“In all the affairs and business of the family, even of the royal family, for king’s houses are no longer safe than while God protects us. We must depend upon God’s blessing and not our own contrivance.” Matthew Henry1
Sometime in your life you have probably heard the statement, “A man’s home is his castle.” In Australia some years ago they made a hit comedy based on this saying, and called it The Castle. It’s a popular movie, telling about a father defending his home and land from government takeover. The movie is filled with humorous insight into some of the lighter aspects of Australian culture, though a few sections of the movie are quite distasteful. The most impacting theme of the movie, however, is the relentless, one-minded focus of the father to protect his family at all costs.
My brother Ken and I have written this book with such fathers and mothers in mind. We have aimed our words at Christian parents who are willing to make every effort for the protection of their families. Our families do need to be protected. There is definitely a war taking place in society and there are two teams, God’s and Satan’s.
Satan is making every effort to persuade our children toward a worldly worldview. He’s doing this by attacking the very foundation of the Christian family: the authority of God’s inspired Word. Ministries like Answers in Genesis clearly point out the battle lines and help Christian parents build godly family heritages. Throughout this book, we have repeatedly reflected on the sufficiency of Scripture, the authority of Scripture, the importance of a biblical axiom, and an exegetical approach to God’s Word. A practical understanding of all of these concepts will help us defend our homes (and churches) from the attack and infiltration of Satan’s worldly and anti-Christian influence.
As we begin to conclude, I would like to emphasize a biblical perspective that puts everything else we have discussed into a proper light. Certainly, we all desire to provide a home that is “a family fortress” against the attacks of evil, but in order to do so, we must recognize who actually does the building, lest we assume a responsibility that is not our own, or feel tempted to take glory and honor upon ourselves for something we didn’t do.
Psalm 127:1–5 is written from a father to a son. In this passage, David is training his son Solomon, giving important insight to this very issue:
Unless the Lord builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman keeps awake in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, To retire late, To eat the bread of painful labors; For He gives to his beloved even in his sleep. Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, The fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; They will not be ashamed when they speak with their enemies in the gate.
These five verses give us an essential perspective from which we can endeavor to experience a godly heritage in the safety of a God-protected family fortress.
That’s a good question really: Who is the foreman of your home? Who is ultimately in charge of building the structure of your family? King David tells us that unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. This whole psalm contains great family insight and as we look closely at it we see important principles to guide us.
To teach us about the family unit, David uses the picture of a city under construction and the labor of those constructing it. In verse 1, we hear two clear warnings about the futility of labor without God. We can identify them because they both start with the word unless. The first warning regards construction, and the second concerns protection: “Unless the Lord builds . . . Unless the Lord guards. . . .” These phrases certainly have special significance for Christian parents.
We are in the business of building our families, and we are
also in the business of protecting our families.
But, how are we doing it; and who is really in charge of the building?
David says that unless God is the builder and protector, we labor in vain. Psalm 33:16–18 echoes this truth:
The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength. The war horse is a vain hope for victory, and by its great might it cannot save. Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love (RSV).
This is where the authority of Scripture and using the Bible as the foundation for building the right way of thinking comes into play in a practical way. It is a parent’s responsibility to take God’s Word as our axiom; the foundation upon which a godly legacy emerges. As parents, we confront compromise and uphold truth in order to defend our homes from the world’s lies, but unless God Himself actually builds and protects, it will not happen. He is the One who in His sovereignty does it all.
The building analogy that David uses is vivid. As Christian parents, we have the great blueprint (God’s Word) to instruct us as we build the house (a godly legacy and spiritual heritage). As we build according to that plan, we look through our biblical glasses to be the watchman, staying awake, and always standing ready to defend our family’s interest in godliness. In this way, we do not labor in vain, because it is with God ultimately at the head that the building is done, and in Him the protection is secure.
This principle is well documented throughout Scripture. For example, when a group of young believers began to divide themselves between Paul and Apollos, Paul chastised them with these words in 1 Corinthians 3:5–6:
What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.
The apostle Paul recognized that it was God who gave him the opportunity to serve, and it was God who caused the results. We would do well to recognize this as well. That’s the core message David is trying to get through to his son Solomon.
