Reaching Your Family

 

by Jack Graham
The place to begin sharing God’s truth is at home. That’s where we’re to live authentically, walking with God and showing others the grace He’s given us.

The Key to Reaching Your Family First

As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”  Mark 5:18-19

I’m always intrigued when I read the story of Jesus healing the demon-possessed man in the land of the Gerasenes. This man had been living in the graveyard, isolated from the rest of the community, and exhibited self-destructive tendencies. The townspeople had tried to bind him with chains, but the man would break free.

So in came Jesus. And when the man saw him from afar, he immediately recognized the Lord and began shouting at him, begging Jesus not to torment him. So Jesus cast the demons out and let them go into a herd of pigs who immediately drowned themselves in the sea.

The man was free, and wanted to follow Jesus and be with him. But interestingly, Jesus said no. Instead, he told the man to go back to his home and share what He had done for him. What a powerful testimony to those who knew this man best!

The place to begin sharing God’s truth is at home. That’s where we’re to live authentically, walking with God and showing others the grace He’s given us… our spouses, our kids, our parents, and our friends. Start sharing the Gospel at home, testify of the Lord’s goodness, and be a living witness to your loved ones of God’s grace in your life.

Share God’s grace with those at home first by walking authentically with God and being a living witness of His grace.

Work of Marriage

 

vy Focus on the Family
What does the “work” of marriage actually look like? Andrew Hess gives insight on how to address this aspect of married life.

The Work of Marriage

Recently, I received a question in an email.

“I sometimes feel like all the ‘just you wait for the other shoe to drop’ folks are out there trying to steal my joy–and I have to remind myself that they’re often just applying their own experiences to what I should expect and trying to get me to temper my own expectations accordingly. In short, they have my best interests in mind. But I kind of want to live in the sort of world where the ‘work’ part of marriage becomes an afterthought. I think in a lot of ways we’ve bought into some kind of silliness that marriage is terribly, horribly hard. The world is all about the ‘ol’ ball and chain’ and your ‘life being over’ after you marry. That life-long marriage is some kind of kid-ridden, sexless, isolated horror show, and I think sometimes we let ourselves buy into that line of thought.”  – Ashley

I think some of your thoughts here, Ashley, get at the crux of this discussion, namely your desire that the “‘work’ part of marriage becomes an afterthought.”

I resonate deeply with that desire, and I think it’s a good one. Going into my marriage with my wife, Jennifer, I was overjoyed at finding someone with whom I shared so many similarities, someone I was excited to spend my life with. Though many folks have described the first year of marriage as a sometimes jarring transitional season, Jennifer and I sailed through it, growing closer, ministering together and continuing to get to know each other. It was an awesome season. And if you’d have told me during that time that marriage somehow constituted work, I would have scratched my head and asked, “What on earth are you talking about?” Honestly, I can’t imagine having found someone better suited to spend my life with than Jennifer.

So I absolutely get what you’re expressing, Ashley.

Now—and this is, I suppose, what some might consider “the other shoe dropping”—Jennifer and I are nearly nine years into our marriage. In that time, we’ve had three children. My wife has gone from working full time to working part time. Our lives are very, very full—which is an incredible blessing. But sometimes the fullness of work and family can, frog-in-the-blender-style, quietly begin to erode the sense of intimacy and connection that seemed so effortless in those first two years. In other words, what was very much an “afterthought” becomes something that I’ve got to give some forethought. Deepening intimacy, at least for us, is no longer something that just happens automatically without some intentional effort on our part to cultivate it.

In the early years of a healthy marriage, there are several factors working massively in your favor. First, hopefully you’re thrilled (as my wife and I were) to have found someone to spend your life with. It can seem almost too good to be true. You talk all the time. If you’ve exercised sexual restraint, those early years of marriage are a time of wondrous, sacred discovery in that area. You’re continuing to learn more about the intricacies and quirks and wonders of this person that you’ve committed yourself to. In short, it’s a season in which there are all sorts of factors that are working almost automatically to cement your intimacy, your bond and your commitment to each other. Of course you don’t have to work at it, because (in a good relationship) it feels as effortless and natural as breathing, even when you do run into those occasional small conflicts.

I think what can change over time–thus necessitating the “work” that others have referred to–is that the factors present in those early years don’t necessarily remain effortless afterthoughts as the years and responsibilities mount. We love our three children deeply, but if we’re not careful, just tending their needs can easily crowd out our own need to keep intentionally growing the intimacy, the very bond that seemed to come so effortlessly early on. It’s not “work” in that it’s a “grind.” But it is “work” to the extent that we have to prioritize each other, choosing to devote the same kind of love and attention to our relationship as we do our children and our jobs.

