Family

MARRIAGE SURPRISES

Do you like surprises?

The surprises we like to imagine, are those in which an unexpected joy drops into our life.

However, there are other surprises, those which expose the fact that we are never as prepared for life as we had hoped.

Marriage is one of those areas filled with surprises.

Some of the surprises are the its-better-than-I-imagined kind of surprise. The distressing part is when marriage feels more like a minefield of surprises!

When a couple gets married, they are usually under the impression that they have deeply thought about and planned for their new life together. However, it doesn’t take too much time for every married couple to realize that we are never prepared enough!

Dave Harvey, is a pastor and author of the excellent book, “When Sinners Say I Do”. In an article on the Gospel Coalition website, he shared this thought on couples preparing for marriage:

“Many young couples head into marriage with blinders—believing their marriage will be the fairy tale they dreamed of as they planned a Pinterest ceremony and momentous honeymoon. But the truth is marriage reveals our sin, exposes our desires, challenges our relational network, and requires us to regularly practice costly forgiveness. Engaged folk need to know that marriage is a call to ministry where two sinners learn—till death parts them—how to apply the gospel of grace.”

Although, none of us are completely prepared for matrimony, we can all build more health into our marriage. The most important realization is that becoming Great Commandment people, will enable us to become better marriage partners.

Of course, it is helpful to recognize the specific areas where practical steps are most needed. Dave helps us by listing 6 Surprises that hit couples after they are married.

Even if you are a marriage veteran, it will be beneficial to look over this list of surprises and identify if there is an area where you need to seek God’s grace and wisdom to improve how you love and cherish your spouse.

 

PARENTS, LET THIS TASK BE EXCITING!

Last year we conducted a survey in our church on the area of Children’s Ministry. The results gave us cause to celebrate and to be concerned.

The celebration was in the clarity our congregation has in the values of God’s word ruling over our homes, and in the importance of parent’s discipling their children.

The concern was that many parents were struggling to regularly implement discipleship and family devotions. The survey also revealed that as pastors, we had not done a good job in equipping parents for this all-important task.

This year we have prayerfully worked to change these weaknesses, and we are thankful for God’s gracious help in leading us as a church to turn this area of weakness into an area of increasing strength.

However, it can still be intimidating for parents to lead their children in devotions. This responsibility which God means to be joyful, often seems intimidating and looms as a burden on our time.

Jon Neilson wrote this helpful and encouraging article describing “Three Surprising Ways Bible reading with My Kids Has Changed Me”. Parents and grandparents, I hope you will find renewed energy in your commitment to the wonderful privilege of leading the children you love toward our Savior!

In the article, Jon shares a 40 second video with 8 quick tips on reading the Bible with your kids. He links the article to his book on this subject which is published by Matthias Media. I have not read Jon’s book, but I highly regard everything made available by Matthias Media.

 

SERMON LEFTOVERS 4.10.17

Marriage & the Gift of Singleness

 

by Paul Long

1 Corinthians 7:1-9, 36-40

 

Paul has addressed some serious issues in the Corinthian church.  In chapter 5 he had to correct the issue of immorality.  In chapter 6 he had to address members of the church participating in temple feasts involving prostitutes. 

The culture of Corinth was far away from God’s original design and intent for sex and marriage.

As we look at chapter 7 we will see how some in the church were responding to these cultural issues of sexuality and immorality.

Paul is responding to a letter that he had received from the Corinthian church  vs 1

“It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” Here Paul is quoting something that they had written in their letter.  This not something Paul is saying, rather it is a position that some in the church had arrived at. 

Considering the immorality of the culture they lived in and the struggles some of the other church members had faced, the conclusion they came to was that abstinence in all contexts was good. 

This was a pendulum swing too far in the wrong direction.

Paul will address this by expounding on the gift of marriage and sexual relations within marriage, he will remind husbands and wives of the rights and responsibilities in marriage, and caution them of the dangers of abstinence in marriage.

If married couples were expected to abstain from sex there would be a danger for them to struggle with self-control and fall into temptation and sexual immorality  vs 2 & 5

Because of these dangers – “each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.”   Paul echoes back to God’s original intent in marriage. Genesis 2:18-24

Marriage is the only appropriate sexual outlet in God’s design and especially for the Christian seeking to please Him.

Within the context of marriage two have become one flesh and each has surrendered his/her own rights to the other  vs 3

The husband has an obligation to meet his wife’s needs, and the wife has an obligation to meet her husband’s needs. 

Love in marriage is giving oneself away for the good of the other.

Seeking to love and serve our spouse even when we don’t feel like it is hard work. 

Marriage exposes our pride and selfishness.

Our marriages must be filled with grace and forgiveness. 

