“...the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are fe“...the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
w who find it.”
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the 8:30 at
Wakarusa United Methodist Church
309 S. Elkhart Street (just south of the light in downtown Wakarusa)
The Importance of Family
January 2, 2011
Almost three years ago, a group of us met downstairs to discuss the possibility of a new worship service. We left with two main goals: to offer a worship service with a more causal style and to make a difference in people’s lives by presenting God’s unchanging truth in a way that was relevant and applicable. As we start this New Year, we’re going to focus on the one aspect of life that is most relevant and makes the biggest difference in most people’s lives—families.
Today I’d like to share a big picture overview before Ed, Mark, and I move into more specific relationship topics. The first and most important point the Bible tells us about family is that families are an extraordinary gift from God. God cares about families--He created them.
The first two books of the Bible tell the creation story. Of all the magnificent wonders of the universe, the brilliant heavens, the natural wonders of the earth, all the creatures of the water, sea and sky, the best creation God saved for last”:
Then God said, Let us make man in our image, in our likeness. So God created man in His own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number.”
God gave the first people the gift of relationships with each other through the gift of marriage and the gift of parenting. Genesis 2 gives a more detailed account of the creation of Adam and Eve. God created Adam first. He must have seen that on his own Adam was in trouble because:
The LORD God said, “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
Adam’s wife, Eve, completed Him in a way that no other created thing could. God created her to meet Adam’s emotional, social, and physical needs. This is a family friendly series, but I’ll tell you that the phrase “became one flesh” is a euphemism for how they created children.
I knew God loved me before we had kids. And I truly loved my wife. But I didn’t have a clue about the depth of the love God the Father has for me, and the kind of unconditional love I could have for another human being, until I became a parent. That was God’s intention. The relationships we share in our families are meant to reflect the love He has for us.
Have you ever had a glimpse of God’s extraordinary love in a family relationship? Perhaps it was the joy you experienced at a wedding. Perhaps it was in the birth or adoption of a child. Perhaps it was the way a parent or grandparent or other family member loved you. God’s gift of family is the source of the greatest joy most of us experience.
Unfortunately, when we turn from chapter 2 in Genesis to Chapter 3, we find that people soon messed up God’s gift.
Right after God created the first humans and brought them together to live with Him in paradise, they screwed it up. In the very next chapter in Genesis, Eve lets the devil talk her into breaking the only rule God had given, “Do not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” Adam soon followed in breaking God’s rule. Together they disobeyed and then lied to God and got kicked out of paradise. Then in Chapter 4, their first son, Cain, killed their second son, Abel, and tried to cover it up.
Many social critics say that family life now is more messed up than it has ever been. Family life is messed up in our society, but the very first family God created didn’t do any better than we’re doing. In reading the Bible, we find that even the people closest to God: Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, David, etc. all had messed up family relationships.
The extraordinary love God created in families has been tarnished and made ordinary by three things.
First, it’s damaged when people sin against God and each other. From Adam and Eve on, all have sinned and fallen in our relationships with God and each other. Adam and Eve disobeyed God. Cain’s pride and anger led him to murder Abel. Joseph’s brothers’ envy caused them to sell him into slavery. David’s lust led him to commit adultery with Bathsheba and then have her husband killed.
Jesus warns us that the anger and lust we hold in our own hearts is no less a sin against our family members and God than any of these “bigger” sins. Which one of us has not damaged a family relationship because of our sins of pride, anger, lust, or envy?
Our relationships are also hurt by listening to the devil’s lies. A major factor in Adam and Eve’s fall was listening to the serpent. The devil basically said, “Don’t listen to God and His rules. Do what you think is best.” The devil takes our desires and twists the truth, tempting us with counterfeits. He tempts people with relationships that are not what God would have for them. He tempts through the many things that lead to addictions. A huge example that damages families today is the prevalence of pornography. The evil one has a myriad of lies he tells that hurt our relationships. The Bible warns us to be on watch for the devil. He wants to tear apart families through his lies.
Finally, living in a fallen world also hurts family life. God created a paradise, but the world we live in is broken. Bad things happen to families through no fault of their own. Natural disasters, diseases, and accidents, all can cause pain in relationships.
Hurt and pain and anger and fear are a normal part of family life today. So while family can be the source of great joy in life, it can also be a source of great pain.
Nevertheless, God still wants our family life to be extraordinary! God’s desire for every family is for extraordinary loving relationships with Him and with each other. Our series’ title is based on the television show “No Ordinary Family.” The show is billed as a “Dramactionomedy.” What a great word to describe family life!
