Tuesday, August 26, 2008

GOING FOR MORE THAN GOLD

August 17, 2008

Psalm 81:16, 2 Timothy 4:7-8

I have absolutely enjoyed the Olympics this year. Every chance I get, I’ve been watching some of the most amazing athletes in the world compete. As I watched one young lady well up with tears during our National Anthem after winning the gold medal, I was struck by how much goes into an athlete’s life in order to reach that pinnacle in life.

And I thought about our lives as Christians. What we live for is worth far more than a gold medal- even eight gold medals that swimmer Michael Philips has achieved. Without taking away from the tremendous achievements that this represents, one day those gold medals will fade away and mean nothing in the scope of your eternal destiny.

How do we live our lives for the cause of Jesus Christ and go for more than gold in our lives? Let us begin by looking at…

1. The Christian on Steroids.

On of the saddest days for sports fans came when United States sprinter, Marion Jones, admitted to doping in the time leading up to the 2004 Olympics in Australia. It wouldn’t have been so bad for her to have to give up her medals for cheating but those who ran with her in the 440 Relay lost their gold medals as well.

Its one thing for your behavior and actions to affect only you. But the sad truth is that just like Marion Jones whose actions affected her teammates, so to our actions as Christians affects those on our team.

I think about the problem of steroid use in any athlete and wonder how they can lay down and sleep at night knowing that they have cheated their way to the top. Rather than do the things they are supposed to do in proper training, they tried to short-cut. And sometimes to the detriment of their own health.

When any Christian strives to live the Christian life without God, they are doing much the same. This is short-changing the work of the Holy Spirit in their life. Let me share three examples of what I’m saying:

a. Ways of the World.

1 Corinthians 3:19 warns us by saying, “For the wisdom of the world is foolishness…” So often it is easy enough to look at the wisdom of the world and use that as a grid for our Christian life.

I get concerned when Christians begin to dabble with “positive” thinking gurus who promote a self-centered guideline rather than the Scriptures in order to live properly. I have very little regard for people like David Dwyer who calls on you to see within yourself.

b. Thoughts without God.

God warns his people in Psalm 81:11, “If you would but listen to me.” It is so easy for you and I to get caught up in our own thoughts and our own way of thinking and ignore what God is saying.

God wants us to listen to him through the preaching, teaching and reading of His word. He desires for us to consider Him within our thought processes. How easy it is to forget God in the times we need him most.

c. Strength of Self.

In verse 12 of that same chapter, God goes on to point out that his rebellious people “follow their own devices.” Again, how easy it is to ease God out by not only following the ways of the world, not listening to God and depending on our own strength.

These same folks will claim faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins and eternity in heaven. What they forget is the life of holiness in between. What we do with our lives between salvation and death does matter.

You cannot cheat and become spiritual no more than an athlete can cheat and be a better athlete. They may show incredible feats of strength but in so doing short-cut the system.

Likewise, the Christian who claims Christ but then follows self, short-cuts their own spirituality. And in the end, those closest to them suffer the worst.

Not only are their Christians who are on steroids but there is also the…

2. The Person Lacking Faith.

How deep is your faith in the good news of Jesus Christ?

Consider this wee bit of triva:

How many gallons of water it takes to fill an Olympic size pool?

An Olympic pool is 50 meters in length and 25 meters in width and 2 meters minimum depth. In proper American dimensions: 164 feet long, 82 feet wide and 6 ½ feet minimum depth. Total gallons of water: 660,253 gallons. Your typical backyard pool would use between 10,000 and 30,000 gallons of water. (Just in case you were thinking of putting in a pool some day.)

I encounter too many Christians whose Olympic pool of faith looks good on the surface but is only a centimeter deep.

Here’s the skinny about faith: Faith is not believing in the impossible; faith is trusting God for the impossible. But yet too often there are far too many Christians who have strived to live a life of faith but fail to do so because they are too easily deceived by what faith really is all about.

An athlete must have a certain level of confidence in what they are doing in order to achieve the impossible dream. In a similar sense, a Christian must have a level of confidence in their Christian faith (in the living sense) in order to achieve the potential God has raised them for.

Remember, Romans 10:17 teaches us that “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ.” We must be listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit in order to have a strong, Biblical faith.

But what about the people of God in Psalm 81? They stopped listening to God and it affected their faith in God.

So what are some of the evidences of a person who is lacking faith in their walk with God?

a. Fantasy Camp Faith.

This is the faith that is surrounded by something other than God. This kind of Christian lives in some kind of fantasy world. They don’t consider the Christ-filled life but yet desire to have all the benefits of the Christ-filled life.

So they go to fantasy camp every Sunday- if they have time. They proudly carry their Bible and scribble the notes but then forget what it’s all about by the time they eat their Sunday dinner.

b. False-Positive Faith.

There are those with the false-positive faith. These are the people who put their confidence in the wrong things. They truly believe in their heart that they have faith but it’s a faith that simply sits back in comfort and acceptance.

c. Flouting God’s Principles.

In essence, the Christian without true faith in God- a faith that is then reflected by Godly behaviors and attitudes- may not really be saved. They become like the people in Psalm 81 who have embraced the idols of the world and put their trust in government first and their trust in their friends first and their trust in their selves first. In verse 11- “…Israel would not submit to me.”

What a sad testimony for the person who is believing they are going for the gold and then achieves it only to find out that this not what it’s all about. God has something more than the gold and silver of this world.

The Christian of true faith refuses to simply accept the status quo in their life. Faith moves mountains and changes lives. Faith involves prayer- intense God fearing, Holy Spirit driven and Christ believing prayer. This kind of Christian has discovered…

3. The Life in the Spirit.

This run for more than gold calls for us as Christians to find that life of love, faith and hope. And the midst of that life, God provides us with all that we need.

The problem for the people of Israel was that they were rejecting God’s offering of Himself for their lives. Instead they longed to do their own thing rather than God’s. They preferred the idols of wood and stone over the living presence of God. They chose their way rather than God’s way.

a. Salvation from God.

In 81:6-7 we find that not only is the burden of slavery removed but that the people of God were rescued from the enemy’s hand.

Likewise, for you as God’s child, he lifts the burden of slavery and then delivers you from the enemy. No longer does Satan have dominion over you. You are now bought with a price- the precious blood of Jesus Christ.

Now you have…

b. Sustenance from God.

God not only lifted the burden of slavery off of his people and delivered them out from under the leadership of Pharaoh, but he also provided for them in the wilderness as they headed towards the Promised Land.

Did you know that gold medal swimmer Michael Phelps eats 6000 to 10,000 calories a day. (I don’t but feel like I do every time I go to the China Buffet!)

Michael Phelps' breakfast menu includes three fried egg sandwiches with cheese, lettuce, tomato, fried onions, mayonnaise; then throw in an omelet, a bowl of grits, three slices of French toast with powdered sugar, and three chocolate-chip pancakes. Yummo!

In verse 16 God has promised the “finest of wheat” and “honey from the rock.” God is not content to spiritually starving his people. He wants us to have the best if we would just let him feed us through His word and from the Holy Spirit.

This salvation and sustenance results in something more glorious than any world fame or acclamation:

c. Satisfaction from God.

Within the heart of every one here today, you want that sense of peace and joy that can only come from God. God calls on us to “open wide your mouth” so that He “will fill it.” (v. 10)

When God gives us the spiritual provisions that we need, there is a deep satisfaction that feeds our spirit and gives us that spiritual rest from the works of our own hands.