Where there is not love, grace and forgiveness – marriages get into trouble.

In vs 5 Paul gives a strong command, “Do not deprive one another…” 

To deprive is to defraud another of a right that is owed to them.

One spouse may not selfishly disregard the other’s needs. Husbands and wives are not free to hold back love and intimacy from their spouse  vs 4

We need to work in our marriage to cultivate and maintain our emotional oneness.

1. Forgive and forget (Eph 4:26).

2. Foster good communication.

3. Nurture your relationship; pursue love and romance.

The one exception, where a husband and wife could withhold from marital intimacy would be for a limited time of intentional prayer  vs 5

This is always mutually agreed upon, for a limited time, and for the purpose of being devoted to prayer.

After clarifying the Corinthians’ poor conclusions on intimacy in marriage, Paul moves on in verse 6-9 to talk about the gift of singleness. 

Paul does not command singleness, but he does “wish” all were like him.

Paul didn’t have a low view of marriage, rather he knew singles could serve the church with a single-minded devotion.

How do you discern the gift of singleness?

vs 9 “…For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”

If you have a strong desire to marry you probably don’t have the gift to be single.

Singleness isn’t a problem to solve nor a situation that needs attention; rather it is a gift of God’s grace.

God gives good gifts with the intention that we will use them for the good of others, to build up one another in the church.

If God has gifted you to be single, He intends for you to use that gift for the common good and to build up the church. 

Wherever God has you, he has specifically gifted you to serve and please him. 

THE LIFE WE NEVER EXPECTED

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Book Review by Debbie Huber

“The Life We Never Expected: Hopeful Reflections on the Challenges of Parenting Children With Special Needs”

Knowing that I have a special interest and love for people with special needs, Kyle bought this book for me to read on my Kindle. As an occupational therapist I want to have a better understanding for the struggles of families with special needs. 

But this book is much more than what I expected. I believe that what the authors have to say will help all who read it have a better understanding of the goodness and dependability of God and His sovereignty over suffering. 

The authors, Andrew and Rachel Wilson, have two autistic children. The children were both meeting their normal developmental milestones until the age of three when their development started going in reverse. This is called regressive autism. Their challenges are many and they share their pain with raw honesty however this is not just a book about children with disabilities…

This is a book about God. 

I was expecting anecdotes about being parents of autistic children.  But in the midst of sharing difficulties and humor, the reader is pointed to the Gospel.  They share their journey to find that God is all sufficient through it all.

For example, the Wilson’s ongoing, earnest prayer is to get a full night’s sleep. That has not yet happened for them which is physically, emotionally, and mentally draining. Andrew says that “I think the greatest single challenge to my prayer life has been the fact that so many prayers for sleep have gone unanswered.”  But he has learned that even when we do not know why God is not answering our prayer, we can still trust him and be thankful. 

Andrew was having a particularly frustrating and angry evening while praying for healing for his children and feeling that nothing was changing.  Not knowing where to go in prayer he started to pray the Lord’s Prayer. 

“I talked to God and meandered through parts of the Lord’s Prayer I had never seen that way before.  God heard me. I heard God.” He says, “I remember… that praying for healing and blessing at this point, after spending a while responding to God’s love, knowledge, glory, and beauty, meant that my prayers for the children were framed in a right attitude of trust and security, rather than a sofa-thumping anger and frustration.”

Their perspective of God’s grace is so encouraging.  Andrew and Rachel know that they have so much and deserve so little which brings them to a place of humility and gratitude. 

They have begun to notice even the smallest milestones or graces from God every day.  They have chosen to celebrate God’s grace in how much they have and how little they deserve so bitterness is rooted out and gratitude thrives. 

Sometimes we want to “redeem” the story, to write our own happy-ending, to glorify God in the way that WE think is best.  But God’s timing and His ways are often very different from ours. 

Rachel shares a lesson which stood out to me in a new way: 

“So I have to remember: the story is not mine to save.  The pressure to write a story that makes sense of what has happened to us, as acute as it can feel, must be resisted; God is the great storyteller, the divine happy-ending maker, and I’m not.  I am a character in God’s story, not the author of my own, and it is God’s responsibility to redeem all things, to make all things work together for good…(including)every single thing that the curse of sin has touched or tarnished.”

I highly recommend this book to everyone who wants to love and trust our God more. 

STOP APOLOGIZING FOR GOD!

by Debbie Huber

Are you apologizing for God?

Do your children see and hear that you love God and there is no higher priority in your life?

I am sure that most of you hope so.  But we may not be aware that we, as parents, can come across as “apologizing for God” to our children.

Our children can perceive that God is a lesser priority in how we communicate his importance for our lives.