My wife and I have been out on dates three times in the last three weeks. Each time we went out, I did the planning, which meant recruiting grandparents and babysitters, going to get pick up a babysitter in one case, and working out the details to make that happen. Is that work? Perhaps. Perhaps not, depending upon how you define that word. But I do know that if I hadn’t taken the proactive initiative to plan and make it happen, it would not have happened spontaneously.

All of that to say, perhaps a better phrase than “work”, which smacks of ball-and-chain drudgery, would be “intentional investment.” But I’ve come to believe that even the best marriages need exactly that kind of investment over time if they’re to thrive.

Abiding in Friends

By Dr. John Jackson

Friends Helping Friends Follow Christ. It is my hope you will be helped to follow Christ…either as someone who needs to cross the line of faith, or someone who has already and needs help in following Him.

John 14 closes with, “Come now, let us leave!” which suggests that the next two chapters may have been spoken on the way to the Garden. It is probable that Christ and His disciples were passing some vineyards. If you can, I’d like you to imagine Christ holding six darts in His hand… Each of the following six darts are aimed at your heart… how you can follow Him…

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:1-11).

1) The source of spiritual life is relationship with Jesus

This passage is not suggesting that in order to “keep saved”; we have to abide in Christ. Our salvation is secured through His action on our behalf. But, to be in dynamic vital union with Him means to have His life flowing through us… that occurs through being in His Word and prayer (v. 7), obey His commandments (v. 10), and keep our lives clean through His Word (vv. 3-4).

2) Healthy branches bear fruit

To be a branch in the Vine means we are united to Christ and share His life. As we abide in Him, His life flows through us and produces fruit. It is possible for the carnal Christian to produce “works,” but only the spiritual Christian can bear lasting fruit. Note that the fruitful branches are “purged” (v. 2—same word as “clean” in v. 3) so that they will bear more fruit. God cleanses us through the Word, chastening us to make us more fruitful, which helps to explain why a dedicated Christian often has to go through suffering. As believers move from producing “fruit” to “more fruit” (v. 2) to “much fruit” (v. 8), they glorify the Father. The evidences of the “abiding life” are: a sense of the Savior’s love (v. 9), obedience to His Word (v. 10), answered prayer (v. 7), and joy (v. 11).

The purpose of Christian living is to bear fruit… being fulfilled means being completely filled up to all God has for you.

There are two kinds of fruit:

  • Changed Life (your heart, character, mind, influence)
  • Reached Life (your family, friends, sphere of influence)

3) The life of God in us produces the life of God through us

“Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy” (I Peter 1:13-16).

You’ll never experience the Christian life as Christ intended on your own strength. I often use the analogy of three types of watercraft: rowboat, sailboat, and powerboat. If the life of God (the vine, His Spirit) is flowing in you, it will flow through you to bear fruit in your life and in the lives of others.

4) God prunes producing AND non-producing branches

To use v. 6 to teach that a Christian loses his salvation and is burned in hell if he fails to bear fruit is to twist the meaning of the parable. In the first place, such a teaching contradicts the plain teaching of other verses:

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand” (John 10:27-29).

Furthermore, note that the branch Christ speaks of in v. 6 withers after it is cast forth! If this branch pictures a backslidden Christian who loses his salvation, he should “wither” first, then fail to bear fruit, then be cast out. The Christian who fails to abide in Christ becomes like a useless branch, like the salt that loses its taste and is good for nothing.

“For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames” (I Corinthians 3:11-15).

5. Loving Christ will mean loving His kid

This is the “eleventh commandment,” that we love one another. Certainly the Christian who abides in Christ ought to get along with other believers! Love for the brethren is a mark of a disciple. Now Jesus calls His disciples “friends”. His own death on the cross proved His love for them; now they must prove their love for Him by loving His children. Friends love each other and help each other. The obedience that Christ asks from us is not that of the slave, but of the friend. Because we are His friends and abide in Him, we know His will and share His secrets.

Keep Your Love Alive

by Dr Gary Smalley
Are you looking for some practical ways to keep the love in your marriage alive? Try these 12 tips.