This satisfaction allows us to receive…

4. The Believer’s Reward.

I am really proud to be an American (most of the time). What really gets me going is to watch amazing feats achieved by amazing athletes. And when they win, what a tremendous reward for them and for us as a nation.

The reality is that we are in more than a race for eternal life. We are in a war. And this war requires for us to utilize weapons of the spiritual realm if we are to be victorious- as God’s word promises. To be victors calls on us to fight the good fight of faith.

To the one who overcomes, God promises a reward that is far greater than that of the world.

a. Enabled to Compete for the Prize.

1 Corinthians 9:24 tells us: “Run the race in such a way as to get the prize.”

We have too many Christians lolly-gagging their way around the track of life.

One of the amazing things to see in the Olympics is not only the winners but those who almost win or even those who couldn’t finish due to debilitating injury. One American female runner wept because she couldn’t go on due to illness. These players give everything they have- literally- in order to win a prize they can’t take with them.

We have the privilege to run in a race that is far greater in importance and reward. It’s not a matter of giving it everything you’ve got; it’s a matter of living everything you’ve been given by the Holy Spirit.

This will then result in our…

b. Experience of Completing the Race.

No player ever wants to win a gold medal by default. At times it has happened. Too many times I wonder how many would not make it were it not for the gracious patience of God!

The experience of completing the race is when our Lord looks at us and says, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

So what do we say in regard to all of this?

Conclusion: Never quit the race of life!

In 1968, the country of Tanzania selected John Stephen Akhwari to represent them in the Mexico City Olympics.

Along the racecourse for the marathon, Akhwari stumbled and fell, severely injuring both his knee and ankle. By 7pm, an Ethiopian runner had won the race, and all the other competitors had finished the race. There only remained a few thousand spectators in the huge stadium when a police siren at the gate caught everyone’s attention.

Limping through the gate came number 36- John Stephen Akhwari of Tanzania. His leg was wrapped in a bloody bandage. Those present cheered as the courageous man completed the final lap of the race.

Later, a reporter asked Akhwari the question on everyone’s mind: “Why did you continue to race after you were so badly injured?”

He replied: “My country did not send me 7,000 miles to begin a race; they sent me to finish the race.”

My friends, our Lord does not save us so that we can merely begin a race but saved us so that we might finish the race despite the frustrations and disappointments in life.

“Let us run with perseverance the race marked out or us.” (Hebrews 12:1)

REVIVING THE SOUNDS OF JOY

August 10, 2008

Genesis 4:1-2a; Jeremiah 32:27, 33:10-11, Colossians 3:18-21

“You know I can’t smile without you… can’t smile without you!
I can’t laugh and I can’t sing… I’m finding it hard to do anything!
You see I feel sad when you’re sad. I feel glad when you’re glad.
If you only knew what I’m going through. I just can’t smile without you!”

I sang this Barry Manilow song to Naomi more than a few times while she was laying there in the hospital after her open heart surgery. This has been our song since our dating years. Every once in awhile we’ll sing it in the car while traveling somewhere.

Do you have songs in your marriage that are old favorites? Songs that revive and refresh the love you have for your husband or wife? Or have the sounds of the bride and bridegroom fade away over the years?

What troubles me today is that the joyful sounds of godly homes are becoming more hushed in today’s world. Too often the sounds coming from marriages are the sounds of dissension and discord rather than the joy of the Lord.

Don’t get me wrong, I realize that we face real life and reality makes us deal with unkind issues. However, in the Christian home divorce is never supposed to be the answer. Just because finances may back you into a corner or your spouse has issues you didn’t know about ahead of time does not warrant one to leave the other.

Add children into the mixing bowl, turn on the Kitchen Aid mixer and see what happens.

I believe that our Lord has a simple message of hope and order for the Christian families that are represented here.

1. The Christ-Centered Family Experience.

If we are going to experience something of this holy love, then we need to realize this in the context of our family.

The ultimate sense of holiness is when we learn to love others as well as loving God. In fact, if you can’t love others then I’m not so sure that you can love God.

What I long to see in our church are moms and dads who are in love with each other; whose lives are committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ. And who don’t care a wit about the world’s ways but care every bit about God’s ways.

Moms and Dads whose love for each other inspires their children; whose love for God arouses their own spiritual senses.

Jesus presents to the family the perfect example of what it means to be a Christian home. His love, surrender and obedience marks the path for the rest of us in our homelife.

I have somewhat of a crude outline of what I’m talking about. Hopefully this will add to what you already know about your role within your family life.

a. Wives: Submission out of Respect.

Sometimes we can get so bothered by the concept of women in submission. And honestly, too much has been made of this issue. I do not believe that a woman should be in obedience to her husband- as though she were a mere child. The scriptures call for the wife to be in submission to the husbands spiritual leadership.

Show me a wife who is loved by her husband as she should be loved and I’ll show a woman most likely to embrace her role of submission in the family circle.

What does the Bible say about this issue of submission? Very clearly the Apostle Paul speaks of the wife submitting out of respect for her husband.

This word respect in the Greek is phobio- which is a word that speaks of reverence. In other words, the wife’s role in a Christian home is to have a holy recognition of her husband’s position as the head of the relationship.

Where problems come into play is when the wife steps outside of this holy reverence for her husband and his responsibilities and attempts to take over.

There is something very simple that does bother me at times but not in a bad sense but only in a sense of concern. The husband is the spiritual leader of the home. The wife is to submit to him as her spiritual leader. His role is to lead the family in spirituality. And yet how many times do we find the wife taking the lead- either by her lack of trust in him, her impatience with her husband’s own personal struggles or his lack of trust in God?

So if the wife is supposed to submit to her husband out of a holy reverence for his spiritual authority in her life, what is this supposed to look like for him?

b. Husbands: Love out of Surrender.

I am highly concerned that too many husbands have abdicated their role as the spiritual leader of their families.

You will notice that I have continually added the adjective spiritual to the leader word- and I have done this on purpose. I refuse to see husbands and fathers as simply “the leader of the marriage and home.” Without Christ in their heart they cannot be the Biblical leader calls them to be. As a man of God, you are the spiritual leader of your marriage and your home.

Being the spiritual leader is your God-given role as a Christian man. And the very most important thing you can do is to love your wife. The second most important thing you can do is to exasperate or be harsh with your children.

This love for your wife should be exactly that kind of love that Jesus shows to the whole Church. So how do you love your wife as Christ loves the Church?

Christ gave his life for the Church. Therefore, as the husband, the man of God, you should give your life for your wife. How do you do this?

Remember Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane? As he prayed, his sweat turned to blood. And his words have reverberated in the Lenten message every year: “Not my will but yours be done.”

Jesus’ life could be summed up as one of surrender. He surrendered his status in heaven to be like humanity. He surrendered the power on earth so that people like us could be healed and the message of God would be delivered. He surrendered his life unto God for death so that we might be saved.

If only we could see this kind of surrender from the lives of dads and husbands today! Giving up our status, our power- our very lives for the sake of our wife and children.

Folks, that’s change I can believe in! When men give up those things that seem most important to their sense of being so that their family may live- that’s real change.

I am convinced that when the wife and husband are loving each other Biblically and setting an example of submission out of respect and love out of surrender, children respond in obedience- not simply to their parents- but to the God who saves the family.

c. Children: Obedience out of Example.

“Honor your father and mother that your days may be long upon the earth.” “Children obey your parents in the Lord.”