Are you afraid that your teenager will be bored in church so you feel guilty for bringing them?

Do you give up on family devotions before school in the mornings because you feel sorry that your children will be too tired getting up early?

Do you allow sports and sporting events, birthday parties, or sleepovers to keep your family from being in church together because you feel bad since “they will be left out”? 

 

Do not apologize for the things of God! 

Rather be excited for every opportunity to be with the family of God, to worship Him, to read His word, and to love Jesus more.

The Christian life is an adventure! 

Following Jesus will not be easy but let your family know that it is worth ALL of our life and our devotion.  We “get to” go to church!  We “get to” read the Bible so know who God is! We “get to” be around fellow believers!

We will not regret the sacrifices we made for God but we will regret the “apologies” we made for Him.

 

FAMILY DEVOTIONS, CAN WE LIVE WITHOUT THEM?

 

“Can our family live without having devotions together?”

This a prodigious question for parents with children still at home.

The short answer is, yes you can live.

But the fuller answer is, not anywhere near as well as a Christian family should!

Family devotions are not about parents being scholars, teachers, or having all the answers.

Family devotions are about inserting God and his Word into family life. It an essential process for making sure that the most important truths for life and eternity are given a prominent voice in our home.

If your answer is “My children get enough of God at church and their Christian school.”

My response is NO THEY DON”T!!

What your children don’t get – and this is enormous– is to see that the most influential people to them are committed to loving God and putting him first in their lives. They don’t see that your family is led by God’s Word – unless they experience your family reading and implementing God’s Word

In the end, God has placed the primary discipleship role on parents. God gave your children to you and God made you their parents. Your church has an essential role that supplements, not supplants the role of parents.

If your answer is “But I don’t know where to start and what to do?”

I understand. Keep it simple.

Gather the family

Open your Bible to the New Testament

Read a small portion (they key is consistency not amount)

If an application or comment comes to you, share it. If not, don’t worry about it

Close with prayer

Over time you will become more comfortable doing it. And if you sincerely pray for God to help, he will answer that prayer.

Be encouraged in knowing that God is always the main character in the process.

To help stir up some good ideas for family devotions, I urge you to read this article by Tim Challies. He gives 10 Ideas for family devotions and then adds 10 Tips to help make it work.

CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS FOCUSED ON CHRIST

by Debbie Huber

When Kyle and I began raising our family we both brought Christmas traditions from our childhood together to make our own family traditions. Some of my traditions revolved around baking Christmas cookies and decorating the house. Kyle brought the traditions of creating a Christmas countdown calendar for the children and allowing the children to open their stockings in their beds when they woke up early on Christmas morning. The memories of these traditions are priceless for our family.

Another tradition that we started as a family was to read the biblical account of the birth of Christ together before any presents were opened. This kept the focus on what was most important.

In her book, “Treasuring God in Our Traditions”, Noel Piper emphasizes the importance of our traditions to demonstrate that God is at the center of all of our lives.  

“God is the reason that we have anything to celebrate.  He is the ultimate source of our celebrations. As we read in James 1:17, ‘Every good gift and every gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.'”

How would your favorite Christmas tradition change if you looked at the people you are sharing it with and thanked God that He created them, that He chose this day for them to share it with you?  We might want to plan a time to pray specifically for those people.

How would the focus of our traditions change if we looked at them to strengthen our ultimate hope in Jesus?  Do others see our joy we have because of Christ’s birth?

Let us pray that our traditions will reflect Christ and increase our delight in God.

AVOID THE AFTER-CHRISTMAS-LETDOWN

 

by Debbie Huber

Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, Green Monday…I had my shopping plans for these special shopping days.  I bookmarked the special Black Friday Deals website to know where all the BEST deals were to be found.  I kept all of my coupons and found all of my Promo codes.  I was ready to have a successful and bargain-filled Christmas shopping season!

Unfortunately, things like this can dominate our lives from Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve.  Gift lists are made, shopping days are planned, Christmas parties and concerts are put on the calendar. Somehow we have to wrap the gifts, make the cookies, send in the teacher’s gifts, and find a way to have everyone dressed nicely for a family Christmas picture.  

Our lives are hectic right up until Christmas Day and then on December 26 we have the “Day-after-Christmas-letdown” where we are surrounded by tired and cranky family members, empty boxes, and bags of torn wrapping paper. 

It is easy to allow the hectic schedule and the “planning” to dominate your families’ lives at Christmas.  The buildup and expectation of Christmas and family is a wonderful blessing from God, but without the celebration and thankfulness for what it meant for Jesus to be born, there will be a letdown until next year. 

