Putting first things first

Entry into parenthood can be a tough transition. It certainly takes a mind shift. I have a little human with me all the time; one who is totally dependent on me. He needs me to eat, sleep, and keep warm and clean. He needs me to show him the world, stimulate his brain, and soothe him emotionally. He needs me to love him, calm him, respond to him, and interact with him. It can be a hard task. I can understand why some parents can’t wait to get back to work; they love their little ones, but they need a breather.

I must say that I’m not in a hurry to get away from my little guy. I am the mother who feels their boy is growing up all too quickly – and he’s only 5 months old! But that doesn’t mean it isn’t difficult at times; I often feel that I’ve gained another limb, so attached is he to me. It also doesn’t mean that I don’t need Glenn’s loving affirmation I’m doing a good job, that I’m a good mother, and that I’m still being a good wife to him during the transition (Thanks Love!).

So where am I going with this? I was reflecting back on the initial days with our boy. I felt the call to motherhood fiercely. I felt completely content in motherhood. I had amazing times of connectivity with God. I had nothing on my agenda aside from worshipping God and loving my family. Since then, however, I’ve been pulled in different directions.

Glenn and I have moved to a new community and are helping with a church plant. We now co-lead a home group (even if it mostly falls on Glenn) and I’ve also been blessed by the opportunity to preach. I’ve finished up an editing project and am working on another writing project. I have a job interview coming up to teach English on-line for a few hours a week. Life continues, and it continues to be busy.

Life is always going to pull us in different directions. Glenn and I are trying to be pulled by the Holy Spirit, and not by any wind that comes along. And as I have been taking time to reflect on my call, I’m reminded of my primary calls in life: love God, love Glenn, love my children.  I am called to intimacy with my heavenly Father before my family. I am called to serve my family before others.

I do feel called to be a stay at home mum and to home school my children down the line, but I equally know that others do not have this call or inclination. But just because we may not be at home all the time as parents, does not mean that our primary call transitions from our family. Too often, family gets put behind work, finance, school commitments, and even church and church meetings.

God requires us to be faithful stewards in the area of family.

In the Old Testament, we find Scriptures, such as:

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)

“Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children— how on the day that you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, the LORD said to me, ‘Gather the people to me, that I may let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me all the days that they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children so.’ (Deuteronomy 4:9-10)

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. (Deuteronomy 6:5-7)

We also see godly men with messed up families, because they were absent fathers:

Now the sons of Eli were worthless men. They did not know the LORD. (1 Samuel 2:12)
Now Eli was very old, and he kept hearing all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who were serving at the entrance to the tent of meeting. (1 Samuel 2:22)

And he said to him, “O son of the king, why are you so haggard morning after morning? Will you not tell me?” Amnon said to him, “I love Tamar, my brother Absalom’s sister.” (2 Samuel 13:4)
But Jonadab the son of Shimeah, David’s brother, said, “Let not my lord suppose that they have killed all the young men, the king’s sons, for Amnon alone is dead. For by the command of Absalom this has been determined from the day he violated his sister Tamar. (2 Samuel 13:32)
Then David said to all his servants who were with him at Jerusalem, “Arise, and let us flee, or else there will be no escape for us from Absalom. Go quickly, lest he overtake us quickly and bring down ruin on us and strike the city with the edge of the sword.” (2 Samuel 15:14)

And in contrast, godly children where parents have prioritized their children:

And she vowed a vow and said, “O LORD of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.” (1 Samuel 1:11)
Now the boy Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the LORD and also with man. (1 Samuel 2:26)

Is this left behind in the New Testament? No, I don’t think so. Otherwise we would not have Paul commanding that Elders and Deacons must:

He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, . . . Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. (1 Timothy 3:4, 12)

. . . if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. (Titus 1:6)

We also wouldn’t have Paul commanding husbands to love their wives (what wife doesn’t want to come first?), wives to respect their husbands (what husband doesn’t want to be served first?), and fathers to love their children (what child cares that his father isn’t promoted if his father is available to spend time with him?).

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4)

And, of course, we have our beloved Christ, who set the example for us to value little ones:

And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. (Mark 1:13-14)

Yes, we all have been given different gifts of the Spirit. Yes, we are all in different seasons regarding our marriage and parenting. But we are all called to love God first, and then provide for our spouse and children.

Are you pursuing God with all your heart? How about with all your soul, with all your might, and with all your strength?

Are you honouring your husband or wife with your time, thoughts, emotions, and finance? Are you putting them above your job, ministry, social activities, sports, and friends? Do you faithfully pray for your spouse and take time to pray with them?

Are you spending time with your children? Do you know their unique personalities, their interests, their goals and their friends? Are you teaching them about God, His ways, and His Word? Are you modelling godly living to them so that they can follow in your footsteps?

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God’s impossible family

Glenn preached on Sunday about God’s impossible family. Impossible is the right word!