There is something special about children who are obedient to their parents. It seems that all of parenthood is about “birthing pains.”

First, there is the birthing pains of child-birth. Then there are birthing pains as they learn to walk. Then they have that first day of school. Then they graduate kindergarten. Then they go into Middle School. Then they go to High School. Then they graduate and go into the real world- as though the world we built for them was some kind of fantasy camp.

And all through this we as parents have birthing pains. We agonize of them being late coming home, there first or fifth or tenth boyfriend, the video games they like, the friends they have and the money they cost. These things take a toll on us as parents. That’s why we get gray hair!

If I could be brief but to the point bear with me. Mom’s and Dad’s: don’t be too harsh with your kids. Don’t over-react to their behaviors. Don’t worry too much. BALANCE is the key word in all of this.

Balance in discipline. You are their leaders as parents. Discipline them. Teach them the Word of God and help them to understand their relationship with Jesus Christ. As parents you must teach them boundaries. The saddest thing is when children don’t learn the boundaries or they forget the boundaries when they are older and the court-system has to teach them the boundaries- usually the harder way.

Let me share my personal opinion about physical discipline.

Spanking your child is not a bad thing. Hitting your child is a bad thing. Any kind of discipline in the heat of anger should be avoided. Not spanking is alright if you have a good sense of how to discipline without. But whatever you do, do with consistency. There is no worse kind of discipline than that which is inconsistent. The kid finds himself being punished and doesn’t know why or they go unpunished and think they can do worse next time.

Bruising children physically cannot be tolerated. You should never spank to hurt or bruise. Spanking is to teach and only to teach. Furthermore, there are age limites to spanking. A baby is beyond understanding what spanking is all about. However, most two-year olds have a grasp of what consequences are all about. Spanking after age seven is not recommended on my list- but that depends on child. Certainly, no child over twelve should be spanked.

And never, ever slap them or strike them in the face. This demeans their dignity and bruises their spirit.

Balance in your faith. I get highly concerned when I see the parents putting on spiritual airs that aren’t real. And the worst result is that the children who witness the hypocrisy are the ones who suffer the worst. Be honest with them when you struggle. If you sin against them, apologize without being guilted into it. It’s okay for them to see you with your hair down- but with balance.

Balance in your words. Children need to hear good things and the right things come out of your mouth. Even worse than bruising a child physically is bruising a child emotionally. Telling them they are worthless or a mistake or calling them names is unacceptable by any parent. Learn to speak positively and lovingly and Biblically.

Balance in their obedience. Children should speak respectfully to their parents. I would never tolerate my kids ever raising a voice or a hand to my wife. This is my wife- not merely their mother. They need to see that Dad loves Mom more than them.

Children should be allowed to speak their difference with you. If they disagree with you then let them- as long as they do so respectfully. If they are right then they are right. You, dad, should be man enough to admit if your children are correct about the issue- even your wrong-ness in a circumstance. This is the idea behind not exasperating your children.

And yet so many families- Christian families struggle with the whole family circle problem. The way it is supposed to be too often doesn’t mesh with real life. However, this should not keep us from striving to have a family that is Christ-centered. Does this seem like the impossible?

Well, let me tell you, God does the impossible- all the time. He did for our family and he can for yours.

2. A Promise to do the Impossible.

Jeremiah reveals from the Lord a promise of hope for the land. Remember, the land all around them was in disarray. The Chaldeans had invaded Jerusalem. Things looked utterly hopeless. And yet God gives a promise that once again the sounds of the bride and bridegroom would be heard again.

How many have entered into holy matrimony with beautiful ceremonies, gorgeous decorations and wonderful music and yet those things became as dust and destruction as the marriage unravels? I have had the joy of working with numerous couples in their pre-nuptials and have seen too many marriages struggle in ways they shouldn’t struggle.

I am convinced that when two people who are guided by their faith in Jesus Christ and seek after God’s own heart, that there is nothing in the world that can tear apart that marriage.

How about your marriage? Are joyous sounds of music missing from your home? God wants to renew those sounds of bride and bridegroom. God wants to do something wonderful in your life and in your spouse’s life. God wants to become personal and real in your home.

There is nothing too hard for God. Even the salvation of your family.

HOW SHALL YOU THEN BE ANGRY?

August 3, 2008

Ecclesiastes 7:9, James 1:9, Mark 3:1-6, 10:13-16, 11:15-17

Note: Message adapted from David Thompson God’s Healing for Hurting Families Chapter 7 “From Destruction to Dynamic” pp.101-116

What do you do with anger? Sometimes we aren’t sure how anger should be dealt with but be assured that how you deal with anger makes all the difference in the world you live in with the people you live with and the person of Christ that you live for.

Anger, as we have learned, is a natural part of life. Without anger we would be dead meat. But with anger, we can do a lot of damage that for some people will never be undone.

So, how do you deal with anger? There are three ways that we handle anger. Remember, with anger there is good and bad. There’s constructive and there’s destructive.

Suppression- I’m angry but I am not going to show it. Suppression is what we might think of as good. That’s true to a degree. However, this kind of anger can also be very lethal in that when you suppress your feelings over years there can be an exploding point in some way. That explosion may be in a multitude of health problems or a sudden nervous breakdown of some kind. Remember, again, that it is constructive to suppress anger but that there is also a destructive manner to suppress anger.

Repression- I’m angry but I don’t know it or I deny that I am. This is the Christian’s favorite way to deal with anger. We deny it. We become like Dr. Leo Marvin in the movie “What About Bob?” In it, you can see he’s beginning to burn with anger but says, instead, “I’m not angry, Bob. I don’t get angry.” All the while everyone watching the movies sees that he is angry.

Expression- I’m angry and somebody’s going to know I’m angry. This the most popular view of anger and perhaps rightly so. There is little respect for a man who has an unbridled anger. People suffer all sorts of consequences over anger that is not under any sort of control. I do believe that we can express our anger constructively. The worst kind is in the destructive mode.

Anger occurs when boundaries, integrity or rights of someone has been violated. When the dog urinates on the new carpet a boundary has been desecrated. When a child is told that they are worthless their integrity has been abused. When someone ignores the felt needs of another human being then their rights are infringed upon. And in that instance the resulting anger can be suppressed, repressed or expressed.

Jesus shows us how to properly deal with anger and the things to be angry about. First, though, I want us to consider…




1. RIGHTING THE WRONG RIGHTS.

Too often our anger gets the best of us because we have perceived that our rights in some way have been violated. And when we allow our selves to become defensive about our personal territory or boundaries we become ready for war.

What are some of those boundaries? Well, I have witnessed a few instances when there were expressions of anger that were unwarranted:

Dinner was late being fixed.

Shirt wasn’t ironed properly.

Somebody lost the remote.

Any one of the tiny issues can suddenly cause an explosion in some households. What do we do about our own misunderstanding of our rights being wronged? What can we do to correct this problem?

a. Go beyond justifying your anger.

This sounds too simple and it is. Too often we can fall into the trap of justifying our self-centered anger. The question is not whether or not you were justified in being angry but whether or not you will allow God to help resolve that anger. This requires the intentional pursuit of holy love.

b. Admit responsibility your anger.

When you are intentionally pursuing holy love in all of your relationships, then you must come to that place to admit your own responsibility for your anger reactions. You look in the mirror and you don’t like what you see. In admitting responsibility to your self and to God you begin that first step to…

c. Surrender your anger.