If you have dramactionomnedy in your family life, you’re in good company. Remember Eve hanging out and listening to that snake? Adam & Eve sneaking around trying to hide from God? The finger pointing when God finds them? Adam throwing Eve under the bus: “She made me do it, God!” (What a great husband!) Eve pointing her finger at the serpent, “The Devil made me do it.” Cain’s sibling rivalry leading to murder? If you think your family has dramactionomedy, you’ve got nothing on the families in the Bible.
In this world there will be no perfect family. But through Jesus, God’s perfect love is available to all of us.
When I got married, I thought that being a husband would be easy. I thought I was loving enough and smart enough that I would be a great husband. I guess I thought I was smart enough that I didn’t need God’s help, because I had been slowly drifting away from Him. I skipped church. I did no Bible reading. I didn’t hang out with Christian friends or listen to Christian music. I became lazy in my prayer life.
Over time, ours, like all marriages, lost some of its excitement. We started drifting apart. When we moved to the Philippines to work in a refugee camp our problems got worse. We worked different schedules and had different friends. Cathy wasn’t happy a lot of the time. Everything Mr. Smart Enough to be a Great Husband did to fix the problems only seemed to make them worse.
When we came back to US we hoped for a fresh start, but the “in love” feelings we had when we first married didn’t magically come back. Finally, Cathy said she wasn’t sure if she loved me and wasn’t sure she wanted to be married to me anymore. I was devastated. I was hurt. I was angry. I was broken. “God,” I cried out, “I’m out of ideas. I’m so sick and tired of trying to make this marriage work. I give up!”
I think I actually heard God say, “Finally! Finally Mr. Smart Guy is doing something smart!” Surrendering to God was the best decision I ever made for our marriage. It was the smartest thing I ever did, period. God let me know something when I was on my knees that night. He let me know He loved me. He didn’t promise life would be easy, but I knew He loved me. And I knew He loved Cathy, too.
Here’s the Good News- Jesus loves everybody. The Bible tells us that Jesus came to heal the broken and redeem the lost. I think Jesus has a special place in His heart for those who are hurting in families. Our brokenness, and even our mistakes, if we give them to Him, can be the thing Jesus uses to break through and show us His love. The dramactionomedy of family life can be the place where God reveals His love.
God can do this because His grace is available in family life.
The biggest difference between a Christian perspective and the world’s perspective on families is God’s grace.
I was able to study families as a student and professor at two excellent universities. I’ve learned many things about family relationships that are extremely valuable. But here is the key to an extraordinary family life:
Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain.
I believe so strongly in God’s grace because of its truth in my own life. Accepting God’s grace and love is the foundation, but the transformation of family life doesn’t end there. Because it is true that God loves us the way we are, but He never intends for us to stay the way we are.
I interpret Psalm 127:1 telling us our efforts ultimately don’t make a difference if God is not in the work. The verse does not tell us to sit around. We are to be builders God works through. Not only are we dependent on God’s grace in our family life, we are dependent on His power to work through us.
If we call ourselves Christians, the way we love our families is a witness to God and to the world of Christ’s love for us. There may be no better measure of our love for God than the way we treat our families. In 1 John 4 we read, if anyone says “I love God,” yet goes on hating his brother or sister, he is a liar. Christ has given us this command, “Whoever loves God must also love his brother.”
Our families are a gift from God. For most of us, they are the most valuable people God places in our lives. We need God’s grace and power to love our families the way Jesus calls us to love them.
For the next six weeks Ed, Mark and I are going to be sharing Biblically-based principles, truths, and wisdom aimed at strengthening families. Starting next week, we’ll have an opportunity to meet after the service and I’ll share family relationship tips and strategies and answer questions.
To end this morning, I invite you to close your eyes and ask God to place your MVPs, your most valuable persons, on your heart. I encourage you to think of family, but it doesn’t have to be just family. Once you have a person or persons in mind say a prayer.
We have a visual reminder for the No Ordinary Family series—a silver gift box. When you receive a box, write the name or names of your MVPs on the small piece of paper and place it inside the box.
This week, put the box somewhere where you will see it. It could be on your kitchen table, bedroom night stand, office desk, in your car, on your TV, etc.
Challenge- Every time you see your gift box, at least every day this week and hopefully through the entire series!
1. Thank God for the gift of family.
2. Ask God to help build your family.
3. Pray specifically for the person(s) whose name(s) you put in the gift box. They are your MVPs this week
Here’s a challenge about the challenges--do them! Put the gift box where you will see it and remember to pray for your family. The goal of the 8:30 service is to make a difference in our lives. Please take the challenges seriously. Let us not be, as James warns us, just hearers of the Word not doers of the Word.