We live in a world of hurt. A world of brokenness. A world of hate. Where there are different races in a nation, there is racial division. Pride. Wounds. Hate. Segregation. Where there are different tribes there are histories of genocide. Histories of favouritism. Histories of oppression. Where there is difference – in schools, workplaces,  neighbourhoods – there is bullying, gossip and ostracism.

There is no bridging the divides. Many have tried,  but could not sustain it. Many are trying, but not succeeding. Many will try, but shall fail. No person can successfully bridge such deep divides by their own strength. It’s like a little brick bridge trying to stand before a tidal wave. Or a little wooden one gently being lapped at day after day until it rots and decays away.

No, we can’t bridge the divide. But God can.

First, He bridged the divide that separated man from God because of sin:

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. (Ephesians 2:13-16)

Then, He bridged the gap between people. By doing so, He has created an improbable people, an impossible family. Not content to only heal us of our sins and brokenness, He binds us together as family, of which He is the first.

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:9-10)

My 2009 SBS_Believers from many nations and backgrounds

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:29)

How? How does God build His impossible family that bridges racial, cultural, tribal, and personal differences?

1) Through His love

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1-2)

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. (Colossians 3:11-14)

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. (Romans 12:9-10)

& 2) Through the work of His Spirit

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. (Galatians 5:22-26)

Are you part of God’s impossible family? Let Him heal your hurt and teach you a love that overcomes offence, hatred, and differences. Be part of His conquering love that crosses raging rivers, bridges gaping ravines and scales mighty walls.

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. (2 Peter 1:3-4)
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:5-8)

Eternity in the (extended) Family

In follow on from writing about what my bosses are doing through Operation Christmas Child, I heard another story this week of love in action. I had one of those “Aha! Yes, that’s it!” moments when hearing the story, seeing how easy it is to make a very big difference in the life of another. It is too inspiring not to share with you.

A friend of my mother’s told of how she gives to those she comes across who are in need. Her son is a skater and is often found down at the local skate park. There he has met a range of people and a few of them are in great need. My mother’s friend heard some of the boys’ stories through her son. One of the regular skaters has one parent in prison and the other is an alcoholic; he is alone in the world.

It is easy to hear such stories and say “what a shame” or “that poor boy”. Not this lady! She was moved to action.

“Is not this the fast that I choose:  . . . Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?” (Isaiah 58:6-7)

Clothe the poor

The boy, who is without parent figures in his life to mentor him, has now been taken shopping by her on several occasions where she bought him new shoes, clothes and food. She also occasionally has him over to stay the night. Through these small actions he is learning of the love, protection and care that a parent ought to give.

He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” (Luke 14:12-14)

Banquet

What a wonderful example of practically loving those in need and offering a mother’s love to one without. This example is such a small act of kindness, yet it will have a lasting impact on that young man’s life.

We run into young people who are in need every day. It is not only orphans who are without ‘parents’. Can you stop to help one of them?

You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. (Exodus 22:22)

Older women likewise are to be … They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women … Likewise, urge the younger men … (Titus 2:3-6)

Family Sphere

Spend a minute reflecting on what families look like today. Think also about your family and how you were raised. We have blended families, individual family units, traditional family structure, single parenting, same sex marriages, adoption, abuse within the family, geographical separation, nannies, missing generations (from AIDS), and so forth. There is great variety, making it to define what “family” looks like.

So what model should we chose for our own family? What should a godly family look like?

These questions are of vital importance because family is foundational in establishing our world views. By 4 years of age, family has already shaped how we see the world and how we judge society. Parents and the home environment will have given us a definition of how to define our lives. Either God will define our lives, or something else will.

How do we discover God’s heart for family? How do we create a godly environment for our children? How do we honour our parents? How should a husband and wife relate?

To answer these questions, we need to go to Scripture!

Let’s look at one Scripture together and what it tells us of family:

Gen 1:27-28

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Q: What is God establishing for family in these verses?

  • Fruitfulness
    • Children are to be desired
    • They are to be looked upon as a blessing
  • Multiplication
    • Doesn’t have to be physically; for example:
      • Caring for orphans
      • Discipleship of younger believers
  • Male and female
    • No distinction in value between male and female children
    • Man and woman make parents – not same sex
  • Dominion and authority
    • Responsibility for the world around

Here are some things to look at when considering what Scripture has to say about the family:

  • Marriage
  • Wives and husbands
  • Family roles
  • Parenting
  • Children – sons and daughter
  • In-laws
  • Conflict
  • Sexual conduct
  • Principles and ethics of relationship
  • Inheritance laws
  • Family finance
  • Family justice
  • Education
  • Widows
  • Orphans

The purpose of family is to provide the safe nurturing environment for growth, values and development of the next generation. It is the smallest building block of human society. It is important that we seek God’s heart for this sphere and what it should look like.

Some Scriptures to consider (these are in no way exhaustive!):

  • Exodus 12:24-30; 13:8-16;
  • Leviticus 18
  • Deuteronomy 4:9-14; 6:1-9; 11:19-21; 21:15-21
  • Titus 2:1-10
  • Ephesians 5:22-6:9

Family