Saturday, January 25, 2014

Family Relationships


Matthew 16:18 “… Upon this rock I will build My Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

When Jesus talks about the Church, He is referring to His family … specifically His Bride and her children. Note Jesus indicates that His family must be built. This gives us to understand that family relationships take some planning, some time and some attention to the details. Good News is … family is designed by God to be so strongly related that the very gates of hell cannot prevail against it. Jesus wants us to be like Him and build strong families. He has given us keys to accomplish the task.

2014 is the Year of the Family at Church On The Rock and many of you are already experiencing both challenges and changes in your family. We began this journey a few weeks ago and each week since then I have heard testimonies from many of you how a few simple changes on your part have made huge differences in your families. Once again this morning I want us to remember two basic principles as we learn more about building our families God’s way.

1.   Begin with the end in mind
o   Keep our eyes on the prize and not on the problem
o   That means we need to get a goal and stay focused
2.   Accept small changes as a sign on our road to success 
o   Just like Elijah accepted a cloud the size of a man’s hand and like the father accepted the returning prodigal son as a sign things were changing
o   We need to acknowledge and reward small steps recognizing them as positive signs of needed change
o   We accept these small changes both in ourselves and in others

2 Corinthians 8:12  For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have.

Change, even little changes, reveals willingness. God always accepts a willing heart. We also need to recognize and reward such willingness.

With these two perspectives in mind we are going to use the next four Sundays to cover the Essential Elements which are critical to any relationship, especially those primary relationships within a family. Every one of us should recognize and respect the Basic Bible Blueprint for family. When we understand these essential elements and how critical they are to the health and well being of our family, we will be able to make minor adjustments not only in how we think and act towards others in the family but also begin to shape our children, grandchildren and others we influence to enjoy healthy and productive relationships in the families they will eventually build as well.

How we think; how we feel; how we act; and what we say reveals nothing about the other person in the equation but everything about us.

Simply put – we must do our part while trusting God to challenge and change others. The 4 Essential Elements of Relationship we will survey in the next few Sundays are Family:
1.   Roles
2.   Rules
3.   Rights
4.   Responsibilities

Our Wednesday evenings are also very important to this process. This Wednesday evening I will teach you how to simply and easily share the Gospel with a family member in a non-threatening way. Remember, we don’t go fishing with an empty hook and we never let the fish see the hook. Ok – back to today’s lesson on family relationships: Today’s lesson: Relationship Roles

Have you ever attended a wedding or a family gathering and been asked the question: “Are you related to the bride or the groom?” or “How are you related to the family?” These often asked questions are not attempting to discover the quality or the health of your relationship, but rather simply “Where do you fit in?” You see, there is a family map whose diagram is understood by every culture, custom, race, language and generation. We relate to family in a specific, undeniable and clearly identifiable way.

Our relationships define our roles in life. Who you are to others, and how you relate to them, should affect how you think, feel, speak, act, interact and react concerning them in any given situation. Get it right or get it wrong and everyone with any sense knows it. Relationships were designed by God to work for everyone’s benefit and they do work when everyone does their part. However many times when one person fails to do their part others in the equation take that opportunity to abdicate their responsibility to do their part as well. Two wrongs never make a right and our role in the family is not determined by whether or not others do their part.

This week I was speaking to a young mother of 3 children in Houston whom I had just met. She is a part-time hairdresser and her husband is a Houston firefighter. In our conversation she told me about her brother and sister-in-law who had caused the family so much trouble in the past that they haven’t talked in three years. As I listened to the story I had such compassion on the whole family. Her mother and father were hurting, she was hurting, but had buried the pain and disappointment so deep she couldn’t recognize it, and it was also evident to me that her brother and his wife and children were hurting and missing out on so much as well.

She finished the story and moved on to another subject but I could not get the family out of my mind. I considered how I might offer her some small step towards God’s goal for this family. How could I motivate her to be God’s hand reaching out?

Finally I said: “You know Lisa, how you feel and how you act towards your brother and sister-in-law says nothing about them and how they are but it reveals everything about you and how you are.” I continued, “They don’t have to be perfect or even be sorry for you to love them and pray for them and show them you care.” I took a breath, looked her in the eyes and said, “A little step might go a long way right now … surely there is something you can do to show who you really are.” Then I concluded, “God showed His love for me when I needed it most …”

This is what sisters do – what daughters do – what family does … we care!

You may be a father or a mother, a husband or a wife, a son or a daughter, a brother or a sister – but whether a parent, child, grandparent, grandchild, sibling or spouse – you have a family role to play which is defined by your relationship. There is a Basic Bible Blueprint for family and
just because someone to whom you are related is not fulfilling their part does not mean you should not fulfill yours. Family may depend on you.

Perhaps you have asked the reasonable question: “What is my responsibility to a family member who is not doing their part?” – I promise we will cover the answer to that question as we continue in this series. But for now, our first step is to realize that we are born into family and family is God’s continuing will for our everyday lives. Each one of us has a role to play and God has given us instructions on how to think, act, interact and react concerning others in every conceivable situation in both the good days and in those disappointing and stress-filled times as well.

Turn with me to a Bible account of a family in turmoil and let’s see what a difference one person doing their part can make.

Luke 15
11  Then Jesus said: "A certain man had two sons.
12  "And the younger of them said to his father, ’Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood.
13  "And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living.
14  "But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want.
15  "Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.
16  "And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the husks that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.
17  "But when he came to himself, he said, ’How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!
18  ’I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you,
19  "and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants."’
20  "And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.
21  "And the son said to him, ’Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22  "But the father said to his servants, ’Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet.
23  ’And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry;
24  ’for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.

These same results can be experienced in every God-given relationship if we understand and embrace our role in the family and give God the time and opportunity to challenge and change others to embrace theirs. Will you do your part? (I want to encourage you to read Ephesians Chapters 5&6 this week and pray God gives you the grace to do your part.)

Being family is not a choice but a God-given role. Whether or not you play that role according to God’s script is a choice. We cannot come up with a better blueprint. Decide today to not allow disappointments, anger, resentment, bitterness, and unforgiveness, hurt from the past or others to keep you from doing your part. You have a God-given role to play.

You are not responsible for everyone and what they may choose to do but you are responsible to do your part in God’s family plan. This does not mean it will always be easy but God’s grace will always be sufficient. Recognize and do your part and, give God the time and opportunity to (do His) work on others as only He can. And remember:

1.  Stay focused on the goal
2.  Be very thankful for small changes along the way

Now, let’s bathe our families in prayer again today. Some of them need real help, real bad, and real soon!