The very essence of holiness is surrender of my will and my way to God. This includes the hurt and pain I suffer (or perceive to suffer). By surrendering your anger to God begins the process of God healing your broken heart and healing the wounds that have been inflicted. This does not mean getting rid of your capacity for anger or surrendering responsibility for your anger. “It rather involves owning that anger as a creation endowment meant to serve your needs and bring glory to God.” (Thompson)

d. Learn forgiveness.

To apologize to God or your wife or kids or neighbors is actually the easy part. To apologize to your self can be a whole other story. However, you must come to that place of learning not only to seek forgiveness but to also forgive your self.
What we are not looking for is cheap forgiveness. Family members should hold you accountable for your anger. The Church should hold you accountable for your anger. YOU should hold your self accountable for your anger. What we are looking for in the whole process of forgiveness is, what Thompson calls, authentic forgiveness.

Authentic forgiveness does not mean letting someone off the hook but it does mean that you, me, us relinquish our right to retaliate.

To forgive your self means that you relinquish the right to hurt your self and demean your self. To forgive your self means that you will seek the necessary help to be an overcomer in Christ.

There’s another aspect of this forgiveness issue that comes to mind. Too often we who have struggles with anger problems usually grew up in an atmosphere that caused us early childhood pain. Now, I’m not going to get into a lot of depth nor am I suggesting a valid excuse for bad behavior. A lot of people grew up in bad homes but they don’t shoot people at work because of it.

In the book The Good Guy by Dean Koontz, these words jumped off the pages and into my notebook: “Under a lot of anger is a sewer of self-pity.” Whether this is totally true or not may be left to debate but what strikes me is that a lot of anger that people display involves unresolved issues from the past. They saw examples of the wrong kind of anger that was often directed at them. Feelings of self-worth were flushed and they have a hard time expressing and processing their true feelings.

The fact is that we all have unresolved issues from childhood and our early years and even regrettable acts on our part. And these issues will likely remain unresolved the rest of our lives. However, how we deal with anger as Christians will make a world of difference in the Christian faith of our children and those around us. What we have to do is learn to forgive those in our past- especially the short-coming of our parents. We may even need to seek counseling. Believe it or not, just because you’ve become a Christian does not mean that you ceased being human.

e. Seek reconciliation.

Seeking reconciliation is important both to the offended and the offender. For you as the offended, find ways to help the person who is easily angered and hurts you. At the same time, you as the offender need to discover ways to vent your anger, walk away from the situation and/or retreat until you have cooled off.

Steps 8 and 9 of the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous spells out the issue of reconciliation quite well: “We made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.” And, “We mad direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”

Making amends reminds us that reconciliation will often involve restitution. This means that we are willing to pay for the material damage inflicted and even do a “penance” of work for those we offended.

Here’s the deal: nlike Spock on “Star Trek,” we are not Vulcans who have no emotions like you humans. We come equipped with anger straight from our manufacturer: God. God has emotions. God gets angry. So if God gets angry what does he get angry about? God gets angry about sin, injustice and hypocrisy. What we learn is not how to correct our wife or kids but we must learn that we need to be…

2. CORRECTING THE RIGHT PROBLEMS.

A lot of people like to try and correct others and their short-comings but never see their own. Jesus shows us the kinds of things that need to be corrected. He teaches us by his actions what are the right problems.

To get a clearer picture for us as believers about how to be angry we need to see up front and personal the One of whom we are supposed to follow. Jesus got angry about some things. Therefore, it behooves us to be angry at the things that made Jesus angry.

The Gospel of Mark chooses to give us three pictures of anger in Jesus’ life.

a. Religious Tradition over Healing of People.

Here we see Jesus on the Sabbath Day in a synagogue. There are four parties involved: Jesus, a man with a crippled hand, people watching to see if Jesus would heal the man and the Pharisees who loved their letter of the law more than God. God’s instruction through Moses commanded that there be a “hollowing” of the Sabbath by refraining from work. By the time Jesus showed up, the devout Jews had developed some elaborate traditional laws to keep the Sabbath.

Jesus senses the heaviness of the situation. He realizes that he is crossing over a sacred boundary that had been kept for centuries. However, he also sees the hypocrisy of the holy. He questions the keeping of the Sabbath over the healing of the person. What does Jesus do? He heals the man.

b. Abuse of the “Little Ones.”

In this picture, people are bringing their children to Jesus for him to bless. Jesus disciples begin to impede this by rebuking the parents. Remember, children in the ancient world were counted for little and especially if you were female. Even in Jewish society, children were at the bottom of the social ladder. The disciples saw that they were hampering Jesus’ valuable time.

Jesus became indignant. He rebuked them, instead, and called on them to become like children in their hearts. And then he put his hands on the children and blessed them.

c. Religion as Route to Power.

The third picture we see is found in the temple court. Jesus sees money-changers in the temple court doing what, probably at the beginning, was well-intentioned assistance for out of town worshippers coming into the Temple. However, this assistance had turned into thievery and fraud. The people were being bilked of their money so that those in charge could profit- extending their own power over the people. Jesus was incensed. He turned over the tables and chased them out- probably to a cheering crowd. There was no way he would allow religion- especially His religion- become a route to power by stepping on the backs of others.

In these three cases, we see anger as a constructive method rather than destructive. Here, anger is not some out of control behavior but a method of showing the truth.

So how do we take these actions of Jesus and move them into our hearts as believers?

3. LIVING THE RIGHT EXAMPLE

Jesus gives us the right example of expressing anger. He shows us how we are to truly be an angry human. He shows you how you should then be angry.

a. Heal others.

Jesus was not afraid to rock the boat in order to reveal the heart of God for the hurting. We have to be willing to take criticism and the like in order to see that the lives of the lost are healed. To reach those mired down by sin requires Christians like us to become angry about sin and what sin is doing to our families and neighbors. Are you angry about the lostness of humanity?

b. Intervene on behalf of the Little Ones.

Jesus stepped in and confronted his own friends, the disciples. There are times we have to confront our best friends for their mis-behavior. It doesn’t mean that we hate them but it does mean that we love truth and fairness. Jesus’ intervention brought blessing to the children and their parents, and it also brought a new revelation to his followers.

c. Embrace and Bless the Little Ones.

Jesus not only blessed the little one but put his hands on them.

When was the last time any of us blessed the lost with our touch? Are we game to get down into the muck and change the lives of those who are not like us? This means that we will not treat the lost as though they had leprosy or some infectious disease but that we will put our selves at holy risk for the Gospel of Christ.

d. Commit to Long-term help for Offenders.

Jesus didn’t dump his disciples and get new ones because of their lack of regard for all of human life. Instead, he spent time with them to teach the right way to live. Especially for those of us in ministry, we can become frustrated when people don’t see the world as we see it. However, Jesus kept living out the Gospel message and kept teaching and praying so that these same insensitive disciples would grow and learn and put into practice the right practices on how to live.

e. Act Vigorously to Expel and Restrain Evil.

Simply getting angry about sin is not going to accomplish a whole lot. Our anger needs to be like Jesus’ anger- tied to compassion and love. The extortioners and embezzlers in the temple not only were kicked out of the temple but they got a lesson about the treatment of God’s worship.

We are called by God to do as Jesus and walk in His steps. To do so calls on to become activists against evil. We may not be Superman or Batman or one of the Fantastic Four, but we are Christians who are supposed be possessed by the power of God for the salvation of all of humanity. This means that sin will anger us and the power it holds over our loved ones and others will anger us.

