First Things First

[Editor’s Note: This sermon was presented at the Steps to Life Camp Meeting, July 2003. The conversational style of the speaker has been preserved.]

In case you do not know it, homes in America have been falling apart by the hundreds and thousands. That is not new. Homes have been under siege since the Garden of Eden. We find that almost every day we are assaulted with news stories about mothers drowning their children so they can run off with their lovers. Husbands and wives are killing each other; fathers and mothers are locking their children in dingy, stinky closets where the children live in filth.

We have to ask ourselves, What is really going on in the minds of human beings today? Well, we would say it is the signs of the times. Yes, it is the signs of the times. Jesus could see what would happen near the end of time, and He prophetically gave us insight into those things. He gave us this insight so when we would see these things come to pass, we would begin to understand that the Bible is true, and we would prepare our lives to meet Jesus when He returns.

I really believe, and I have been a pastor long enough to know, that in the heart of every one of us there are troubles in our families that we wish were not there. Maybe not in our immediate family but in the extended family. Why are so many homes experiencing troubles? There is an answer, and it, too, is very basic.

Failure to Obey

It all boils down to the failure to abide by the Law of God, to our failure to teach it properly in our homes. The first commandment says, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Exodus 20:3. On a spiritual level, God is the only god that is to be recognized. Jehovah, Yahweh, the Lord, is His name. He is the only one. He is a jealous God, and He said, “I am the only one who is to be worshipped.” He is the creator of all things. The responsibilities to God are spelled out in the first table of the law.

The second table also has its first commandment, which is really the fifth commandment of the total law. The first commandment deals with the respect for the Creator of human life. The second table, in reality, is connected very carefully and is a part of the first table. The first table lays out the spiritual relationship that we are to have; the second table deals with human relationships. They are all tied together. The second table, I believe, helps us to understand the relationship of the first table.

Childhood Influence

How many times I have had people tell me about their childhood—how they are the way they are today because of how they were raised. Some of those comments have been positive, but usually most have been negative. “My dad did not like me.” “My mother whipped me too much.” “I had chores to do.” I had this and I had that as a bad experience in my life.

All that might be true, but we do not have to stay there. Growing evidence suggests that the structural and functional brain reserves, thought to develop in childhood and adolescence, may be crucial in determining when cognitive impairment begins. A leading researcher, Robert Abbott, says that there is a whole constellation of diseases out there that occur in later years that are associated with how children are treated early in life.

Foundation of the Home

The fifth law of God’s Ten Commandments is terribly important. The fifth law, in reality, is the whole foundation of the home. Do you think that we have need of restoring the family? I think it is one of the most crucial needs that we have in Adventism today. A lot of times it is easy for us to point out into the world and say, You know, this is taking place in the world, and the world really needs to come to grips with its problems and resolve those things. I would like to suggest that we need to resolve some problems within the church, and we have the tools with which to do that.

Exodus 20:12, the fifth commandment, says, “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.”

This is the first commandment that is foundational in understanding who God is. I say this, because where does a child learn about God? By reading the first commandment that says, “I am the Lord thy God”? No. They learn it from mom and dad. The fifth commandment is foundational in understanding every other relationship that we have on this earth. I think that this is where we have gone astray. This is where we have failed, as Seventh-day Adventists. We claim to be the people of the Book; we claim to be the repairers of the breach, the restorer of paths to walk in, and yet have we really understood the law ourselves so that we can teach it to our children in the right and proper way?


Previous commandments to the fifth law have dealt with the object and the manner of worship—God and the Sabbath. This commandment deals with the nursery and the school of worship. Where is the discrimination taught to really discern between good and evil? This commandment, I believe, would solve all those problems, if it was rightly understood and rightly taught, because it is profoundly deep in its concepts.

Let us consider what this commandment teaches. First of all, it is absolute. Parents are to be honored, whether they are living or dead, known or unknown, good or evil. Now that is kind of a big order, is it not? But I did not write the Ten Commandments, God did, and God does not qualify His commandments. He does not say, Honor thy father and thy mother, if they treat you right, and they do not spank you very often. Honor your father and your mother if they are sober and if they are good, upstanding citizens. That is not what the commandment says. It is absolute.

I am the first one to confess that this can be hard. Yet there is one thing that I know about God’s Law; it is always possible to keep it. God never asks us to do something that is impossible. Perhaps we were raised in a home where we have carried a lot of “extra baggage”; we have had a lot of problems; we cannot relate to our parents in the right way. Then we read God’s Law, and we come to the fifth commandment that says, “Honour thy father and thy mother . . . .” We swallow hard and say, “I do not think I can do that.” Know for a certainty that through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can do it. There are consequences for not doing it, and there are consequences for doing it—one has good consequences and the other has bad consequences.