In fact, when using the analogy of “building the house,” David may have been speaking directly to Solomon. How significant this message must have been to Solomon who was later to build the great temple for the children of God! Right from the first verse, David is imploring Solomon to rely on God for everything, and to give all glory to God. I wonder if Solomon pondered these words while building the great temple. We can hope so, yet how many times in history have we seen the greatest of buildings built as a monument to man, rather than God?! We only need to turn to Genesis 11:1–4 to find an account of such a travesty:
Now the whole earth had one language and few words. And as men migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth” (RSV).
The Tower of Babel was all about man glorifying man. People were filled with desires for their own greatness, intending to build their own kingdom. The tower would stand in honor of themselves; a great monument to human achievement. God’s decisive response put a quick end to the blasphemy as we plainly read in Genesis 11:9:
Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth (RSV).
This momentous event caused the separation of people groups across the entire globe. Through the confusion of language, God separated the human gene pool, resulting in the formation of new cultures. The very fact that the earth contains isolated and independent ethnic groups and cultures (whole people groups that on the surface look different to each other), should remind us of our sinful desire to reject God and glorify ourselves.
Today, we see an even more devastating consequence of this incident. The same human arrogance that was responsible for the Tower of Babel is now manifested in worldwide racial hatred. This hatred is plastered across our television sets on a constant basis. Every time we see it, it should be a reminder to us of what happens when we labor in vain without God as foreman on our construction endeavor.
“Safety is just danger out of place.”
I have recently taken up jogging in an attempt to lose some weight and improve my fitness. When I jog with music, I tend to be able to run further. The words of songs can be very inspirational, and when turned up high, the music distracts me from the pain. (With the music blaring in my ears, it’s a little tougher to hear the protests of my feet and the complaining of my lungs!) The music of one artist always results in a far better run—the funky southern-style jazz of Harry Connick Jr. While his music is not Christian, one of his songs always intrigues me. The lyrics describe how there really is no true safety in this world, and that “safety is just danger out of place.”
We are responsible to do what we reasonably can to protect and build our home into an environment of sanctification, but in reality, there are too many factors, too many things out of our control for us to ever feel our family is “safe” due to our efforts. Rather than trust in God, those of us in Western society “labor in vain” to try to provide financial, social, and physical “safety” for our families. We strive to build successful careers, bigger businesses, and larger portfolios that we hope will give us safety and rest in retirement. As parents, we are tempted by society’s values to create a better living standard for our family, desperately trying to ensure that our children are given every opportunity in life for their own future social and financial success.
Since the fall of Adam, everyone has faced the toil and pain of hard work. In fact, a life lived in disobedience to God (sin), ensures that we will have a life of toil and hard work followed by everlasting death (separation from God). There is no substance to life without God. He alone can give us the peace and life we work so hard to obtain, as Psalm 127:2 reminds us:
It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep (RSV).
Both David and Harry Connick Jr. are telling us that “safety is danger out of place.” Yet David is telling us that there is no rest or safety outside of God. There is no way for a person outside of Christ to sleep well at night without the hope of a life in Christ. Safety and rest for our family comes through God and God alone.
When we went camping, our father used to classify people as either an “owl” or a “rooster.” If we were making noise early in the morning, my father would say, “Shhhh! Don’t make too much noise! The people next to us are night owls.” Dad, as you might have already guessed, was definitely a rooster. He used to get up early in the morning and walk down the hallway of our home yelling, “Rise and shine! It’s a beautiful day; don’t sleep in and miss it!” Ken has inherited the same early-morning-rooster-crowing as my father. (Please pray for his family!)
Dad always challenged us to “make the most of our time” (Eph. 5:16), but what is the point of getting up early, working as hard as you can to be successful, coming home late, ignoring God as the foreman, and never finding true safety or real rest? It doesn’t matter if you are a rooster or an owl. If God isn’t building your home, you work in vain.
The sensible way to measure these things is to consider where God is in relation to your decision processes. Do you trust in your efforts and your resources, or are you resting in the Lord as your protector and provider? Are you teaching your children to rest in the Lord on every matter, or take the burdens of life upon themselves? If you are sending your children to a costly private school, is your desire to provide them with a God-centered and uncompromising Christian education, or do you hope it will lead to a successful and secure future secular vocation? If you are working overtime to pad your retirement account and expand your investment portfolio, are you neglecting the opportunity to mentor your children in the Scripture and thus godliness (which is the best “investment” in the future you could ever make!)? Are you striving to provide material things other families are buying for their children (things that will evaporate in time), or are you striving to build a spiritual legacy that will never end?