Conclusion:

Are we serious about our anger? If so, I would like us as one body of Christ to pray the following prayer about anger. I believe that we are in this together as Christians.

“Heavenly Father, help me to be angry about the things that make you angry. May the Holy Spirit empower me to handle anger in the right way; help me to be self-disciplined about anger so that I do not hurt those closest to me; and enable me to display the right kind of anger in every situation. In Jesus Name, Amen.”

THE ANGER MATRIX

July 27, 2008

Genesis 4:2b-8, Proverbs 14:17, Ephesians 4:29-32

Key verse: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.” (v. 31)

I recently read where a man in Wisconsin was so angered by his lawn-mower refusing to start that he hauled out his short-barrel shotgun and put a bullet into it. He figured that it put the lawn mower and him self out of misery. Instead, he was arrested for unlawful use of a firearm and disorderly conduct. He argued that he had a right to shoot his lawn mower if he wanted; it belonged to him.

Anger is the fuel for life. Without anger you nor I could function realistically in the world. We need a level of emotion that moves us to do things and save lives in the process- maybe our own and those closest to us.

It’s okay to get angry over the unrighteousness we see in our world. However, if we allow anger to burn deep within us, it may cause us to do things that are regrettable.

In recent news, we have seen the deaths of people because of anger over circumstances that went beyond what should be lawful or ethical. Murder is not the answer a problem that stirs up anger.

This morning I want to try and help us differentiate anger. It may seem a bit confusing but yet I hope that by slicing this anger into some compartments you will be helped in dealing with anger issues in your own life.

There are four faces of anger by Dr. Mark Gorkin that I want to use as our backdrop to helping you get off the road of rage and getting on to the path of peace. Dr. Gorkin is a psychologist who specializes with anger management issues and has worked with the U.S. Postal Service on this topic. He portrays anger with a matrix that outlines four key areas that of which anger displays itself.

Remember from last week that anger is not the problem. The problem is how we handle anger and what that does to those especially close to us. It is so frustrating to see young families and old families become torn apart by anger issues. In his book God’s Healing for Hurting Families, Dr. David Thompson shares the anger issues at stake in his family- a pastor’s home, of all things, and the healing that God can bring to our homes. He says that “giving your anger to God involves healing for damaged emotions.” What a loaded statement to think about.

Anger expressed is far too often anger that has been boiling and composting for years under the surface. God desires for us to use this emotion in the right way and for the right purposes. But before we get into that (next week) let’s consider the Anger Matrix and see what anger looks like.

1. Defining the Terminology.

a. Purposeful: Intentional anger and with a significant degree of consideration, calculation and self-control.

b. Spontaneous: Spur-of-the-moment outburst of anger that has very little pre-meditation or planning. There is a little moderate self-control.

c. Constructive: Anger expression with integrity and boundaries. This is when anger expressions affirms and acknowledges one’s integrity and boundary without intending to threaten or violate another person’s integrity or boundary.

d. Destructive: Anger expression lacking integrity or respect. This is when the anger expression intends to protect one’s self-interest by threatening or violating another person’s integrity and boundary. This kind of anger may be intentional or non-intentional.

2. Distinguishing the Anger.
We are going to show you four skits of the same situation that will help us define the differences of how anger is handled. We have the father whose son has arrived home later than the 11pm curfew with the family car. This son has neglected to call ahead to inform nor has he a good reason for being late.

a. ASSERTION: Purposeful and Constructive.

In this scenario, the father acknowledges immediately his own feelings by saying, “I’m angry.” He then goes on to clarify his own emotions, expectations and future limits. When he says, “I want to talk with you” he’s expressing the need for them to interact to solve the problem together.

b. HOSTILITY: Purposeful and Destructive. (Cain and Abel- Genesis 4:2b-8)

The second scenario shows an irrational hostility. What we have seen shows not only of still being in control, but this time includes a level of hostility that seems a bit over the top. The child is told that he is irresponsible (true or not), that he “made me sick with worry” (probably) and his trustworthiness is questioned. When these kinds of statements are made they cut to the heart of the other person and takes down their own self-esteem. Comments such as these and in the same tenor can make a child, spouse or acquaintance feel worthless and even take on the characteristics of which they are told they are.

This kind of anger is referred to by Thompson as “passive aggressive” anger. This kind of anger is veiled under a certain level of thoughtfulness. People who don’t suddenly lose their cool are considered are more socially acceptable. This “Godfather” type of anger is then express through the wife not doing certain things to get back at her husband or the husband doing things to get back at the wife but all with a veneer of smile and cheeriness. Anger is anger whether it’s a blow-up or grimaced smile.

c. PASSION: Spontaneous and Constructive.

This time the father reacts with passion. The son answers. The difference is that the father has a sense of self-integrity and healthy respect for his son’s boundaries. On the spontaneous side the father expresses his feelings and so is the son. On the constructive side the father indicates that a meeting will ensue the next day when cooler heads are more likely to prevail.

This approach is critical to most of us here. Most people I would argue tend to express themselves more spontaneously when confronted with a problem. This approach is critical, especially if you have 1) reservations about turning the confrontation into a win-lose or right-wrong battle; 2) you hope not to damage the relationship; 3) you desire for both of you to learn something from the situation.

This means that a healthy respect for each other needs to be in place to protect the relationship. It’s okay to express your hurt and frustration. It is also okay for the other person to express their excuse. Sometimes one or both need some separation or even some sleep to better deal with the problem or disagreement.

d. RAGE: Spontaneous and Destructive.

This time the father responds with outright rage at his son. His explosion includes name-calling, strong words (maybe even swearing if you aren’t in church) and threats that include doing bodily harm. This is a bullying tactic intended to bring down the son. The son has no way or opportunity to respond and even if he did, the father would not hear or listen. Whether this father is projecting his own sense of helplessness, fear or control is not the issue. The problem is that great harm is being done to the relationship. Worst, this may signal the beginning of the end for this father and his son.

These scenarios are by no means the only ones but certainly communicate to us the potential problems that anger can cause.

So what can we do as Christians to deal with anger issues? What if you have already given the devil a foothold with your anger? Let me give us some ideas that hopefully will disarm the evil one’s hold in our lives.

3. Disarming the Devil.

A lot of times we think of alcoholism as a major problem for families as well as drug use and the like. However, perhaps more debilitating that this is anger. When anger takes hold of a home, everyone is affected and hurt. The pain goes deep and cuts out the heart of child while he or she is young.

There are three aspects to deactivating the wrong anger and activating the right anger.

a. Establish a New Purpose for Life.

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (v. 29)

What should come out of your mouth when you speak? When Paul speaks of “talk” that comes out of your mouth, this is not an exhaustive statement about angry words but includes any communication of sinful anger. Remember the little Sunday School diddy? "Be careful little mouth what you say... There's a Father up above, looking down to you in love, so be careful little mouth what you say."

b. Experience the Spirit Power for Living.

“Do not grieve the Holy Spirit.” (v. 30) These words should signal the end of the sinful life for the Christian. And if you are prone to anger problems then you need to understand that there is a power of the Holy Spirit that not only changes your heart but changes your actions. What grieves the Holy Spirit is when we use the flesh to try and achieve what we need in the Spirit. This grieves the very heart of God.