Jesus is Emmanuel, God With Us!  Our God was born as a baby so He could live on this Earth like us and experience the trials and temptations as we do and yet without sin so He could be sacrificed in our place for our sins. 

Jesus should be the foundation of our plans, our expectation, our celebration, and our joy of Christmas. 

Make it a priority to have Jesus and the celebration of what He accomplished as a result of being born as “God With Us” be the foundation of your family’s Christmas season.  Read about it in the Bible, sing about it at home and in your car, thank God together through prayer, and celebrate with each other about the amazing reality of what Jesus has done for us. 

Do not let a day go by without rejoicing in your heart and thanking God for the wonder of the incarnation of Christ.  Share with the unsaved people in your life about it the glory of Christmas and invite them to church! 

There may be some tiredness after Christmas, but there is no after Christmas letdown because the gospel is a reality in our lives for eternity!

FAIRNESS vs GOSPEL OPPORTUNITY IN PARENTING

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by Debbie Huber

Have you ever had a situation where you felt your child was treated unfairly?  Has it happened in your church?  How did you, as a parent, respond?

Maybe your child was not chosen for a solo or asked to be a student leader in the youth group.  Maybe your child was not invited to a sleepover or to a birthday party.  Maybe it seemed like someone in authority was unfair to your child (a coach, a Sunday School teacher or youth group leader, etc.).  These things can hurt and cause disappointment.  As parents, it is hard to see our children sad and disappointed.

How should we, as Christian parents respond?

Unfortunately many times a response is seen in the church that mirrors how the world would react.  It is natural for feel sad for your child’s hurt feelings and to comfort them. But hurt feelings can easily turn into selfishness as children dwell on the “Why me?”. 

Frequently selfishness is validated by the parent letting the child know that their disappointment is justified because it was not fair.  Rather than focusing on the godly response, “fairness” becomes the primary focus.  And often the parent will attempt to fix things by making sure that the appropriate person in authority hears about your child’s hurt feelings and the unfairness of the situation. 

So how can we turn this situation into a gospel opportunity?  

When we deal with situations from the perspective of fairness, the gospel message is lost.  Emphasizing the fairness of the situation is really feeding into our natural tendency toward selfishness. That our child’s rights are more important than grace, mercy and love for others. 

This is the opportunity to turn the situation into helping our child see his great need for the gospel as we lovingly speak to them gospel truths in their disappointment.

God in His great mercy knows the tendencies of our hearts to seek out our rights.   

Remind them of the most unfair thing of all: “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Romans 5:8.  The perfect, sinless Jesus became sin in our place so we can stand before God with the sinless righteousness of Christ.  This isn’t fair but it is a precious gift that God gives us through Christ. 

Help them to see that they cannot fix this disappointment and selfishness on their own and that is why Jesus had to come and why we need Him. 

Lead them to the God who calls us His children to seek forgiveness and help for our selfish hearts. 

Encourage them to love and show grace to those who have hurt them as Jesus graciously died for us when we didn’t deserve it. 

Show them that thankfulness for Christ’s forgiveness of our sins is the opposite of worrying about fairness. 

 

QUESTIONS FOR DADS (and MOMS)

Parenting is filled with a wide range of challenges and struggles.

As time goes on the complexities increase, and second guessing the job we’ve done can become a significant burden as our children are about to leave for college or other out of our reach places.

The truth is, none of us will become the first perfect parent.

But each of us can improve in our parenting. One tool to help us improve is asking the right questions. The best questions are those which open our child’s hearts to us, AND questions that reveal how we are doing as a parent.

It takes courage to ask questions that may reveal our failures, but the risk of continuing in failure is not a trait to be admired.

You love your children and they love you. Developing a relationship where these questions go back and forth will help create healthy communication that continues throughout our lifetime.

Rick Gamache is senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church in Bloomington, Minnesota. Rick has cultivated this habit and shared these questions which he asks his children:

How are your devotions?

What is God teaching you?

In your own words, what is the gospel?

Is there a specific sin you’re aware of that you need my help defeating?

Are you more aware of my encouragement or my criticism?

What’s Daddy most passionate about?

Do I act the same at church as I do when I’m at home?

Are you aware of my love for you? Is there any way I’ve sinned against you that I’ve not repented of?

Do you have any observations for me?

How am I doing as a dad?

How have Sunday’s sermons impacted you?

Does my relationship with Mom make you excited to be married?

Gamache added, “On top of these things, with my older kids, I’m always inquiring about their relationships with their friends and making sure God and his gospel are the center of those relationships. And I look for every opportunity to praise their mother and increase their appreciation and love for her.”

 Taken from “Stand; A Call for the Endurance of the Saints”  Edited by Justin Taylor