The Pastor’s Desk is dedicated to the teaching of the Word. I try to present it in different ways and found it interesting that I got the most response on an article about human behavior, entitled Betrayal. This month I want to talk about family relationships, as well as injecting a generous sprinkling of the Word. I hope it helps those who are going through some rough waters right now. God bless…
My favorite time of year has begun. Don’t you just love the sights and smells of autumn? The Fall Foliage is so beautiful in New England. The air is brisk, yet comfortable; there’s the wonderful smell of the woods; the sight of children jumping in piles of leaves as fast as Daddy can rake them up; and the delicious taste of apple cider and donuts!
It’s Harvest time, and winter is right around the corner. The gardens are finished, the porch furniture has been put away, and the last of the summer company has gone home…the latter being a sad farewell for some, and a great relief for others!
I usually don't have a lot of houseguests, but I have
friends who do, and I can relate. You don't have to be a professional to have
some expertise on human behavior. If you've lived long enough to collect Social Security, you
cannot have escaped observing people. The following are a few of my
Most people have families and friends. Some may even have a closeness with aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, and grandparents, as well as their immediate family. (Jeff Foxworthy said, "Ya know you're a Redneck if ya go to a family reunion with your second wife and ya still have the same in-laws" ha-ha! I'm not talking about that type of family here but I couldn't resist injecting it. However, there are some strange family units out there).
There are those who esteem certain friends equal to or even above their family, thereby establishing an extended family, which the blood relatives are forced to accept whether they like them or not. Boyfriends, girlfriends, same or opposite sex, certainly fall into this category...also because of divorce, there may be new spouses and blended families at the latest clan gathering, and it can be a bit awkward for everybody.
Some family dinners, vacations, reunions, or picnics can be grueling, and we leave wondering why we even bothered in the first place. When we are born, we are stuck with the relatives we get…we can pick our friends but not our family.
I have also noticed we are very much a product of how we were raised. The country, the time, the finances, the circumstances, the culture and religion, all being equal in whatever loving family you are born into, there are other things to consider. Our generation has discovered birth-order. There are several books out on this subject, some good and some not, but all tend to agree that whichever number you are, in relation to your siblings, contributes to certain personality traits.
Perhaps, as one result of this, I think we are stuck with who we were perceived to be as children, for the most part. The bossy one, the whiner, the tattletale, the manipulator, the spoiled baby, and of course the favorite…(Everybody Loves Raymond). It seems that you can never shake that label, and are branded for life.
To my surprise, I don’t find much difference in Christian families. This identity slot seems to be a natural human condition. I was under the impression that the people of God thought, talked, and acted differently from the world, and I still think that is mostly true, but there certainly is an odd combination at most family gatherings. I heard one lady preacher say, “Half my family are preachers, and the other half are in prison”! I about fell off my chair laughing when she said that, and many of us can identify!
As Christians, we have to realize we are on different rungs of the ladder of spiritual growth, even in the same family. I think we expect too much from siblings who are as old or older in Christ, as ourselves. We expect them to have the victory in the same areas that we have overcome. However, we cannot compare our families with the people at church, and certainly not ourselves. We all are on our best behavior at church socials! In our own families, we tend to let our hair down and revert to our old nature, and that can be a big mistake.
Jesus said that a prophet is not without honor, EXCEPT in his own country and in his own HOUSE (Matthew 13:57 ). Jesus knew what He was talking about…His home town thought He was born illegitimate.
There is never an appropriate time to give way to the flesh…it causes too much damage. There is nothing like losing your cool when you get distressing news about your teenager, and vent to the relative who brought you the message. Very often, that person can’t wait to tell the others how you reacted. By the time the gossip gets around, the family mouthpiece feels led to call and tell you what a lousy parent you are and a hypocrite to boot. The rest of the bunch tends to take sides, and it all ends up in yet another family division, to the devil’s delight.