First Timothy 6 is one of my favorite sections in Scripture. In this chapter, Paul teaches Timothy how to deal with false doctrine concerning the desire for wealth. In 6:6, Paul says, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” What a simple and powerful equation! If a parent lives by godliness, and displays contentment to their family, they will show them what is truly important in this world. Contentment and godly living is infinitely more valuable than any material thing.
While the world talks about striving hard for material success, in Matthew 6:24–34, Jesus says something entirely different:
No one can serve two masters. . . . you cannot serve God and wealth. For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life. . . . is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? . . . But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will care for itself.
In essence and in practice, Jesus says “I am your success. I am your life, I am all you need” (John 10:10, etc.). Because of our salvation in Jesus Christ, we are free from being measured by others in terms of wealth or position. No longer do we have to prove ourselves to prove our worth. Our worth is thoroughly proven in the willingness of Jesus to die and rise again for our salvation. The knowledge of salvation, and the love of God provide contentment, hope, and rest in our lives. That is something that the world can never understand or experience, no matter how much earthly wealth they have accumulated.
We sleep easy when our trust is in Jesus Christ alone. Anything else that we hope in for safety, is, in reality, a great illusion. If God is the builder and protector of our families, our toil is not in vain. With Him at the helm and His Word as our instruction, we will know peace and be able to focus on building an environment of sanctification according to His design.
In Australia, we have an odd cultural phenomenon called “rhyming slang.” We substitute a word with another word or phrase that rhymes with the original word, and understand it to mean the same thing as the original. Confused? Let me give you a few examples: The rhyming slang for the word wife is trouble and strife. The rhyming slang for the word road is frog and toad. The rhyming slang for the word look is Captain Cook, and the rhyming slang for kids is billy lids (A “billy lid” is the cover of a can used for boiling water over a fire for making a cup of tea).
If I wanted to say, “My wife, children, and I are going to have a look at the road,” using rhyming slang, I would say, “The trouble and strife, the billy lids, and I are going to take a Captain Cook at the frog and toad.” (The scary thing is that if you said this to most adults in Australia, they would know what you are saying!)
I have two billy lids, Sarah and David. If I give them a quick Captain Cook, as I travel down the frog and toad of life, I immediately see that they are a great blessing to me and my trouble and strife. (I’ll let you translate!)
Here is my point: I love my kids, and it is impossible to describe what a great gift they are—a gift that I recognize is directly from God. At the climax of Psalm 127, Kind David starts with a big “Behold!” The previous verses have obviously been building toward his next statement:
Children are a heritage from the Lord, The fruit of the womb is a reward (Ps. 127:3).
I am intimidated by these words actually. Our children are our heritage, our reward. . . . In this passage, God would have us place the importance of our children on a whole new level: They are part of His heritage to us. We are not just building a legacy for them; they are a direct gift from God to us. He owns them and has temporarily placed them in our stewardship, to build in Him, and protect from the evil world. What a responsibility! What an opportunity!
Children are a priceless gift, a reward from God to be cherished, and accepted with an awe of responsible stewardship—because they are not ours but God’s. In the wonderful praise found in Psalm 113, the finishing verse exclaims:
He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children, Praise the Lord!
Great praise is given to God when a child is born. The joy to the mother is like turning her from being homeless to having a home. In Psalm 127:3 however, David says even more. He tells us that children are not only a gift, but that they are a heritage from God. The word heritage has a broad meaning. First, it means inheritance in the sense of property or something you are given. Second, it means tradition in the sense of something that is handed down. Third, it can mean birthright or a given status.
The sense of awe in this concept comes not through the meaning of the actual word, but where the “heritage” comes from. We are not receiving an inheritance from a dead relative—nor are we giving some made up tradition or acquiring some worldly status. Our heritage is from God. We have been entrusted with an inheritance that is owned by Him. We are to build an ongoing heritage for our children based on His direction alone. If God hasn’t given you enough sense of responsibility by acknowledging your ultimate reliance on Him in the building and protecting of your household, if you’re not resting completely on Him for every aspect of contentment and rest, you’re simply not breathing!
Have you considered the blessings of your “billy lids?” Why not do so right now? Stop your reading, do a little thinking, and thank God for the incredible gift he has loaned to you.
