There aren’t many situations for Christians more difficult than those involving choosing God over family. Consider the following:
A loved one claims to be a believer but wants to marry an unbeliever. So you’re unable to support the relationship.
Family members invite your child to stay with them, but you know they’ll be a negative influence on them. So you have to decline.
A relative is living in habitual sin and you have to confront the person.
There are examples in the Old Testament of individuals having to choose God over family members:
Moses called for the execution of the individuals responsible for the Golden Calf. This meant some Israelites had to kill their own relatives. Exodus 32:27 says, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘Let every man put his sword on his side, and go in and out from entrance to entrance throughout the camp, and let every man kill his brother, every man his companion, and every man his neighbor.’”
King Asa was one of the greatest reformers in the Old Testament. When he purged the idolatry from the land, he had to punish even his own grandmother. 1 Kings 15:13 records, “[Asa] removed Maachah his grandmother from being queen mother, because she had made an obscene image of Asherah”
Jesus is the premier teacher and example on this subject…
Should we seek great things for ourselves? Last post discussed leading a quiet life that’s faithful in “small things” based on:
1 Thessalonians 4:11 Aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you.
Zechariah 4:10 Do not despise the day of small things, for the LORD rejoices to see these things take place.
God is looking for consistency in the ordinary activities of our daily lives that often seem insignificant or trivial.
The prophet Jeremiah had a faithful scribe named Baruch. He was probably Jeremiah’s closest friend, and for much of Jeremiah’s ministry, his only friend. Jeremiah gets the attention, but Baruch was also a man of God who faithfully stood by the prophet through years of persecution and rejection. Jeremiah was the most despised man of his day, and being his assistant meant being the only person on Jeremiah’s side and suffering when he suffered. Continue reading Should we seek great things?
Even if you’ve been trained to think church is only about showing up Sunday morning and leaving when service is over you need to know that’s not what God wants! God’s plan is the opposite of shallow, superficial involvement with our brothers and sisters in Christ. The church is a family where we’re expected to be involved in each other’s lives and have people involved in our lives. The church is described as a body where every part is important:
“If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,’ is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,’ is it therefore not of the body?” (1 Cor 12:15-16). Every part is important!
“The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ Those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary.” (1 Cor 12:21-22) Each part needs the other parts! Every part has to be involved and working together to have a healthy, efficient body.
An interesting consideration is that although corporate worship on the Lord’s Day is important, if that constitutes your involvement in the church you’ll be unable to obey many commands:
Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification (Rom 15:2).
Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others (Phil 2:4).
Comfort each other and edify one another (1 Thes 5:11).
Exhort one another daily…and let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good words (Heb 3:13 & 10:24).
As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another (1 Pet 4:10).
If you think your responsibility toward the body of Christ ends at showing up Sunday morning and leaving when service is over, you’re going to disobey most of these commands. The level of involvement God wants us to have in each other’s lives is much deeper than what can take place when churches don’t challenge people to love and service.
Woodland Christian Church is growing, which is a good thing, but we want to make sure we maintain a family feel. That happens as people get to know each other and develop relationships. Attend church events and activities, but also invite people over to your home.
This past Saturday was the 4th Annual WCC Ladies’ Conference, the one time per year there’s an interesting twist in my relationship with Katie: I’m the one listening to her go over a message she’s prepared. I feel like the conference went wonderfully, and it reminded me how thankful I am for all the women in the church, and how blessed I am to consider them friends and sisters in Christ. With that said, I’d like to elaborate a little on something from the end of last week’s sermon: I discussed wives going to their husbands with spiritual questions. It’s important to notice I said “spiritual questions.” If a woman wanted to ask me about something relating to the church that I would know as the pastor – like for example a question about an upcoming activity – of course that’s fine.
I hope the reasons for this are obvious. First, husbands are supposed to be the spiritual leaders or heads (according to 1 Corinthians 11:3 and Ephesians 5:23) of their wives, and that’s not a role I would want to usurp. I want to be the pastor of WCC and the head of my wife and children, but I want the men of WCC to be able to lead their families. Second, I wouldn’t want to deprive couples of the opportunity to discuss spiritual matters together. Some of the best conversations Katie and I have revolve around time spent in the Word and I don’t want any spouses missing out on that with each other. If husbands didn’t know the answer to their wives’ questions, I’d feel privileged to have the husband come to me, provide any help or support I could, and see the husband go back to his wife “equipped” in the language of Ephesians 4:12. In this scenario the husband is still able to be the spiritual leader of his wife, and the wife can appreciate the seriousness with which he took his headship.
Now I’m anticipating two questions. First, what about widows or women whose husbands are not in the picture? Those are unique situations where the elders can help in the husband’s absence. Second, some wives might say: “Well, what happens if I go to my husband, and he doesn’t get back to me?” Great question. First, we’re going to address this at our Men’s Breakfast on Saturday, February 1st, encouraging husbands to lead their families well. Second, at least in some of the situations the husbands might take their roles more seriously if they felt like the responsibility rested solely on their shoulders and their wives wouldn’t be looking anywhere else. Third, it’s a little of a “two-wrongs-don’t-make-a-right” situation in that just because husbands don’t respond to their wives, pastors shouldn’t assume that role. Fourth, possibly speaking to these situations is Titus 2:3-5 regarding older women…admonishing (or teaching) the young women. Older women who have “been there and done that” make wonderful resources for not just younger women, but women whose husbands are absent.