12 Ways To Keep Your Love Alive

  1. Praise is such a great gift, and it’s so easy to give. So look at the things that make your spouse and others unique and develop the habit of praising them for those special things.
  2. Every painful trial is like an oyster, and there is a precious pearl, a personal benefit, in every one; every single one.
  3. Don’t go it alone. Welcome fresh insights of other perspectives, from extended family, friends, good marriage books, or a qualified marriage counselor.
  4. In a mutually satisfying relationship, both people’s needs are expressed, and they have the flexibility to give and take.
  5. Honor goes hand in glove with love, a verb whose very definition is doing worthwhile things for someone who is valuable to us.
  6. All our trials, great and small, can bring more of the two best things in life: love for life and love for others.
  7. Oneness does not mean that one mate dominates the other or that the stronger controls the weaker.
  8. Anger is our choice. We can choose to see its powerful potential for destruction and take steps to reduce it within us. Otherwise, it’s an iceberg sinking our love.
  9. Better understanding of the motivations and actions that grow out of our basic personalities can help us achieve personal and marital satisfaction.
  10. Sharing deep feelings with each other is emotional intercourse, and it’s vital to sexual satisfaction.
  11. As we reach out to another, our own needs for fulfillment and love are met.
  12. Give seven or more praises for every one fault-finding suggestion.

Family of Purpose

By Dennis Rainey

When was the last time you thought about how your family can grow in Christ and make a difference for the kingdom? Don’t wait any longer. Now is the perfect time to step back and evaluate what your life looks like and to implement changes that can help you and your family grow stronger together. I would like to challenge you to start out by making eight changes that would help you to become a family of purpose. These ideas won’t cure every problem that you have, but if you take them seriously and commit to do them, they will help you refocus. And as a result, positive change will take place in your home.

Marriage

Pray with your spouse every day. This is the single most important investment you could make in your marriage. Why? Prayer is one of the most intimate forms of communication God gives us. It knits your heart together with your mate’s. For Barbara and me, practically speaking, no other spiritual discipline has done a better job of placing Him at the center of our lives and marriage. Prayer says, “You alone are Lord of my life. There is none other.”

Never say the word, “divorce.” Our society has convinced the majority of the people that divorce is the cure for marital problems. It’s not! It only creates more problems. There are only two things that will mend your marriage: hearts that are grounded in Christ and hard work. Make a commitment to your spouse never to say the “d-word” again. And together decide that divorce is not an option, no matter how tough times get.

Study your spouse. You may think you know your spouse, but have you really gotten to know him inside-out since you first got married? People change and so do their needs. In the next weeks and months, determine your mate’s top three needs. Does she have an emotional need, a need for conversation, or for romance? Write down at least three things that you know will show your love to your soul mate—then make them all happen as soon as possible.

Personal

Have a daily quiet time each day. God gave us His Word to help us survive in a hostile world. As Psalm 119:105 says, “Your Word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.” His Word is truth. If we are to experience change in our families, we must admit we are lost and need to find our way to the truth of God’s Word. I often hear Christians complain that the Bible can’t be read in public schools. But do we faithfully read it in our own homes? The Bible cannot light a dark pathway if it’s lying on an end table in the family room covered with dust.

Family

Fast from television for one month. I want to challenge you to take one small step toward slowing down your life by taking one month and “fasting” from TV. I know this won’t be easy—especially as central as television is in our culture, but fasting from TV will limit isolation in your family and give you time to do all those little things you have been putting off. It will cause you to take a close look at the amount of time your family sits in front of the TV and to think through better ways to use that time.

Get to know your neighbors. I believe the needs of the family today will not be met by relying only on professionals and counselors, government officials, ministers, or parachurch organizations. The need is for Christians who have growing marriages to begin to reach out and influence other families. Many couples have started Bible study groups like the HomeBuilders Couples Series® right in their own neighborhoods and invited people they would otherwise only occasionally see. People who have no religious affiliation or background feel comfortable in these groups because they are formed around the felt need of marriages. But none of this can happen if you don’t get to know your neighbors first.

Parenting

Hug and kiss your kids. As a child grows up and develops physically into a young woman or man, a concern may grow in you about how much physical affection should be given to your child of the opposite sex. The tendency is to think he is grown and doesn’t need the affection. Don’t stop lavishing your child with physical affection; he needs those hugs and kisses more than ever! A mom hugging her son and a dad hugging his daughter will send the message to both—you are a young man or a young woman who is worthy of attention and affection from someone of the opposite sex. How many times have you heard about young women who say that they sought affection from boys because they never received it from their fathers? Don’t make that mistake with your child.

Date your kids. Pursue a relationship with each of your children. Rules without relationships can make children angry. That’s why the Apostle Paul admonishes fathers in Ephesians 6:4, “And, fathers do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” If our children are to receive our “discipline and instruction,” we need to build and maintain a relationship with them. One way to do this is to take each of your children on a date. By doing this, you not only give undivided attention to that child, you show him that he is important to you and that you are willing to sacrifice your time to be with him.

Becoming a family of purpose is not easy. It begins with individual sacrifice. It’s time to return to God’s Word, experience Him on a daily basis, and change the way you are living. If you can implement these ideas in your home and in your personal life, you will see a change in your family that would spill over into the lives of your children and someday, into the lives of their children. I pray that the Lord gives you strength to fulfill the task that He has set before you.