Present Society

Today, the society in which we live does not promote honoring father and mother. For years, there have been many television programs that have depicted the father as a buffoon and the mother as incompetent, that family life in the home is nothing but a joke, and that the children are petted and allowed to do just about anything and everything they want. We have grown up on those kinds of examples that have come to bear on our lives. So when we come to a church setting and a spiritual teaching that we are to honor our father and our mother, it kind of flies over our head because of how we have been trained.

We can honor our parents, though, from the standpoint of a child, even those who may be despicable. A father may be a reprobate, guilty of all sorts of crime, but God, in His wisdom, sees how that can make children better for the honor they pay to their parents. It is kind of designed as a two-edged sword. The Bible talks about a two-edged sword that cuts both ways. This commandment deals not only with parents, but it deals with children and with children and parents.

There is damage that can come because of disrespect of parents. There is nothing honorable about being ashamed of one’s own parentage. A lot of times we think it is smart to be ashamed, especially as young people growing up. I remember what it was like when I was growing up; we thought it was cute and cool to talk about our parents as “the old man” and “the old lady.” Maybe some of you have been there, too. I am ashamed of that kind of thing, as I understand now exactly what God requires of me, but there are still some young people today who have that kind of disrespect in their heart relative to their parents. Somehow we, as Seventh-day Adventists, need to tighten the screws down a little bit in our thinking as to how we need to understand God’s Law, because whether you are as old as I am or much younger, this still applies to us in a multitude of ways. There is never an excuse to continue being disrespectful or dishonorable of our parents. People see us. People watch us. They watch how we relate to our family. They watch how we relate to other positions of authority around us. They watch how we relate to God.

No Respect, No Reverence

We preach reverence in the church sanctuary, and rightfully so. When we come into the house of God, there should be an attitude of reverent awe that we are coming into the presence of the Lord. I would like to suggest that this same honorableness needs to be in the home as well. Never should a child be allowed to be disrespectful to the parent. Never should a child be allowed to be disrespectful to the teacher. Never should a child be allowed to be disrespectful to the police officer. Never should a child be allowed to be disrespectful to the minister. Never should a child be allowed to be disrespectful to the President of the United States. You do not have to agree with everything, but do you realize that all those attitudes stem right back to this fifth commandment? Look at the irreverence that is displayed by young people today to the school, to the government, to the neighbor, to the environment by throwing trash out onto the road. The children displaying such disrespect have not been taught how to honor their parents, to be obedient to their parents. If they are not taught how to be obedient to their parents, they are not going to be obedient or respectful to anyone else.

As a little child grows, that little child, looking to the earthly parent, sees the only God he can understand. Worship, like other things, comes by practice and experience, and those first lessons are taught in the home. This is why Ellen White makes such an important point about bringing the nature of that little child into harmony with God’s plan of salvation while it is still an infant in arms. (See Spiritual Gifts, vol. 4b, 132, 133.) Many times children are petted and allowed to do whatever they want. Oh, someone may say, they are just babies; they cannot learn. That is not true; what they say is not according to God’s plan. Children need to learn, from the time they are just little infants in arms, how they are to relate to God through the parent. Now that puts parents in a very awesome position, does it not? Practically speaking, God is revealed through the parent to the child. If there is no reverence, no respect for the parents, there will be no reverence for God.

Restore the Home

How do we restore the home? How do we accomplish restoring the home and restoring the family? Malachi 4:4 says, “Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, [with] the statutes and judgements.”

God is saying, through the prophet Malachi, remember the Ten Commandments. I gave those to Moses in the mount, along with the statutes and the judgments.

Continuing in verse 5, we read, “Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.” What is being spoken of here? This is the Second Coming, is it not? Elijah was long off the scene, but Elijah was manifest in John the Baptist, in the Elijah message John the Baptist preached. The Elijah message has come again in the person of Ellen White, through the gift of prophecy.

The coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord is the Day of Judgment. We are living in the time of the judgment. God is saying that there is going to come a reform. In the last days, just before Jesus comes, that work is going to be under the Spirit of Prophecy. This Elijah message will be of such a nature, “He shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” Verse 6.

