Week 2: Fighting For Your Family

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The word “Fighting” was chosen intentionally, because families are not amazing by accident. There are all kinds of forces working against your family in our society. The family is under attack.

We see throughout history where families are strong, society is strong. Where families are weak, society is weak. Today, there are forces working against your family; economic forces, spiritual forces, moral forces and cultural forces that want to destroy the idea of family.

God has ordained the family as the foundational institution of human society. People related to one another by marriage, by blood, by adoption are the foundation of human society.

Where you have strong families, you have a strong society.

This is another reason why all human life is sacred. We are created by God, in His image. Children, from the moment of conception the Bible says are a gift from God. The same worth and dignity is attached to every human being; pre-born babies, the aged, the physically or mentally challenged and every other condition. We are commanded by God and His Word to defend, protect and value all human life. The entire family.


Essentials For An Amazing Family

When the families of Jerusalem were under attack thousands of years ago, the leader Nehemiah said this to the people, 

“After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, ‘Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.’” Nehemiah 4:14 NIV

They were under physical attack as members of Jerusalem, but we need this kind of intensity against all the forces coming against our families. Nehemiah’s saying your family is worth fighting for. Don’t just give up thinking it can’t change or it’s too late.

Whether you’re starting out or at the end, it’s not too late to fight to make your family better.

1. Authentic Faith

There are a lot of people that haven’t figured out that there’s more to God than Sundays. There are many people who don’t know that strength, anointing and their abilities come from God.

If you’re just playing church or toying with God and He’s in your life, but it’s not an all consuming thing, you’re missing an incredible relationship where the Holy Spirit guides you in the middle of your situations. A strength that isn’t only in the middle of a worship service, but there for every situation you face.

There is more to God than religion. We want to lead you beyond attending a church on a Saturday or Sunday to an authentic relationship where you are known and loved. It’s dynamic, meaning that God’s wisdom applies to every situation. Before you make that phone call, before you discipline, the Holy Spirit is working with you and you’re reaping the benefit of knowing Him.

Get close to Jesus. The best marriage advice, the best parenting advice or dating advice is get close to God. If you and your spouse both focus on getting closer to God, you’ll grow closer to one another.

“Reverence for the Lord gives a man deep strength; his children have a place of refuge and security.” Proverbs 14:26 LB

Look who benefits from the reverence for the Lord, the children benefit from you putting God first.

2. Intentional Schedules

Great families will tell you they are very intentional about what to do and don’t do. They make time for just being together, for making meals together and playing games together. If you want to know why the families and relationships especially between parents and kids are struggling in our society, let Cornell University tell you.

The average father in the United States spends 7 minutes a day with his kids, that’s 49 minutes a week.

The average father spends 37.7 seconds a day with his preschoolers.

Intentionally spend time together. You’re going to have busy weeks or seasons, because you work hard and provide, but schedule some time together on either side of those times.

“We are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing.” Psalm 39:6 NLT

Nobody looks back and wishes they’d have gone to more parties or played more sports. They look back and wish they’d have spent more time with the people they love.

“It is better to have only a little, with peace of mind, than be busy all the time…” Ecclesiastes 4:6 GN

3. Discovering Purpose

You can’t discover purpose without God, because He’s the Creator who knows your purpose. You can’t have purpose without authentic faith. When you have purpose, you know how to spend your time.

We need to focus on our family and the unique thing that distinguishes them. Quit trying to be good at everything and focus on the few things God has made you to do with your life.

Parents, there’s an anointing on your life to speak into the life of your kids and help them develop in their spiritual gifts, their passions, abilities and personality.

“However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me…” Acts 20:24 NIV

How do you help someone develop in their calling? There are three types of calling we all have.

  • Primary Calling: Know God
  • Secondary Calling: Grow in knowing God in the time and place God has placed you
  • Heart Calling: Your uniqueness

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs.” Ephesians 4:29 NIV

Be careful with your words. Don’t let your mouth outrun you. Look at what Jesus did with the kids around him.

“And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.” Mark 10:16 NIV

He spoke statements over their lives so they’d be encouraged to fulfill their purpose. He’d show them the anointing on their life and how God made them special.

