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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God’s Greatest Gift

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Have you noticed that gift giving can get a little crazy and expensive sometimes? But giving gifts is a big part of what Christmas is all about. Christmas started with the giving of gifts.

“On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.”  Matthew 2:11 NIV

The best part of Christmas is not the gifts that were given to Baby Jesus, but the gifts that God gives to us.

“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.”  2 Corinthians 9:15 NIV

There are three things we do with gifts at Christmas. We give gifts, we receive gifts and, after Christmas, we exchange gifts. Let’s focus in on exchanging gifts, because God has this great gift exchange plan.

Usually when we exchange gifts, we give back something we don’t want for something we do want. But in God’s gift exchange is far, far greater than that. Let’s look at five specific things from God’s great gift exchange.

We give God our worst and He gives us His best.


1. When we give God our worry, God gives us His peace

We all worry, especially at Christmas. The crazy, busyness of this time of year means there’s a lot to worry about. Our bodies were not designed to worry. Study after study shows the toll worry takes on our bodies; insomnia, stomachaches, headaches and even heart attacks. The number one day of the year for heart attacks is Christmas Eve. We literally worry ourselves sick. The way to stop worrying is by taking advantage of God’s gift exchange program.

“Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about what happens to you.” 1 Peter 5:7 NLT

When you give God your worries, you recognize two things:

  • God is in control

We worry because we’re trying to control things. We’re trying to control the uncontrollable. When we can’t control things, we worry. Worrying then makes us think we’re controlling it. So instead of trying to control things by worrying about them, we need to recognize that God is in control.

  • God cares

No matter how big or small the worry is, God cares about it. God cares about you and what you care about. The reason why there’s Christmas is because God cares about you. Jesus came to earth because God cares about you. So take your worry, give it to God and then notice what God gives back in exchange.

“I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart! And the peace I give isn’t fragile like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid”  John 14:27 TLB

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in Me. Here on this earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33 NLT

Who do you know that’s worried or needs to take heart? Who do you know that needs to know you care about them? Think of someone and send them a message right now telling them you are thinking about them and praying for them. As you do that, you’re passing along the gift that God has given you.

2.  When we give God our hurt, God gives us His healing.

Everybody’s hurting; emotionally, spiritually, physically or financially.

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”  Psalm 147:3 NIV

God sees your hurt and He wants to heal the brokenhearted. The verse says, “He binds up their wounds.” When you get injured, they bind up the wound to give it time to heal. Hurts don’t heal in an instant, they take time to heal. So God binds up the wounded places in our broken hearts so they can begin to heal. 

God wants to do more than just heal us. He also wants us to use our healing to help other people who are hurting. When we receive God’s healing, we can then pass it on to someone else.

“He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, He brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.” 2 Corinthians 1:4

Some of our wounds are self-inflicted, but God never wastes a hurt. Who do you know that’s hurting with a broken heart? Take a second right now to send a message to someone you know who is hurting and tell them you are thinking about them. Invite them to come to small group or church this weekend with you. That simple invitation can change a person’s life.

Jesus Christ can make a difference in their life through you sharing what God’s done in your life. The great thing about God’s gift is it’s a gift that keeps on giving. Whenever you share the gift, your gift multiplies.

3. When we give God our grief, God gives us His joy.

We all grieve. The only way not to grieve in this world is not to love. In this world, people don’t last forever. So if you love someone you run the risk of losing them at some point, which means you will face grief.

Especially at Christmas, we think about the people that we’ve lost. As you encounter grief this Christmas, you may be tempted to just push it aside. There are three things you need to know about grief.

  • Grief often comes undeserved.
  • Grief usually goes unrecognized.
  • Grief often stays unresolved.

Christmas turns up the volume on whatever’s going on in your life. If good things are happening, Christmas turns up the volume on that. If you’re grieving, Christmas turns up the volume on grief. That’s why we need to give each other a lot of grace at Christmas. You don’t know what grief or confusing emotions people are experiencing.

The way to deal with your grief is not to deny it, but to give it to God. Only God is greater than your grief. When you give your grief to God, He gives you something even greater than comfort.

“You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.”  John 16:20b NIV

We give Him our grief and He gives us His joy! That seems unbelievable that God would give us joy in the midst of grief. God gives us His joy when we recognize this world is not all there is. As we realize that the person that we’re grieving isn’t gone like we think they are gone, that if they are a beliver, we will see them again in heaven. There is hope when we know, in heaven, God will resolve the circumstances that didn’t work out like we wanted.

That terrible tragedy in your life, God’s going to turn that tragedy into a blessing in heaven. If you hang your hope on this world, of course you will grieve. But if you put your hope in heaven, God will turn your grief into joy. It doesn’t happen instantly, but over time God turns grief to joy.