You need to experience a fresh wind and fresh fire of the Holy Spirit in your life. To pray on one hand and then to live a life of rage on the other is unbiblical and wrong. In fact, I would conjecture that it is nearly impossible to pray in the Spirit and be filled with anger at the same time. “Be not drunk with wine (or anger) but filled with the Holy Spirit.”

c. Express a Biblical Process for Feelings.

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave you.” (v. 32)

Sometimes we just don’t know how to express day to day the right way of doing things- especially when it comes to anger problems. Let me now give you some practical tips for processing your feelings without allowing it to handicap your marriage or relationships with other people.

 No name calling. Words may not break my bones but they do cut to the soul. Name calling hurts people.

 Don’t be a “last word” freak. Learn to just walk away. You don't always need the last word. Escalation happens when people have to have the last word.

 Respect the integrity of others. Each person has boundaries and we need to respect those boundaries. We need to regard the dignity of every human person we encounter regardless of who they are or what they represent.

 Get rid of sinful anger. Give your anger to God. Don't say: "I'm not going to get angry again." Instead, say: "When I do get angry I'm going to give that anger to God."

 Live a life of love. Perhaps the greatest advice I can give you is to take time and read 1 Corinthians 13. This chapter gives us a great guideline on loving others and not putting ourselves on anger's edge.


CONCLUSION.

In the end of things, we have to give our anger to God. And this is what I want to do in these closing moments of prayer.

GETTING OFF THE ROAD OF RAGE

July 20, 2008

Ephesians 4:26-27

“In your anger, do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are angry, and do not give the devil a foothold."

Most of us drove right on through this past by not realizing it was Road Rage Awareness Week here in Michigan.

The American Automobile Association prepared a study that showed over 10,000 car accidents incited by angry drivers, 12,610 injuries and 218 deaths. Road Rage involves people of all ages though a significant number are men in their twenties. Eighty to ninety per cent of us will have an encounter with someone with road rage. (www.roarrinc.org)

Anger, however, is not confined to the highways and byways of life. Anger comes to us every day and in big ways and small ways.

How we deal with anger says a lot about our character and who we really are. People who have learned to handle anger properly learn self-discipline techniques that help them cope with unforeseen problems. Others have learned more importantly the value of God’s forgiveness and the work of the Holy Spirit in their heart and life. Others continually ask God to forgive them only to blow up once again at the newspaper carrier or the garbage truck man. Over and over. Others simply swallow the problem even though they wish they had the guts to tell someone like it is.

What brings on anger? There are three very important catalysts to anger of which only one of them is needed to create the dynamic we call anger. What are they?

1) Injury. Someone does harm to you or someone or something you care about.

2) Insult. Someone levels a wrong word either at you or against you. “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” Most of us DON’T live by that mantra. No one likes to be insulted.

3) Injustice. Whenever your cherished belief is violated you feel the brunt of unfairness and this will make you angry. Maybe you see a white police officer targeting only Hispanic drivers. That violates your sense of right and wrong.

4) Invasion. This is when your personal space is violated by someone else. Oftentimes someone will attempt to intimidate by stepping into your personal area or taking a hold of something that belongs to you.

5) Intention. The previous four will give way to this fifth aspect of anger and you sense an energy that moves you to do something about being injured, insulted, the injustice or invaded.

What we have to understand is that not all anger is bad. Without anger there would be no United States of America. Without anger slavery would still be an issue for us today. Without anger, we would still be lost as sinners.

Of course, we don’t need to go far in the church to understand examples of anger. God himself became very angry with his people for their continual failures of following his will. Jesus on a couple of occasions overturned the tables in the temple and chased out the money-changers because what he saw happening was wrong- and it angered him.

Let’s be clear that anger is a double edged sword. There is good anger and there is wrong anger. Good anger gets upset by things or situations in life that are proper to get upset about. Anger against slavery caused Orange Scott and Luther Lee to take matters into their own hands when their church denomination refused to deal with the wrong-ness of slavery. Eventually, not only did they give aid to runaway slaves but they started our denomination- the Wesleyan Methodist Connection.

I will spend some time on the issue is that all of us are affected by anger- whether it be within our selves or the brunt from other people. I believe that anger is a bigger problem in homes than we will admit. And so for the next several weeks I will be addressing various aspects of anger because I truly believe that if we can win with anger we can win in our families, in our church and in our community and world.

My goal for you is that you would get off the road of anger and live on the path of peace. On the path of peace you still get angry but about the right things and you deal with them in the right way.

I have three observations about anger that need to be tackled today:

1. The Answers to Anger.

Anger is one of those natural emotions that you can’t live with nor can you live without. Anger costs the angered broken televisions and windows, damaged cars and other things destroyed. Worst are the marriages and families shredded apart by one person’s unbridled anger.

Anger is a raw emotion just like sexuality, hunger and love. When used in the wrong way anger is its most destructive. When use properly anger is very constructive. Differentiating the difference is critical for us if we are to be the kind of Christian God has called us to be.

a. Anger as natural.

There are those who see anger as just a natural thing that everybody has and that needs to be harnessed. I agree to some degree with this ideal. What is important to understand from the Apostle Paul’s words is “be angry and sin not.” Because anger is such a raw emotion, a person might be angry one time and not sin but yet get angry the next time and sin.

b. Anger as acceptable.

John Rambo is an angry man. And in the movie, “First Blood” he lashes out at law enforcement and society. Rambo’s anger represents to a lot of Americans as acceptable anger.

c. Anger as the answer.

For some people, anger is the only answer. They learn early that if they throw a tantrum or pout they can get their own way. They never learn that a kind word turneth away wrath. They always see anger and its trappings as the way to live.

d. Anger for everyone.

The reality is that everyone does get angry. The person who says, “I don’t get angry” is not being honest about who they are or they are on drugs or drowning their anger in other ways.

However, hostile anger- of which I will be differentiating next week- is not the answer to life’s problems. And the point I want us to wrap our minds around is that when anger becomes unbiblical and against God’s word and things holy then we’ve got a problem.

There is a price-tag that dangles from every wrong anger incident. What does anger cost you?

2. The Costs of Anger.

In the movie “As Good as it Gets” Jack Nicholson plays the part of a wealthy writer who has a bit of an anger outburst problem. He gets easily angered when things don’t go to his specifications.

Think about it: anger costs you something. It costs you the things you have as well as the relationships that are most important. When you lose your cool and lash out at a family member with no concern for their emotional well-being, you are being selfish and self-centered to only make your self feel better. But the problem is that in the end you don’t feel better. Afterwards, you apologize or worst, pretend it never happened. Your spouse, your kids or your neighbors move on hoping not to set you off again.

When anger is unbridled and unfettered there is cost that far exceeds the cost of replacing a window or television. When a person lashes out in anger they could, and many have, receive financial and institutional costs for their crimes. Parking lots are great places to get angry and so are highways and village streets.


Cost #1 – Your Health
It has been well documented that chronic, high levels of anger are associated with an increased risk for health problems. How often anger is experienced and how it is expressed during periods of emotional distress are significant factors in determining the impact on one’s health. It is not uncommon for a person to suffer heart attacks and strokes as a result of unrelenting anger in their life.

Cost #2 – Your Self-Esteem
Although the expression of anger may feel good at the moment, it often leads to feelings of guilt, shame, embarrassment, and remorse. On a cognitive level, one might realize that his or her response was overblown, misdirected, and unwarranted. The result, in most cases, is damage to one’s self-esteem. You feel anger towards yourself and these kinds of feelings can lead to a poor outlook on your life and lead to some very detrimental consequences.