In the last two verses of Psalm 127 (verses 4–5), David turns defense into attack. Just listen to his language:
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be ashamed when they speak with their enemies in the gate.
After reminding us that we must trust in the Lord explicitly for the protection of our family and for the building of our legacy, David tells us that children are weapons in the hands of a warrior. Obviously, any man with a full arsenal in his quiver (arrow holder) is a happy man. He is a man not disappointed and not ashamed in front of his enemies.
The wisdom and love of God is both a strong defense and a strong offense for the sake of the gospel in this world. In this way, a family is both a fortress and a lighthouse; both a refuge and place from which to attack, as it both defends God’s Word and shines forth His enormous love.
At ages 11 and 9, through the grace of Jesus, my children grasped a sincere understanding of the gospel and received Christ into their lives. With strong defensive foundations in the authority and sufficiency of God’s Word, Trish and I pray that Sarah and David will be lethal attack weapons (in a spiritual sense) for the sake of the gospel, bringing others to saving faith in our wonderful Lord Jesus Christ.
Our children have their own responsibility to trust and love the Savior. Nonetheless, our own home is our first mission field, the place we are to equip them to be able take up this responsibility of one day reaching out to the world themselves. Our children are born sinful, and we have the opportunity to introduce them to the saving power of Jesus Christ and then train them as missionaries to reach their own future families and the world.
I pray that you fully consider the significance of these passages and all passages in Scripture. Since Psalm 127 was written by David to Solomon, perhaps we should give David’s son the last say in regard to this matter. In Proverbs 27:11 Solomon says to his own son:
Be wise, my son, and make my heart glad, That I may reply to him who reproaches me.
Solomon understood the teaching of his own father in this statement. If you read through Proverbs, you will find that many of them start with Solomon saying to his son, “Listen to me,” or “My son, be attentive to wisdom.” As part of this legacy, parents therefore need to uphold the absolute authority of God’s Word, and a consistent biblical foundation. We need to submit, rely, trust, and give all family matters over to God and the authority of His Word.
It is impossible to do this as consistent godly parents if we make worldly pursuits our priority, and make worldly post-modern wisdom our authority by accepting compromise and tolerating ungodly teaching. We can’t build our own house on the lies of Satan and then hope that God will protect the heritage that He entrusted us with.
Unless God builds your house, you labor in vain.
God demands parental allegiance, and that allegiance begins and ends with a clear mandate: The raising of godly children in an ungodly world begins and ends with the content and the authority of God and His Word. He is the foreman of what we desire to build, He is the owner of all we have, and we never cease to be His children—not even as we seek to raise the children He has temporarily entrusted to us.
With Ken Ham
I hope the words of this chapter and this book have touched your heart and stirred your conscience. There is no doubt that being a parent in the modern world is a demanding and all-consuming task. Our desire is that God will somehow use these principles of Scripture and challenge you to build a godly legacy in His name for the sake of your children, your community, and our world.
Certainly, there is much to be done as parents. The principles from God’s Holy Word have shown us the foundation, components, and process for building a godly legacy. God commands and expects that we will take responsibility for the things that He has called us to take action on, and then to trust Him with all the results. Yet Steve and I carry with us a concern as well. We fear that in sharing our story and giving tribute to our father and mother, that we would somehow attract glory toward ourselves or our parents, or take credit for what He has done . . . something that our father would be appalled by.
We are more amazed than anyone about the way that God has chosen to use us as He has. He has done so in spite of our sin, our weaknesses, our fallen hearts, and our flesh. That’s why we wanted to close with this chapter on building a “family fortress.” Our desire is that the words of David from Psalm 127:1 will be continually at the forefront of your mind:
Unless the Lord builds the house . . .
Unless the Lord guards the city. . . .
If we think that our efforts are ultimately responsible for the type of legacy we are leaving, we set ourselves up for one of two certain errors: 1) We will either feel guilt and failure when things go “bad,” or 2) we will feel pride and arrogance when things turn out “well.” It’s your responsibility to be faithful to the principles of God’s Word, but unless the Lord builds and watches, it will all be for naught. We are called to action and belief, but we are entirely dependent on Him for the outcome. He alone can change hearts; He alone can design the heritage; He alone can build the legacy in a way that brings glory to His name.