4. Right Relationships

We are the sum total of our relationships and friendships. Good or bad. You are the product of your friendships.

Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future. Look at who your kids hang around with, you’ll see who they become. Look at your married friends, that’s what your marriage will look like. Your friends are a mirror.

This is why we love small groups. The best decisions you’ll ever make in your life are your relationship decisions. The most important question to ask yourself is, “Who should I do life with and who should I reach out to?”

“A mirror reflects a man’s face but what he is really like is shown by the kind of friends he chooses.” Proverbs 27:19 GN

“He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.” Proverbs 13:20 NIV

“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” 2 Corinthians 6:14 NIV

5. Amazing Grace

God’s grace on families is so extravagant. Grace is so amazing, because it makes no sense. Who treats you better than God? He takes all the stuff we do and forgives us.

Relationships need this same grace. There is not a single relationship, there’s not a person on earth that you won’t have to have grace to stay in relationship with them.

Begin by recognizing that your family members are going to mess up. We’ve all blown it, but that’s when we need family the most.

Somebody right now is thinking about bailing on your marriage, on your kids, on your parents. You think they’re unbearable. You think the grass is greener on the other side. The grass is greener on the other side because it’s fake.

The world teaches us that all that matters is how you look, how much money you have or how successful you are. None of it is true.

Our kids are learning a lot of values from movies, from video games, from songs, from their friends, from culture – all these things that aren’t true.

We end up bailing on our relationships based on things that are not true.

It takes the grace of God to be in relationships with others.

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32 NIV

You can offer grace when you go back to the cross. Because the grave is empty, the cross has power. It gives us the power to live in the grace of God.


A Time To Gather Stones

In the book of Ecclesiastes it tells us there is a time for everything. A time to laugh and a time to cry, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to mourn and a time to dance. They all make sense until you get to verse 5.

“There is a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them.” Ecclesiastes 3:5 NIV

This is referring to an Old Testament observance that needs to take place in your heart today. It comes from Genesis 31, where Jacob had an issue with his father-in-law Laban. 

Jacob couldn’t take it any more and decided to run away with his wife and flocks and herds. Laban realizes what happens, gets furious and chases Jacob down across the desert. The night before they were to meet, an angel of the Lord speaks to Laban and says, don’t do what you have planned.

Anybody need this statement right now? Are you making plans to quit on some relationships with your parents or spouse? God may be saying to you what He told Laban, don’t do what you have planned, instead, go reconcile.

Jacob was bracing for the fight. Laban shows up. Laban says these words that now can become our words.

“’Come now, let’s make a covenant, you and I, and let it serve as a witness between us.’” So Jacob took a stone and set it up as a pillar. He said to his relatives, “’Gather some stones.’” So they took stones and piled them in a heap, and they ate there by the heap.”  Genesis 31:44-46 NIV

There are two things you can do with a stone. You can take it and throw it at people or you can take it and pile it up as an altar unto the Lord. Every wrong thing done to you is a stone you can either throw or gather to build with.

You have the choice to scatter your offenses all over the place or you can stack them up before the Lord and make an altar. Try tapping into the grace at the cross and give grace.

What does it look like to gather the stones instead of scattering them?

1. Acknowledge your own mistakes.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23 NIV

Decide to not focus on the other person’s role and focus on what God has given you to control and you’ll bring your brokenness. Tell your kids you let them down in this situation. Acknowledge your mistakes and lead the way.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:3-5 NIV

2. Abandon your right to get even.

Christians don’t take revenge, Christians forgive. It’s radical, but the other way isn’t working too well is it?

“Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.” Romans 12:19 NIV

God will take care of it. Let God take care of it. He will better than you anyway.

3. Apply God’s grace to my relationships.

Maybe you’ve applied it to your life, but not your relationships.

“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” 1 John 4:8-11 NIV


Check Back

Check back on your discussion from last week. Do you have any more thoughts about the message or your conversation of fighting for your friends?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcast or Google Play Music

Hear the Word

There are certain “non-negotiables” that apply to all aspects of family relationships. Those essential principles must be in place in order to have a home that proves to be both honoring to God, and fulfilling to us.