Cost #3 – Your Relationships
Very few things can damage a relationship as much as the inability to manage one’s anger. Frequent and/or intense outbursts, whether verbal or physical, can destroy marriages, break apart families, and ruin friendships. So many times we have sat with couples whose anger has endangered their marriage. There is no place for abusive anger in any relationship. No woman should tolerate the abuses of a husband or boyfriend who displays uncontrolled anger.

Cost #4 – Your Children
The effect on children of witnessing chronic and intense anger in the household can be devastating. Children who are the victims of anger grow up with anger problems of their own. Any one who believes that their childhood abuse didn’t affect them is not looking in the mirror properly. Children should not live in fear of mom or dad- at any time other than the proper kind of fear when they have done wrong. No child should ever have to fear for their well-being with their parents or the well-being of another sibling or one of their parents.

Cost #5 – The Workplace

What gets accomplished in the workplace, both quantitatively and qualitatively, can be severely compromised by poorly managed anger, frustration, and resentment. People thing that anger doesn’t cost them at work are in a fantasy world. Anger issues cost companies money, cost the workers raises and affects the outcomes of a business.

Cost #6 – Your Spirituality
We must not under-estimate the toll that anger takes on a person’s relationship with God. When a person allows themselves to engage in fits of rage they allow Satan to have not only a foothold in their life but they allow Satan to control their life. And this is not conducive to the Christian way of living.

The scriptures make clear the problems of anger for the follower of Christ. We are to “live at peace with all men.” This call is not about peace treaties but about a life that is truly one of peace and care.

The costs of anger are far too great for us to ignore. Let me now share some…

3. Tips for Anger Management.

In order to manage anger there needs to be a few things in place. One of them is that you need to have Jesus Christ in the right perspective of your life. Too often people will use “Jesus” as their weapon of choice when they are angry- in the wrong way and context. Something else that needs to be in the right perspective is understanding the role of the Holy Spirit in handling anger in the proper way.

There are two areas of your life that

Physical/Emotional:

1) Rest: Get your sleep.

2) Nutrition: Eat properly.

3) Time Management: Learn to schedule your self.

4) Laugh a little: Don’t take others too seriously.

5) Laugh a lot: Don’t take your self too seriously.


Spiritual:

6) Devotions: Take God and His Word seriously.

7) Forgiveness: Forgive others just God has forgiven you.

8) Grace: Live a life of Grace first.

9) Justice: Let God avenge your injury.

10) Surrender: Give it all to Jesus.

BUILDING AN ARK TO SAVE THE FAMILY

July 6, 2008
BUILDING AN ARK TO SAVE THE FAMILY
Genesis 6:5-8, Acts 2:38-39, Hebrews 11:7

The family circle is the most basic human government on the face of the earth. God created and intended for this to be that way. Our participation in "family" is crucial to the well-being of our souls and the growth of those around us.

What makes a house into a home? What makes a group of individuals into a family? How does the most basic of human governments supposed to look like?

There are five very important features of a quality Christian home. You would think at first glance that such things as prayer, holiness and church attendance would be the key ingredients to a Christian home. Not that these are not important but those are things that are fluid. They should be flowing in and through the other elements of any Christian home. What I am looking at are the structural things that transform the Christian home. Hopefully these are traits that are prayerfully implemented into your home.

1. There is a Character to be Shaped.

Every house has a particular “character” about it. I learned in construction that there are different kinds of homes that reveal a certain character about them due to the style of the home. A basic ranch home is simple in design with a low pitched roof and generally easier to build. A Cape Cod home is one that has unique “eyebrows” that take the roof line around a corner. A home with Swiss gables is usually has a steeper roof that juts out from the outer walls. An “A-frame” is a 12/12 pitched roof that starts about a foot off the ground.

We could move on and see the interior color schemes, the floor style and the door-frames. These- as much as anything- reveal ever more closely the character of the people who live inside.

Look even closer at the furniture and you will learn even more about the people who inhabit the house.

My point is that for a Christian home to truly be Christian, it will have a certain personality. There will be things that go beyond furniture and decorations.

What character does your Christian home reveal about your family? Don't forget, Noah's character was grounded in his relationship with God.

Notice some things about Noah from Genesis 6 that reveal a whole lot about his Christian home:

a. Noah was a righteous man. (Gen. 6:9)

In being a righteous man he had a good reputation with his neighbors and friends. The people around him considered him a man who was blameless.

As moms and dads, there are so many times that you have to take the lead in obeying God. And kids see this. They see the books you read, the magazines you peruse and the movies you watch. They may even know the web sites you vist.

b. Noah was obedient to God. (Gen. 6:22)

He was more than a husband and father- he was a follower of God. And following God meant being obedient to what God called him to do- even to build an ark. Your family will be impacted by your obedience to God.

c. God remembered Noah. (Gen. 8:1)

Noah’s integrity and obedience was responded to by a loving and caring God. Even though the world all around was ignoring God and doing their own thing, but Noah was different. And because Noah was different, Noah’s family was different. And in being different they were rescued by God.

We must remember that God remembers us in the face of judgment, persecution, trials and tribulations. When your whole seems like a flood, God is there protecting you as a parent.

d. Noah worshiped God. (Gen. 8:20)

This verse does not mean that because of all the previous things that Noah now begins to worship. No, this verse indicates that Noah and his family were worshippers of God continually. They made room for God in their family time to give God glory and honor.

This is why families need to be in church. They need to be praying TOGETHER,singing TOGETHER, and growing TOGETHER.

Your walk with Christ shapes your character. But more than just shaping your character as a mom or dad, your walk with Christ helps shape the character of your children. And the whole family is impacted. When you walk with Christ you are building an ark to save your family- just as Noah did.

Secondly,

2. There is a Desire to be Had.

One of the great tragedies of our time is that God has been eased out of our lives and mentioned only in a time of crisis or need. What I am wondering is how many of you here truly want to have a Christian home?

If you want to have a Christian home then you need to desire to have one. Prayer and Bible reading help build that but do you desire in your heart as a wife and husband, as a mom and dad, or as a grandparent to have a home that reflects the values of our Lord and Savior?

Two important pieces to this desire must be present:

a. Parental Vision.

Take some time and think about how your family life operates. Does it just happen as probably 99.99% of homes do? Or are you deliberate about the life of the home?

You need to see what God sees for your home life. You need to see your family relationships through the lenses of God’ word. A vision is not some far-fetched dream but is a very real view of what God wants.

b. Family Participation.

For desire to really take hold you need family participation. We have gone on a number of vacations that quite honestly would be pretty boring without the others. And so it is with the family structure. A family needs to see the need for complete participation.

Noah’s family came together. There is no indication from the scriptures that any of the children- even as adults- rejected the God of their father and mother. Together they entered the ark.

Who knows what the surrounding community was saying about Noah. A lot of indicators from a variety of scholars are that Noah was likely made fun of and ridiculed. There was no such thing as rain, according to the Venus theory. Flooding was unheard of. And yet, they believed and were saved.

You see it takes desire to have a Christian home. I had someone once tell me how they envied the kind of life I had and the family that I’ve been blessed with. They wanted that kind of life for themselves. However, they failed to take the price tag seriously. Which brings me to our third point:

3. There is a Price to Pay.

For any Christian desiring the things of God they will come to learn that there is a price to pay for that Christian home to truly become Christian. There is a cost to being a godly father and mother. There is a cost to being a godly son and daughter. There is a cost to being a godly grandfather and grandmother.