That leads me to one last challenge of Scripture: The challenge to be parents of prayer. Heartfelt prayer expresses our dependence upon God to “build the house.” Earnest prayer praises God for His attributes and acknowledges Him as the Creator and sustainer of all things. Obedient prayer is a response to the perfect and authoritative Word of God which calls us to pray. Regular prayer is a privilege, allowing us to have focused intimacy with Him and give thanks to Him as our perfect provider of all things.
If you were to ask me what stands out in regard to my mother, I would have to say that Mum is a valiant and beautiful woman of prayer. One of my earliest memories in life is of my mother tucking me into bed, holding my hands together, and teaching me to pray. Each night she would close our time with the Lord with the same, simple recited prayer. She hasn’t said this prayer with me for many decades, but it has been etched in my mind forever:
Jesus tender shepherd hear me,
Bless thy little lamb tonight,
Through the darkness be thou near me,
Watch my sleep till morning light.
May all my sins be all forgiven,
Bless the friends I love so well,
Take me when I die to heaven,
There with thee to dwell.
The fact that I can remember this prayer at all tells me something about our mother. She understood from God’s Word the importance of prayer, and she acted on that understanding. Matthew 6:6 states:
But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly (NKJV).
Jesus didn’t say “if ” you pray, He said “when”! Prayer is not an option! It is a command that we see over and over in the Bible. It is certainly something our mother understood as she and Dad trained up their children in the ways of the Lord.
Our mother would tell us often that she was praying for us. After we left home and started our own families, Mum would often say, “I pray for you every day.” Sometimes she would tell me she had been praying all night about a particular situation. First Thessalonians 5:17 commands us to “pray without ceasing.” When I think of this verse, I think of Mum. She has always been a great prayer warrior. Of course, this has also had a great effect on Mally and me, and is reflected in how we brought up our own children. Not only did my wife and I spend time praying that the Lord might allow us to have children to train for Him (and He granted that request with all five of them), but we prayed for our children in the womb, we prayed for them when they were born, and we continue to pray for them daily . . . just like Mum.
We need to certainly build all our thinking in regard to raising our children on the Word of God—but no matter how diligent we are in applying the principles from God’s Word, we still need to “pray without ceasing” for our children. We need to teach them to pray . . . not meaningless prayers of repeated words, but prayers that reflect the living truth of God’s Word and the deepest desires and passions of our hearts.
I remember an incident when we still lived in Australia that illustrates the importance of our children seeing us pray and learning to pray themselves. Nathan and Renee (our two oldest children) were only around five and six years old. They were outside playing, when they suddenly came running into the house creating alarm. Renee had accidently dropped a brick on Nathan’s thumb. When he held up his bleeding thumb, it looked like a mangled piece of flesh. I’ll never forget what happened next:
Renee said, “We need to pray! We need to ask Jesus to fix Nathan’s thumb.” After a few days, his thumb did heal, without any permanent damage—and, of course, we thanked the Lord that Nathan’s thumb returned to normal. The incident reminds us not only of God’s willingness to heal, but of the need for us to have the mustard seed-like faith of a child in all our prayers.
When you look at a ministry like Answers in Genesis and the giant steps of faith we have taken over the years, it should also be understood that there has been much prayer behind all this. Not only have my wife and I prayed much—but our children, also. Of course, Dad and Mum must have spent countless hours praying for us—and praying for the ministries all of the Ham siblings have been involved in.
I send my mother my itinerary and she prays for me as I travel and for all the speaking engagements I’m involved in. She tells me that every time I fly, she prays for the plane the whole way until she knows I’ve safely arrived at my destination. Sometimes when I board a plane, I think I should get on the public address system and say, “Relax, people. You are all being prayed for by a great prayer warrior as we fly today!” I smile to myself and think, These people don’t know it, but my mum is really praying for them! Prayer is essential for our journey as parents as well, that we might reach our goal to create a legacy by raising godly children in this ungodly world.
A book of this type—concerning the training of children in the Lord—would not be complete without a challenge concerning a matter so vital as prayer. Prayer must be brought to our attention, lest we neglect it. The unchanging truth of God’s Word is our inerrant foundation. Heart-felt conviction, a vibrant personal relationship with Christ, and an understanding of our roles and responsibilities are the components with which we build. In the end, unless God builds the house, we labor in vain. Prayer is a genuine response to these principles, and an authentic communication of praise, thanksgiving, and petition.
May God himself draw us to our knees as we desire to take a stand for Him and His Holy Word.
1 Timothy 6:14–16
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