Katie and the kids headed down to our hometown of Fall River Mills (located in the mountains of northern California) on Tuesday, August 27th to stay with her father and stepmom, and I flew down to join them last Sunday evening, September 1st. Then we all drove back together this past Friday the 6th. Katie’s sister Molly came out from Connecticut with her husband DJ and their kids too. My father-in-law Rick owns Maher Farms where he grows wild rice and mint on hundreds of acres of land. I took the kids on lots of 4-wheeler rides each day around the fields. There’s a pond behind the house and Rick cleaned out most of the algae (but there was still enough for the kids to throw at each other and have allergy fights since they can’t pronounce algae), brought in an excavator, tons of sand and built a beach with a fire pit. It was the highlight for the kids each night, sitting around it having S’mores. Rick and Kathleen also got kayaks so we were able to take the kids on rides each day.
Another great part of the trip was connecting with Pete and Susie Lorenzen. They were good friends of my parents when I was growing up, and my brother and I used to play with their kids. Pete and Susie became Christians twenty years ago, and then six years ago they started a Calvary Chapel in town. Whenever we’re in the area Pete invites me to preach at his church, and this time was even more enjoyable because my brother-in-law DJ did the music before I gave the message. My best friend in high school, JP, got into using and selling drugs after high school, was arrested, became a Christian in jail, and turned his life around. Now he’s married and has a family, and seven years ago I was happy to have him as the Best Man in my wedding. He still lives in Fall River and attends Pete’s Church.
Something else interesting about this trip is I usually try to spend the weeks prior to messages thinking about the upcoming verses. We’re in Luke 4 where Jesus heads back to His hometown and preaches…sort of like I did. The people basically respond like, “We remember this Guy…why’s He up there saying all this stuff?” Sort of like I could imagine people responding when they see me preaching since I wasn’t a Christian growing up. So it was enjoyable to be able to contrast the parallels between Jesus’ experience in His hometown of Nazareth while I was in my hometown of Fall River Mills.
When Katie and the kids left for our hometown of Fall River Mills, California this past week it was a lot harder than I thought. I’ll be flying out of Portland tonight (September 1st) to go see them and I can’t wait; this is the longest I’ve been away from them…which I know isn’t very long…which brings up what I’d like to discuss. Them being gone has made me think about a few things…
First, it’s helped me see that I’m pretty blessed by the availability I have to my family. When I say goodbye to them in the morning, I don’t say goodbye like most fathers do (for 9 hours or more); I say goodbye for an hour or two until they surprise me at the office or I walk home to see them. I can have most meals with them. If Katie’s having a rough time at home she’ll have me come home and help (i.e. spank one of the boys). Katie sends me coffee, smoothies, and love notes daily. Almost all the church’s activities involve my family. Whenever I go on visitations I bring my kids…sometimes even when I shouldn’t (like Linda Sprague’s retirement party: I knew something was wrong when I walked in and didn’t see any other kids, and it got worse when someone said, “I think your son just took a bite out of that cookie and put it back on the tray.”).
Second, I’ve been thinking about the reality of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 7:32, 33 that married people have to be concerned about their spouses, but unmarried people can really focus on the Lord. With Katie and the kids gone I was sort of like an unmarried guy again, able to get a ton of work done. It made me hope the unmarried people appreciate all they can do for the Lord during their seasons of singleness. When they get married, and especially when they have children, these other obligations will take priority.
Third, I’ve been thinking about how valuable my wife is to me as a pastor. I didn’t consider how much she helps me…until she’s not here to help me. I bounce ideas off Katie and talk to her about almost everything. Whenever I teach she always gives me feedback. She reads every one of my bulletin letters ahead of time (including this one, which involved a recommendation to remove two paragraphs that were “over the top.” I don’t know what that means, but I took them out anyway). I always go over my sermons with her (sometimes a couple times), but this week I wasn’t able to, and it really bothered me and this week we went over it late Saturday night. Proverbs 18:22 He who find a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord and that’s definitely been the case for me.
When I was at camp, Jim shared with me that it’s been his “heart’s desire for years” to see his children going to the same church, having children that grow up together. He was sharing how blessed he feels seeing that happening, and that really captures a vision we have at WCC. When people ask me about our distinctions, second only to being a church that strives to teach and follow God’s Word, I tell people we’re a family church. And we mean that in two different ways:
We want all the families at WCC to feel like part of one big family. We want to go through things together. We want to live out 1 Corinthians 12:25-26 where Paul says the members should have the same care for one another, and if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice. This past week I was talking to an unchurched person who felt like she didn’t really have a biological family, and I told her she should get plugged in to a church where her brothers and sisters in Christ can become her family. It’s been a great blessing for me as the pastor to hear people (and there have been a number of them) describe WCC as their family.
We want families to come to WCC and stay together as families and watch their children grow up and have children and then watch their grandchildren grow up. That’s what Jim was describing seeing. This all relates to us striving to engage in so many church activities with the family units staying together. We have a number of families with three generations attending, and the Cunninghams even have four generations. All of this is significant to me because of the strong desire I had for years for my parents to be Christians. Now having them at church with me, where I pastor, is beyond anything I ever would’ve imagined. Ephesians 3:20 says God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think and my parents are an example of that in my life. I’m filled with joy every time I see my kids with them, and I’m happy to see many others in our body experiencing the same blessing.
In summary I’d say it like this: we want to be a number of families following the Lord, that feel like one big family.
Sunday’s sermon, 2 Chronicles 33:1-20 Fruit Worthy of Repentance – Part III, can be found here.