Sibling Rivalry

By Karen Stubbs

Genesis 4: 8

Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.

Sibling rivalry has been around since the very first set of brothers and will be around until Jesus returns.  As a mom, we cannot rid ourselves of this curse, but we can teach our children about jealousy and the devastating effects jealousy has on a family and on each other.

In my family, I would call jealousy out and I even named it. We called jealousy The Green Monster.  So, when my children were fighting over toys, envying the other sibling’s newest gadget, clothes, car, etc. I would say, “What is on your back?”  My children would usually reply, “The Green Monster.”  I would say, “Get it off your back and address your jealousy or it will take hold of your life. You need to celebrate your brother/sister and be happy for them.  Your day will come.”

Jealousy is a natural emotion that us humans struggle with. It has been around since the beginning of time. As moms, we must understand our enemy and teach against Satan’s schemes. Jealousy is a huge tactic that Satan uses to divide and destroy our family from within. Be wise moms and attack the source of the problem. You must address the issue at hand, but dig deeper and address the root of the problem with your children. Get your child to see where the jealousy is coming from—only then will your child begin to recognize what is going on and be alert enough to change.

Prayer

Father, My children do struggle daily with jealousy between each other.  Teach me how to teach my children to love and respect each other and how to celebrate each other.  God, I pray that I will be loving in my instruction with my children and not get angry.  I pray that I may teach this principle of jealousy in a way my children can understand the lifelong devastation it can bring.  Give me wisdom as I parent these wonderful children that you have graciously given me.

The Things We Do For Love

By Renee Swope

“What a person desires is unfailing love …” (Proverbs 19:22a, NIV)

I had everything I wanted yet felt empty and confused.

My life was full of relationships and accomplishments I’d worked hard to gain, but none could fill or fulfill me.

Frustrated by my aching emptiness, tears streamed down my face as I thought about the guy I dated through high school and college. Our future plans had crumbled under the pressure of me expecting him to be all I needed. I had been crazy about him — a little too crazy.

I’ll never forget the time a friend mentioned my ex-boyfriend was heading to our hometown for the weekend. We worked near each other, so Friday afternoon I parked by his office and waited for him to leave.

We both “happened” to be at the same fast food restaurant, at the same time and bumped into each other. After getting my order, I got in my car and followed behind him, hoping he’d see me, realize he couldn’t live without me and signal to pull over so we could talk.

Seriously, what was I thinking? As you can guess, he never stopped. I was hopeless and humiliated.

A few weeks later, I was taking a walk around my college campus. My eyes drifted to the buildings, dorms and other landmarks of memories. Suddenly my mind filled with a collage of faces, reminding me of my efforts to win the approval of advisors, friends and professors — hoping their affirmation could fill my emptiness.

Although I was graduating soon, had a few great job offers and achieved success in many ways, my heart still felt restless. And I couldn’t help but wonder: Why was all that I had never enough?

A thought rushed through my soul, stringing together two words I had never put next to each other. I sensed God answering me.

Renee, all you have ever wanted is unconditional love.

Unconditional love? I didn’t know there was such a thing. Then God whispered into my soul: You’ll never find the love you long for in anyone or anything but Me. I AM the unconditional love you’re looking for.

The thought of God loving me without any conditions was inconceivable, yet something deep in my soul told me it was true. I’d been looking for love that didn’t have to be earned. Love I didn’t have to fear losing.

Honestly, it was hard to see how God’s love could fill the emptiness in my heart. It took time, but I came to understand that God created me with that need for fulfillment so He could meet it.

Our key verse, Proverbs 19:22a, says, “What a person desires is unfailing love.”

The word “desire” comes from the Hebrew word ta’avah, which means: to greatly long for, deeply desire or crave. Interestingly, unfailing love is mentioned over 30 times in the Bible, and not once is it attributed to a person. It is only attributed to God.

God gave us a desire for unfailing love because He knew it would lead us back to Him.

His love draws us to Him. Only we can stop God from reaching the deep and hidden parts within us that need Him most.

Will you invite Jesus to look into your heart today so He can show you what, who and where you might be looking to be filled and fulfilled? Then ask Him to fill and fulfill you with the promise and reality of His unfailing love instead.

Jesus, help me stop searching for fulfillment in anything or anyone but You. Will You satisfy me with Your unfailing love and help me depend on You to meet my deepest desires and needs. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Reflect and Respond:

What or whom do you look to, to fill and fulfill you?

Write down steps you can take to transfer your hope from other things and people to God to satisfying your longings. Start by talking to God and processing this struggle with Him.

Power Verse:

Psalm 90:14, “Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.” (NIV)