  1. Authentic Faith
  2. Intentional Schedules
  3. Discovering Purpose
  4. Right Relationships
  5. Amazing Grace

Read: Genesis 31

Application

  1. What stood out to you in this message? Which of the five essentials do you need to work on most right now?
  2. We must be sure that our faith is “authentic” if we are to enjoy fulfilling family relationships. What are some indicators which reveal the authenticity or lack of authenticity of our faith? What does authentic faith look like in a family environment?
  3. What should have the highest priority when it comes to our schedules?
  4. Part of the role of a parent is to help assure that their children realize their life purpose? What is the most important thing we can do to make that a reality in our families?
  5. How can you more effectively give grace to those you deal with in life? Write down the various ways God has extended grace to you, and look for ways to give that same grace to others.
  6. If there is a broken relationship in your life, determine that you will be the one to take steps to resolve issues and rebuild the relationship.

Tell Someone Else

Your words are the key to great relationships, either building up or tearing down those with whom you come in contact. Have group members pray with one another to allow their words to be “seasoned” with love and grace, leaving in their wake, people who are edified and encouraged.

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Week 1: Fighting For Your Friends

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We’re in the fight of our lives. Are you fighting with the people in your life or are you fighting for them? We’re starting a new series of posts on relationships today. We’re going to start today with friendship.

One of the biggest secrets to success in your life is the friends you choose, the people you are committed to.

When we talk about friendships and making a commitment to people, the first thing we think about is all the people we really don’t want to make a commitment to. Here’s a list of high maintenance people you may be familiar with.

  • The Martyr — Forever the victim and wracked with self-pity
  • The Critic — Constantly complains and gives unwanted advice
  • The Wet blanket — Pessimistic and automatically negative
  • The Steamroller — Blindly insensitive to others
  • The Gossip — Spreads rumors and leaks secrets
  • The Controller — Unable to let go and let be
  • The Backstabber — Irrepressibly two-faced
  • The Cold Shoulder — Disengages and avoids contact
  • The Green-Eyed Monster — Seethes with envy
  • The Volcano — Builds steam and is ready to erupt
  • The Sponge — Constantly in need but gives nothing back
  • The Competitor — Keeps score of everything

Any faces coming to mind? Did you see your own face on any of those? If you don’t think you fall into any of those categories, you don’t need this post, you need therapy.

The culture we live in, is highly disfunctional. There are many hurting people. Hurting people, hurt people. We have the tendancy to push back when people hurt us. If that’s our perspective, our friendships just become the fruit of convenience rather than commitment.


Why You Need Friends

  • For spiritual growth.

You cannot become all God meant for you, by yourself. You cannot grow to spiritual maturity by yourself. Even the Apostle Paul loved friendship, because:

When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours.”  Romans 1:12 NLT

  • For emotional support.

You need people who support you. Without a good support system, our emotions are blown every which way. Any storm destroys us.

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2 NIV

If you’re not helping out with any other friends you’re not fulfilling the law of Christ which is, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

  • For better health.

If you don’t have healthy friendships you’re going to die sooner than you imagine. People without friends don’t live as well than people with deep friendships. One of the reasons is friends give you a place to unload your negative emotions.

“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”  James 5:16 NIV

Nothing is harder on the body and mind than concealed sin. Unconfessed, concealed, secret sin creates anxiety, fear, depression, gut issues and mind issues.

If all you want in life is to be forgiven for your faults and sins, just confess them to God. But if you want to be healed of them, if you want to get over them, the starting point is to share them with somebody else.

God says we are to live in the light. That means we bring things out of the dark into the light.

  • For social enjoyment.

Life is meant to be enjoyed, not merely endured. Friendships are the bedrock of a satisfying life. You can make all the money in the world, have all the achievements in the world, have all the pleasure in the world, but if your relationships stink, life stinks.

“God says, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone.'”  Genesis 2:18 NIV

  • For reaching goals.

You will never fulfill your goals by yourself. If you can, then you have weak goals. It takes a team to fulfill a dream.

