FAMILIES

We know what families are – the traditional family was father, mother, children. 

The extended family was father, mother, children, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins, and in the South, you also would add the “kissin’ cousins”.  (Having my roots in the North, I don’t exactly know what they are, but you hear it anyway!)

Go cart with grandpa
Papa and Grandson at a go-kart track.  Not at all certain which of these fine men had more fun, but I believe it was Papa!

Then there are the folks who play a role in the family but who are not blood-line related.  I’m thinking of the Grandma and Grandpa my children had when they were very young children.  My parents were hundreds of miles away and this wonderful couple had no children, but they bridged the generation gap and “adopted” my children as if they were their own grandchildren.

Gramma Ford
The “Grandma” feeding a precious child who she loved as her own..

When we would visit, the children ran to the kitchen and found the drawer where “Grandma” kept “kid friendly” candy at just the right eye level for them to see and grab. 

When we moved from one city to another, the children came under the care of another “Grandpa and Grandma” who lived just a few doors away from us. 

Jim and Virginia Metzger
Grandpa Jim and Grandma Virginia kept the children when I had to travel for work.

In fact, Grandpa Jim taught my daughter not to be afraid of dogs during the time they took care of her when I was a single parent and was out of town for work on an extended case. 

On a whole other note but no less significant to dear friends of ours, we are now taking care of a canine daughter of an elderly couple who have suffered pneumonia and the flu and are now in rehab to regain their strength.  Not being able to have their pup with them was a terrible concern for them, a concern which was alleviated by bringing her into our home.  This picture of her resting comfortably with our girls brought comfort to this “Mom and Dad”. 

Doggies with friend.jpg
The MinPins with their temporary sibling!

The marvelous wonder of each of these relationships is that they were from our church “family.”  Each of the couples who cared for the children and who are the loving “parents” of our canine guest are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, and they worshipped with us every Sunday, and often during the week as well.

Scripture teaches us that believers in Jesus Christ are children of God. 

“The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”

Romans 8:16-17

When we are received by the Holy Spirit and indwelt by Him through belief in the Lord Jesus Christ, we are adopted into God’s family.  We become children of God and each believer becomes our brother or our sister in the Lord.

“This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”

Ephesians 3:6

The Christians of the first century were Jewish, just as Jesus and each of the Apostles were Jewish.  Saul of Tarsus was a Jewish leader who persecuted the Christians.  He was going to Damascus to continue that persecution when he encountered the risen Lord Jesus Christ.  In Acts 9:15 we read that Saul, later to become Paul, was commissioned to minister to the Gentiles.  In preparation for Saul/Paul’s ministry, the Lord asked a disciple named Ananias to go and care for him.  He was understandably resistant given the fact that he knew Saul was coming to Damascus to round-up and persecute the Christians.   

“But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.”

Paul later wrote to the Galatians and said:

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Galatians 3:28

So, for the believer, his/her family is far broader than the bloodline would seem to indicate.  The Christian’s spiritual genealogy includes all the men and women and boys and girls who have been adopted into God’s family.  The love of Christ is shed abroad to each of the family members and, when one needs help, the body rushes in to care for the wounded.

When Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, he included a commendation for their works of brotherly love that extended to other bodies of believers throughout the area.

“Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more,”

1 Thessalonians 4:9-10

So, who is your family?  Certainly, your family is, at least, those who live under your roof, and the Christian has a clear obligation to care for and provide for his/her family. 

“But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

1 Timothy 5:8

But it is broader than that – for the Christian, the family is all those who worship the Lord Jesus Christ.  It is particularly those that worship with you, and we are charged to take care of the family of God.

So, who is your family?  Are there needs that have gone unmet?  Can you meet those needs?  Can you lend assistance to someone who is in your church family?  Can you bring encouragement to someone who is being attacked because of their faith?  The list of needs and opportunities is endless.

So, who is in your family and what needs might they have that you could alleviate?

Father, I pray that we would take the words of your Word and put them into effect in our hearts and in our actions.  I pray that we would not read your Word without being affected by it, without being transformed by it, without having it take root in our words and actions.  Let us be Your hands and feet to those who are in need, through the power of Your Spirit, I pray.

THANKSGIVING DAY IS FOR MORE THAN TURKEY!

In his Thanksgiving Day address to the country in 1963, President John F. Kennedy said:

Let us therefore proclaim our gratitude to Providence for manifold blessings–let us be humbly thankful for inherited ideals–and let us resolve to share those blessings and those ideals with our fellow human beings throughout the world.”