“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.”  Luke 2:10-11 NIV

Christ is our Savior. The word “Savior” means Rescuer. Grief turns to joy when Jesus rescues us.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.”  Romans 12:15 NASB

Who do you know that’s grieving? Here’s a chance to send a message to someone who could hear that you are praying for them. When we share somebody’s grief with them, we help them realize God is a part of their lives. Tell them they are not alone.

4. When we give God our fears, God gives us His love.

The way to deal with fear is to find something greater than the fear. God’s love is greater than any fear you’re facing. God’s love is greater than any problem. God’s love is greater than any illness. How does God deal with your fear?

With His love, He will calm all your fears.”  Zephaniah 3:17 NLT

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”  1 John 4:18 NIV

Fear has to do with punishment. Often we’re afraid because we think we deserve what we’re getting. If you think that God is out to get you because of the wrong you’ve done, you don’t understand the message of the Bible. God is not out to get you, God is out to love you. God is not out to punish you, He’s out to forgive you. As you lean into that truth, the fears in your life are driven out by God’s love.

Who do you know who needs to hear the message of God’s love for them? Who do you know who needs the most famous verse in the Bible?

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16 NIV

To be part of the whoever, you need to believe in Christ. Think of the least likely person to accept an invitation to come to church with you and invite that person. Take the risk to let them know that you love them and God loves them. This might be the year when they really need that invitation. This might be the year when their heart’s ready to respond to God.

5. When we give God our sins, God gives us His forgiveness.

“When people sin, they earn what sin pays – death. But God gives us a free gift – life forever in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23 NCV

Sin promises so much, but in the end, the payoff for sin is always death. Jesus tells us that instead of death, I’m going to give you eternal life.

If you’ve never accepted that gift, you can accept it right now. You can pray, “Jesus Christ, I accept the gift of your forgiveness. I accept the gift of your eternal life. Thank you for dying on the cross to rescue me.” It’s a very simple prayer that changes everything, it changes your eternity.

Can you remember who first shared the message of God’s forgiveness with you? Who’s the person you need to share it with? God gave you the gift through someone else, who do you need to share the gift with?

“God was in Christ, offering peace and forgiveness to the people of this world. And He has given us the work of sharing His message about peace.” 2 Corinthians 5:19 CEV

There’s no better time than Christmas for sharing this message. At the bottom of this post is a digital invitation you can download and text or email to a friend. Invite someone to come to a Christmas weekend service with you. You can also invite them to one of our three Christmas Eve services. These services will be different from the weekend services.

On Christmas Eve, we’re going to celebrate the message of Christmas using the popular Christmas movie, Home Alone. Jesus would do this, not with a movie, but He would use familiar stories to illustrate a spiritual truth. So, at the Christmas Eve services we’re going to examine the film Home Alone. Tucked amid the laughter and fun of that familiar Christmas movie is a message that many people struggle with at Christmas. On Christmas Eve we will use some clips from Home Alone to illustrate the sermon. 

God’s greatest gift is the gift of peace, healing, joy, love and forgiveness. Everyone needs these gifts. We all have people in our lives who need these gifts.

“As you share your faith with others, I pray that they may come to know all the blessings Christ has given us.”  Philemon 1:6  CEV


Check Back

Check back on your discussion from last week. Do you have any more thoughts, questions or conclusions about the message on Ephesians 6:10-17? Have you been using your spiritual weapons to gain victory?

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

Hear the Word

“Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!”  2 Corinthians 9:15 NIV

As we celebrate Christmas with the giving and receiving of gifts, let’s remember that God invites us to exchange our worry, hurts, grief, fears and sins for his peace, healing, joy, love and forgiveness. Each of these gifts are ours because Jesus came to earth and died for us. As Christmas nears, let us give up the things that bind us and receive what only God can give.

Application

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33 NLT

1. Discuss a gift you have received in exchange for your worries and sorrows.

2. How can a sorrow on earth become worry free, allowing you to experience the gift of peace of mind and heart?

“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I will bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”  Luke 2:10-11 NIV

3. How can grief keep people from fully experiencing God’s joy this Christmas season? Share a time when you were struggling with grief. Which one of God’s promises could help someone find joy in the midst of grief? How might helping someone walk through their grief bring them more quickly to joy?

“When people sin, they earn what sin pays – death. But God gives us a free gift – life forever in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 6:23 NCV

4. Reflect on a time when Jesus healed one of your hurts. What did you learn about God? What did you learn about yourself? How can the healing you experienced improve the way you help those around you who are suffering or struggling? Why is love the greatest gift we can give another person?

“With His love, He will calm all your fears.”  Zephaniah 3:17 NLT

Tell Someone Else

Who can you encourage to find God’s peace, healing, joy, love and forgiveness this Christmas?

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