Whatever you desire to see happen for the glory of God in your family life, realize this: there is a price to pay.

The number one problem in our Christian homes and the reason why so many Christian homes struggle with the things of the world is very simply that there are too many moms and dads, husbands and wives who do not want to pay the price.

But let me ask you this: what price is too much for the sake of your souls and the souls of your children. Again, as parents the only thing we can take to heaven with us is our children. What price is too much to pay for that?

Some of you know what I am talking about. You’ve walked this road. You know that there is no price too much for the sake of our children.

What is the price that has to be paid to build an ark to save your family?

a. Sin and Self.

We live in a time where the self has been elevated to deity level. I’ve heard way too often, “You’ve gotta do what’s best for you.” Come on! If we live our life by that mantra then we will have a family life that is part of the American litter scattered around the countryside.

Sin will affect your family life. Selfishness will affect your family life. These things of this world can only bring doom and gloom to the home and keep you from building an ark to save your family.

What can you do?

Allow the Holy Spirit to sanctify your heart. We need homes that are filled with the holiness of God. And for that to happen we need moms and dads who have surrendered sin and self to God.

b. Materialism and Money.

We have to surrender the idea of keeping up with the Joneses, the Smiths or the Johnsons. All these gadgets and things that are so important are not going to make our family stronger in the long run. It will simply create a bigger spiritual vacuum.

Things are nice and things make life more fun. But at what price? The family that strives to do things together at the expense of worshipping God and worshipping with God’s people are too expensive for their spiritual life.

Recently some families in the Hudsonville community have taken a stand against their children playing Little League baseball on Sundays. Their heart conviction tells them that they need to be in church with their families on Sunday. Even though no games are scheduled, they could not in good conscience commit their children to being in games that would keep them away from Church.

Now, I am not against playing ball on Sundays. But what we do with the issue of being with God’s people is critical. What you do on Sundays does matter and it matters to God and should matter to us as parents. Are the things we do depriving us of being with God’s people in worship? [More on the Sunday/Sabbath issue in another sermon this winter.]

c. Reputation and Recognition.

Have you ever been in a store and hear a squalling kid and a desperate mom trying to deal with this carnal creature screaming in the grocery cart? Admit it: we’ve all thought, “Thank God that kid’s not mine!” And we might even comment to our spouse about what we would do if that was our kid.

Naomi recalls dealing with our kids playing hide and seek in the clothes racks at Meijer. What fun she had while I was out roofing!

In raising our families we have to relinquish our status and any glory that might come our way. Sometimes we might be embarrassed by our children’s behavior. We have to be willing to let our family grow and not worry about the naysayer’s. We don’t raise kids and bless out home for earthly recognition and reward. Our reward is when we meet our children in heaven.

d. Calling and Career.

There is a place where we concede our calling and career to the betterment of our family. How many are there who have surrendered what they thought could have been a better life with better money and better connections in order to live the good life God already had for them?

Again, there are too many families that have suffered because mom or dad, or mom and dad, needed to climb the corporate ladder and take on more hours away from home. How many have lost their families and relationships because the raise was more important than raising their kids?

For some, getting a raise at work is more important than raising the kids at home.

The price to pay for a Christian home and to know that your wife will be there when you get home is priceless. The price to pay is nothing when the children honor you as they should. The price to pay doesn’t ever come cheaply- especially because…

4. There is Work to Do.

For your home to be all that God wants it to be is going to require work. There are maintenance items that just have to be done.

No one here (at least in their right mind) enjoys housework: washing dishes, vacuuming the floors, cleaning windows or straightening up pillows and shams. Why? It’s monotonous work. It’s the same old thing every few days.

Who, in their right mind, loves housework? Who can't wait to get the vacuum cleaner out and do more housework?

“Didn’t I just wash these dishes yesterday?” “Didn’t we just clean these windows a few weeks ago?” “I have to vacuum again?”

For you maintain a Christian home is going to take work. There are three very important aspects of this:

a. Maintenance.

To keep relationships vibrant in the home takes maintenance. You can’t live on a roller coaster every day. You need days of routine and monotony. Boring days are okay to have. Enjoy them when they come your way.

There are few subpoints that I plan to come back to at a later sermon but let me give these to you:

 Time.

For good maintenance of relationships you need both quality time and quantity time.

 Energy.

We have on occasion watched the television show called “The Nanny.” What amazes me is how self-absorbed so many parents are. On one show, the husband would come home from work, go upstairs and play on his computer for 2-3 hours! In the meantime his poor wife has been going stir-crazy with the kids all day and is trying to get supper ready. Especially as parents, we have to be ready to give of our energy to the other anytime- even when we might be running on empty.

 Money.

Too often, money dictates relationships in families. Either its not enough money or too much money. Sometimes parents unwittingly create animosity with their kids by having too high of an expectation on their elementary concepts of money. In other words, treating a first-grader like he or she has a college degree in accounting. Or, they just give the kids anything and everything they want. Again, balance is needed in how we teach our children the value of money and how that works in God’s kingdom.

Not only does maintenance take work but you as parents need…

b. Teamwork.

Mom and Dad: you’re on the same team! Work together. Don’t let the kids divide and conquer. As a team, Naomi offsets my weaknesses and I offset hers. And rather than feed off each others weaknesses as a husband and wife, we need to build each others strengths. This takes teamwork. (Again, coming in more detail from a sermon this summer.)

Furthermore, as parents you are not alone. It also takes a church to help you. The family of God is critical to the well-being and growth of you and your family. Where would my kids be without church people like you? Where would my wife and I be were it not for the nurturing of the church? The role of the church is to enhance the home ministries of every family.

And this point cannot be complete without naming extended family members. In the ideal situation, grand-parents are very important to the children. Our kids need the nurturing affects of grandmas and grandpas. Their eternal life may depend on this!

c. Repeat.

Repeat over and over the maintenance issues and teamwork. Parenting is work. But work that is well worth the reward… when they finally go to sleep at night. And there is not a more angelic look on a child’s face then when they are sleeping peacefully knowing in their heart that Mom and Dad love each other.

Be creative when budgets are tight. Boring, though, is not always a bad thing.

So what more shall I say?

Conclusion: Build an Ark to Save the Family.

Without going into extremism as some have in the past, let me simply state that as Christian parents we must build an ark to save our family. So let me leave you with three very important allowances

1. To build an ark to save the family calls on you to allow yourself to determine to be all that God calls us to be as parents. Most of us don’t know how to parent our kids. We’re learning on the job. So we must be determined that we are going to raise our children God’s way.

2. To build an ark to save the family calls on you to allow the Holy Spirit to lead you into all truth as parents. We have to quit being intimidated by what the world says and do what God says. It’s not easy being a parent. But as James Dobson’s book title says: Parenting isn’t for Cowards.

3. To build an ark to save the family calls on you to allow God’s grace to work. We cannot do all we should do as parents. We will succeed at some things and fail at a lot of other things. We will inadvertently bruise our kids in some way or we may hurt them and not realize the long-term consequences. Grace allows us to balance our short-comings as parents with those things we do well. Grace allows us to balance our attitudes with our kids and with each other. Grace helps us realize that if it weren’t for God we could not do what we have to do. Grace will even heal those errors in parenting.


54 State St.
(corner of State/Oceana Dr. and Ferry St.)
Shelby, MI 49455

Contact information:
231-861-5375
robnaomi@charter.net