What a message we have here! The last message is going to be a message of restoring the family. I am thankful for the gift of prophecy that sets us in a proximity where we can know every truth that God has for us to develop our characters, so we can meet Him with peace in our hearts. In those messages there is the concept that is going to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children. Do you think that needs to take place today? It most certainly does. And it is going to turn the hearts of the children to the fathers. This is a message that we, as Seventh-day Adventists, need to understand, to put into practice, so we can be the light that God wants us to be.

The Elijah Message

The Elijah message is to do a special work. If we are ever going to be ready for Jesus to come, we can know about all the prophecies, and we can speak all the mysteries, and we can understand all these things, but if we do not have love, we are nothing. Where is love learned? Love is learned in the home. As a Seventh-day Adventist, we can draw out the chart of the 2300 days, with all its intricate inner portions, the 1260 days, and all the rest of that. We can understand all of those things, but if we do not have our own family with us, what is it really all worth?

I know that many of you have reached out to your families. You are praying for them right now. My wife and I are the only Seventh-day Adventists on either side of our family. We were converts to this faith. It is hard reaching out to families. The one thing that we have discovered is that we really cannot say much to them. We have to live the message, and then leave the rest with the Lord.

God has a plan. He says, “I am going to turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to the fathers,” and that is going to have to be an accomplished fact before I can come back again. (Malachi 4:6.)

So in reality, what God is waiting for is for the Seventh-day Adventist message, through the Spirit of Prophecy, to sink into the hearts and the minds of those He has called to be His children. It needs to sink in to such an extent that the home base will change and there will be folks who will come to Him as changed people. Someone may say, “You do not know how I was raised. I do not know whether I would ever be able to change.” Do you think your battles are any more severe than anyone else’s? No, they are not. God can help you. God can take this message, and He can put it down in your heart and teach you to love that message so that it just kind of oozes out your pores.

If that happens, there is going to be a whole new set of circumstances that will begin to take place. The battle that we face individually will no longer be our battle but the Lord’s. It is His battle, and we can rest assured that whatever the consequences are, God will take care of it. That takes off a whole lot of pressure.

The Bible says that if you honor your father and your mother, your days upon the land are going to be long. Needless friction wears the life out. God knows that, so here is a blessing that can come to those who obey His command. They will not only build relationships but they will also have a long life because of the peace of mind they have.


There are carryovers to this, and I alluded to this earlier, about how what is done in the home affects the nation. Now, I realize that we are not in the game of politics, but at the same time, we have to live in the country, and the apostle Paul makes it very, very plain that we are to honor the governor and that we are to deal with civil matters in a right way. (See Romans 13:1–4.)

The reason why, when young people go to ball games and their team loses, they begin to riot and burn the town down, is because of the violation of the fifth commandment. They have not had any honor of the family at home, and as a result, they have no honor for anything in civil society either. In reality, home is linked with heaven, and God has ordained it so.

Linked With Heaven

We come together for worship, and we want the worship to be “just so.” How is it with our home? Do we want our home to be “just so”? Are we ordering the events in our home so reverence for God can take place when we go to church?

God has a message. He wants the home linked with heaven. The earthly parent He wants linked with the Father of eternity. Would you reach Heaven? Then reverence the home. Would you worship God? Then honor your parents, living or dead.

Back to Basics

“Hear me, O Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem; Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper.” 11 Chronicles 20:20. “Here me, O Seventh-day Adventists, and ye inhabitants of Wichita, Kansas, or Denver, Colorado, or Portland, Oregon, or Seattle, Washington, or where ever it might be that you live.” In reality that is what it is saying. Unless we personalize it, we are going to miss the point.

This test of prosperity is tied right in with the law. It says, “Honour thy father and thy mother.” We need to start with first things first. We are never going to be able to accomplish anything that is good unless we come back to the basics of Scripture. We must learn them, make the application of them into our lives, and allow them to be lived out in our lives. But so often we, in our own wisdom, try to do these things apart from God, and we fail. Maybe because we have failed so many times, it is now time for us to go back to the basics, back to the home, back to the instruction that God has given concerning the home. He says that He is going to restore the home before He comes.

If not us, then who? If not now, when? It has to start somewhere. I, like you, get older each year, and the older I get, I wonder, When is Jesus going to come? I believe that Jesus can come in my lifetime, and I want to do all in my power to hasten that day. I know that you do, too. I hope that by sharing some things old that it will help you to reflect a little bit more of perhaps where we have failed. There is nothing wrong in looking back where we have failed, but we must learn from it and go forward in the strength and the power that God gives to us.

Pastor Mike Baugher is Associate Speaker for Steps to Life Ministries. He may be contacted by e-mail at:, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.