“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.”  Ecclesiastes 4:9 NLT

How do I develop these awesome friendships? Follow the Golden Rule. Two thousand years ago, Jesus gave us a statement that has become known as the Golden Rule.

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”  Matthew 7:12 NIV

Give people what you’d like to receive. Let’s apply this to friendship. If you really want to have great, deep, meaningful, lifelong friendships it’s really simple:

Be the friend that you would like to have.


Six Golden Rules of Friendship

Whether it’s at work, with your husband or wife or in a small group use these 6 things to build great friendships. They will change your life if you will follow them.

1.  Invest the time.

Deep friendships are not cheap. You must choose to invest the greatest commodity in your life your time, energy and effort.

“A man that has friends must show himself friendly.” Proverbs 18:24

Stop waiting for people to be your friend, and you make the effort. Show them how to be a great friend. Don’t just show up when you need something. Show up over and over again.

“Do not be interested only in your own life, but be interested in the lives of others.” Philippians 2:4

The context of this verse is in a powerful section of scripture that’s describing how we are to live in light of the cross of Jesus. You can’t be a friend to someone without your presence. Physical presence is essential to having a long term, deep friendship. Friends show up.

2.  Earn their trust.

If you want to build friends you’ve got to earn their trust. Trust is what makes it a friendship. This is the difference between an acquaintance and a friend. You talk to acquaintances but you trust your friends.

“Many people declare themselves loyal, but who can find someone who is really trustworthy?”  Proverbs 20:6 GW

How Do You Earn Trust?

People don’t give you their trust automatically. You have to earn it. Honor is given, we’re supposed to give honor to everyone. Forgiveness is given, you are to forgive everyone.

Trust is earned. That’s why friendships aren’t automatic. The Bible says you can earn trust a couple of ways.

  • By being loyal.

“A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.” Proverbs 17:17 NLT

Loyalty is the difference between a friend and a flake. Loyalty is a commitment that says, “I’m going to put you before myself at this point.” Loyalty is the opposite of self-centeredness. Loyalty helps you right now instead of helping his or herself.

“If you love someone, you’ll be loyal to them no matter what the cost. You will always believe in them, always expect the best, and always stand your ground in defending them.” 1 Corinthians 13:7 LB

Love is just loyalty in action. Now if you have been betrayed, abandoned or abused, you probably have some trust issues. Rightfully soIf you need to get some Christian counseling, get it. God doesn’t expect you to trust the person who manipulated you or controlled you, but you can’t build new deep friendships without trust. You can’t build deep trust if you’re always afraid.

  • By keeping confidences.

Everybody needs one person in their life who is safe. The mark of a true friend is they know how to keep a secret.  If you really want people to trust you, you cannot be a gossip.

“A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret.” Proverbs 11:13

3.  Listen with empathy.

You can’t love people without listening to people. In a conversation you have to keep making the choice to listen to what they’re saying instead of thinking about what you’re going to say next. One of the main things when interacting in a group is learning to listen to the emotion that somebody’s using rather than just the words. Hearing and responding to their emotions.

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” James 1:19-20 NIV

If you are quick to listen and slow to speak, you will be slow to anger. What does it mean to listen with empathy? Empathy simply means to put yourself in someone else’s shoes.

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you fulfill the law of Christ.”  Galatians 6:2 NIV

4.  Accept their flaws.

We all have flaws, faults, defects, failings, weaknesses and sins. Nobody’s perfect.

“Accept each other just as Christ has accepted you; then God will be glorified.” Romans 15:7 NLT

That doesn’t mean God approves of everything we do, but He accepts us. You want to know what glorifies God? Accepting people like Christ accepts you.

If you’re married or have friends, your spouse or your friends have some characteristics that bug you to death. Those characteristics are probably not going to change. So you’ve got to decide if you will accept that or be miserable the rest of your life. To overlook someone’s flaws is what the Bible means by acceptance.

“Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends.” Proverbs 17:9 NLT

5.  Celebrate wins and share losses.

Celebrate the wins of your friends and share the losses of your friends. The Bible commands that we do this:

“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” Romans 12:15 NIV

Learn how to celebrate not just the good things that happen to you but you need to learn how to celebrate the good things that happen to other people without becoming envious, jealous, critical, resentful or competitive.

A friend celebrates your wins as much as they celebrate their own. If you only know how to celebrate the good things that happen to you, you’re going to be unhappy most of your life.

6.  Bring out their best.

Your best friend is the person who brings out the best in you. The way to get that kind of friend is to bring the best out of someone else.

“Iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”  Proverbs 27:17 NIV

Do you have friends that will bring out your best? Would your friends keep you from cheating on a test? Would your friends keep you from drugs or get you on drugs? Would your friends cheer your faith on or ridicule it?

Every marriage goes through bumps. You need to make sure that your best friends are as committed to their marriage as you are to yours. Because then when your marriage goes through a tough time, the friends around you are pulling for your marriage, not against it.

“An honest answer is a sign of true friendship.” Proverbs 24:26 GNT

The older your friendships are, the better they get. A man’s best mirror is an old friend. A true friend makes you face yourself. Sometimes a mark of a friend requires frankness, the kind that loves you too much to let you do the wrong thing.

They can speak into your life with grace and truth. Grace without truth is meaningless and ruth without grace is just mean. 

Do you have anybody in your life who you’ve given permission to get in your face with truth and grace? Where do you find friends like that?

Treat people the way you want to treated. 

Be the friend you’d like to have. The best place to get friends like that is at church. Because you’re going to find similar goals and values. If you want to have sincere, deep friendships, join a Dream Team. Serving elbow to elbow with people creates friendships. Attend Celebrate Recovery or get in a Small Group.

Lifeway organization did a study that surveyed Christian church members. They discovered that in an average church, only about 50% of the people say they have developed significant relationships with people in their church family. But people who are in a Small Groups or a Celebrate Recovery Group, it’s 90%.

In an average church, only 42% say they know their spiritual gift and are using it to serve God and others. But for those in a Small group it’s nearly 75%. In a average church, only 45% say they think about Bible truths throughout the day. But in a Small Group or Celebrate Recovery Group, it’s about 75%. You need to be in a small group you need deep meaningful friendships.


Check Back

Check back on your discussion from last week. Do you have any more thoughts about the message on sleep or the frequency series as a whole?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcast or Google Play Music

Hear the Word

This week, we started a new series about fighting for our relationships rather than with our relationships. We learned that we need friends for spiritual growth, emotional support, better health, social enjoyment and reaching goals.

We learned from Matthew 7:12 that we are to be the friend we want to have. So, if you want great friends…

  1. Invest the time
  2. Earn their trust
  3. Listen with empathy
  4. Accept their flaws
  5. Celebrate wins and share losses
  6. Bring out their best

Read: 1 Corinthians 13

Application

  1. God gives us the ultimate example of trust because he loves us and stays with us in any circumstance or situation. How does his example give you courage to trust others? How can you use the biblical principle of loving your neighbor as yourself to grow into a more trustworthy person?
  2. Share a time when a loyal friend made a positive impact in your life. How does your appreciation for their loyalty motivate you to become more loyal to your friends?
  3. Why do you think it is easy to turn to gossip instead of holding a confidence? As a group, create a list of strategies to avoid gossip.
  4. An important part of friendship is speaking the truth in love and not standing silently by watching a friend make a mistake.  Share an example when you either watched a friend make a huge mistake while you were silent, or when you counseled a friend who took your advice and avoided a painful situation.
  5. Read Romans 12:15. Talk about how to rejoice with a friend who is rejoicing and mourn with a friend who is mourning.   

Pray: Father, you are the one who first called us to friendship. Jesus modeled being a friend to his disciples. He calls us to love one another as we want others to love us. Help us develop friendships within our small group, and with others. Give us discernment as we develop trust with others. Let us be an example to the world of a loving and trustworthy friend. May you be glorified as we show the world your love. In Jesus name. Amen

Tell Someone Else

Who can you be a friend to this week? How could this message help or encourage someone else?

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