t make this water clean again. I can’t make the waters of your family’s spirituality clean, but God can.
Proverbs 17:1: Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting and strife. Ever notice that people are getting angrier these days? Whether it is because of the stress of our times, the unceasing lust for more and different things or the approach of the end times, the world is getting nastier and families are falling prey to violence and conflict more than ever before. Now it is kind of interesting, I did some research on this verse, Proverbs 17:1 Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting and strife. The word feasting in this verse can be translated as sacrifices. You see, it was the religious homes that this verse was meant for, not the non-religious homes. It was the homes where God was proclaimed. It says: better in those homes to have a dry crust of bread with no water, with nothing, just the dry bread. Better that and have peace and quiet then to have this house full of sacrifices, full of religious duties. Full of religious-sounding things and have that home be filled with strife. Is there a conflict in your home? See, even Christian homes are not exempt from strife and conflict. It is time to get honest and find out what is behind the conflict and then deal with it. Settle it as best you can. Forgive where you need to and move on. You see, Satan loves to worm his way into families and one of the best ways he does it is through conflict, through tension in the home.
Backseat driving – By this I mean the tendency of marital relationships to take a backseat to parent-child relationships. Here is a news flash. The most important relationship in a family is the marriage relationship, not the parent-child relationship. Okay, I have the kids going “wait a minute, Pastor Dale… you were okay until now. Now you are telling me that I am not as important in the home as my Mom and Dad?” That is exactly what I am saying. You are not. The most important relationship in a Christian home is the marriage relationship. The relationship between husband and wife, not the parent-child relationship. If your marriage suffers, then every part of your family structure suffers, right? For those of you who have kids grown and gone, you know this. If your marriage suffers, your family will suffer. We live in a child-centered culture, don’t we? We live in a youth-oriented culture. We have to look young, we have to act young. We have to be young. You watch TV and everything on TV is always young people doing all of these great things and they sell products now to make you young again. Grecian formula that you can put in your gray hair. They sell stuff to make you grow hair. No, it does not work on me! They sell stuff to get rid of wrinkles, stuff to make you younger. We live in a youth-centered culture, but remember we are not to be conformed to the culture. Does this mean that we send our kids back to the days where children should be seen and not heard? That is what I grew up in. That was kind of the atmosphere in my home. Children should be seen and not heard. My Dad, he has gone on now. He passed away many years ago. My Dad never once asked for my opinion about anything until I was over 20 years old. Never once, because children should be seen and not heard. When I finally got a job and went out into the world and started making my own way, then he believed that it was now time and “Dale, you are an adult now, I can ask your opinion about things.” We should not send our kids back to those days, that is not what I am saying. But it does mean that we have to place a higher priority on our marriages than we do on child rearing. The fact of the matter is, happy kids result from happy marriages. That is God’s plan. It doesn’t necessarily work every time, but that is God’s plan. Happy kids result from happy marriages. See, when you drive, your kids should be in the back seat. Studies have always shown that kids are safer in the back. Why? Because they are protected back there. It works the same way in our families. Mom and Dad, you ought to be sitting on the front seat of the family car driving the family where it needs to go. You ought to be going in the same direction, and Dad, you ought to ask directions of your wife when you need to. I know that is hard to do, gentleman, but you have to do it. You want well adjusted kids? Then have a well-adjusted and love-filled marriage. For those of you who aren’t married yet, get this down. Start it out right. When you get married, the most important relationship in your home is the husband and wife relationship. Now I have on your note-taking guide a couple of lists: The Wife’s List and the Husband’s List–and I want to give you some things that you can do to have a well adjusted, love filled marriage.
Husbands and wives, you need to get in the front seat, put your kids in the back and quit driving under the influence of the world. Steer your family where it needs to go. With God as your helper, keeping everything as pure as you possibly can, not muddying the waters of your spirituality, not compromising with the world. Maybe there are other ways that you and your family have been “driving under the influence,” I don’t know. I just touched on a few of them. Take an honest, hard look at your family and see where it needs to go and drive it that way.
Stand with me and let’s close in a word of prayer.