Indeed, Thanksgiving Day is a time for us to remember the many ways that we have been blessed during the past year.

In years gone by, the traditional day was celebrated with the best china, glassware, linens and, of course, the best food that the family could afford.

Family holiday table from years past.
Family holiday table from years past.

It was also a time for the family to gather, from various parts of the city, state, or country, to celebrate together.

When I was a child, we went to my Great Aunt and Uncle’s home for the dinner.  It was a special time when relatives from another state would come and the cousins would sit at the “children’s table” in another room.  Now that I am a parent and grandparent, I realize this is what you did so the adults could have a grand conversation which was uninterrupted and without hassle, usually about those who sat at the “children’s table”.  The children liked it because we did not have to sit and be quiet!

Even in our home today, the Thanksgiving Day meal is more formal and “dressy” than the normal fare that we consume the other 364 days of the year.

The Thanksgiving Day meal table set for celebration.
The Thanksgiving Day meal table set for celebration.

Of course, in school we learned that the Thanksgiving meal was in celebration of the harvest and of the bounty that the country afforded the Pilgrims.  So, in keeping with the “bounty” part of the holiday, we have food that is a traditional part of the celebration as well as a few new things to try.  One year I tried a recipe of acorn squash with raisins, brown sugar and a number of spices cooked in the slow cooker.  To quote my Beloved, “This is a keeper!”

New recipe for Thanksgiving Day meal.
New recipe for Thanksgiving Day meal.

In our home, although there are other foods prepared, the centerpiece of the meal is the turkey, all bronzed and tender.  I recognize that it is not too good from the turkey’s point of view, but I know that it is exceptional for the family’s enjoyment.

The holiday turkey ready to go on the table!
The holiday turkey ready to go on the table!

Before eating, we “say grace”, a time when we thank the Lord for the manifold blessings that he has provided for us, focusing primarily on the food we are about to eat!

Then, after gorging ourselves with the meal, we visit and talk about what we are thankful for.  Often the list includes friends, family, health and frequently the children will add thanks for their toys, pets, good grades at school, etc.

Often, while the ladies are cleaning up the kitchen, the children and gentlemen will go in the backyard for the holiday football game.  For the grandparent, there is no tackle, but for the elementary school child the adult will not be penalized when he is picked up off the field, as long as a hug follows and the descent to the ground is not a drop.

Family playing football after holiday meal.
Family playing football after holiday meal.

Holiday traditions and stories are important to keep us together and to define who we are.  Traditions and stories play a critical role in our life before God as He states in His Word.

For example, the Passover Meal is a time when the story of the Exodus is retold each year, even today, thousands of years after the event.  Scripture admonishes us to teach our children about God’s acts in our life.

The act of thanksgiving is described and discussed often in the Scriptures.  The Old Testament described the peace offering that was made to God in thanksgiving in Leviticus 7.

In 1 Chronicles 16:7 we read that David appointed that songs be sung in thanksgiving to God.

“I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving.” – [Psalm 69:30]

Psalm 50:4 tells us to:

“Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High,” [ESV]

Scripture tells us that “grace” is more than just saying a quick prayer before the meal, although grace and thanksgiving are frequently paired.  In 1 Corinthians 1:4, Paul states:

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you.”

Paul is giving thanks to God for the grace given to the Church in Corinth, a church that he established, counseled, and nurtured.

I remember learning the term G-R-A-C-E by the phrase “God’s riches at Christ’s expense.”   But, grace is so very much more than this trite phrase defines.

  • Grace provides us with God’s love.  Paul says: “and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” 1 Timothy 1:14
  • Grace enables us to do the will of God.  1 Corinthians 12:4-6 tells us: “”Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.”
  • Grace provides forgiveness of sin.  “Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,…”  Romans 5:20
  • Grace enables Christians to love others.  “We love because he first loved us.”  I John 4:19.
  • Grace provides us with the opportunity to fellowship with God.  “”Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power…. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.”  Ephesians 3:7, 10-12.

I pray that we are thankful daily not just for the material blessings we have from our Father but also for the grace given to us by the Lord. We should think about this marvelous gift of grace from God and include it with humble gratitude in our prayers of thanks to God our Father.

Father, we thank you for your love that you extended to us while we were yet sinners, before we could even think of loving you. Thank you for Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on our behalf, and thank you for the Holy Spirit who indwells us and is transforming us into the image of your Son. Thank you for our country and the freedom to worship that is provided. We pray that our leaders and those in authority over us would look to you, Father, for wisdom, guidance and discernment as they lead us in these difficult times. Thank you, Father, for your presence and for your mighty hand.