The Bible says love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8) and that is what we lack in our families and even in the Church. The Apostle Paul told the Galatians to correct in meekness lest they themselves be tempted, (Galatians 6:1). Proverbs 9:8 states that if you rebuke a wise man he will love you for it…of course that is a loving rebuke. You cannot chop people down, and expect them to feel grateful!. The Word tells us there is life and death in the power of the tongue (Proverbs 18:21). We must learn to speak life to one another.
I think many of us expect too much of others, in general. We tend to think people are more than what they really are. The drawback to that is to be constantly disappointed, and disillusioned with Christians as a whole. We have to remember that no matter how God seems to use an individual, they aren’t necessarily mature in Christ. Of course, very few of us are. God has anointed a donkey in times past and used him to speak the words of God (Numbers 22).
Many are involved in toxic relationships. Toxic means that something over a period of time can kill you. If there is someone in your life like that, you have to do some serious praying and meditation. I’m not referring to an occasional quarrel. I mean that most of the time, after being with them, you generally walk away feeling bad about yourself. In this instance you first have to examine your own heart.
There is a difference between conviction and condemnation. Conviction comes from within and is of the Holy Spirit; when the Word has been quoted, and you feel heart-smitten for sin, and want to change your behavior. Condemnation is when you have been berated, from within or without, your self-worth has been consistently eroded, and you feel totally hopeless. The first comes from God, sometimes through the Bible, or a sermon, or a person who loves you. The latter comes from the world, the flesh, or the devil. In that case, if it is through another person, you must distance yourself from that individual for awhile, or perhaps sever the relationship altogether, as GOD directs.
Sometimes, you will have to change churches, if all you hear are words of death and doom over the pulpit, every service. Yes, there are times we have to submit to a sheering, but the shepherd’s job is mainly to feed, water, and protect the flock from the enemy. Nobody should walk away feeling bad about themselves and hopeless, after Sunday Morning service. If we need corrected, we are to be nurtured and loved at the same time. That is the way Jesus, the true Shepherd, treated His flock.
The Bible says unless two agree, they cannot walk together (Amos 3:3). It also asks, what fellowship has light with darkness? The Bible can spare us a lot of grief, if we listen, especially in the case of choosing friends or mates. In all relationships, we must be equally yoked together. I often wonder about close friendships between believers and non-believers. What could they possibly have in common? I know we cultivate relationships to a degree, with non-Christians, in order to win them to Christ, but I’m not talking about that. (Read 2 Corinthians 6:14-18).
Most of us should not visit "Egypt", our old stomping grounds, and fraternize with the old gang. We may not be spiritually strong enough, to avoid falling back under the old influences. The Bible says we become what we think we are...that where the mind goes the body follows, Proverbs 23:7. Unfortunately, there are usually younger Christians watching us, when we fall.
We can be a Christian for a long time, and still not have a real relationship with Christ. So many have lost their reverential fear of God, and say “Who cares what people think…I’m going to do what I want to do for a change”. We must not be satisfied with a lukewarm relationship with God…He certainly isn’t ( Revelation 3:16).
In summary, our relationships are important…but none as important as with the Lord. Jesus is coming very soon. He wants the world to know He loves each one. We, as the Church, are the only ones to tell them. How can Christians show the world Christ’s love when we can’t even love each other half of the time (John 13:35). Until we repent and get our own hearts and lives lined up with His Word, how effective are we?
There is so much jealousy, backbiting, gossip and compromising the Word, that we are playing right into the enemy’s hands. Satan cannot kill us or take us to Hell, so he tries to render our testimony impotent. He has pitted children against parents, spouse against spouse, and brethren against brethren. How much are we to allow in order to keep peace in families and churches? Where do we draw the line? Where has GOD drawn the line?
Ours is a throw-away society. People are disposable when they no longer please us or if they speak out against ungodliness. John the Baptist is an extreme example...he lost his head!
The clergy will be held most accountable, of all. Some ministers aren’t even saved, while some are actual deviants. So many are in the ministry just for the easy money, while a great number are cotton-candy preachers. The majority of pastors are part of a mainstream denomination, and have pressure put on them from headquarters to get the numbers. In order to build up a congregation, and thereby keeping the offerings up, many are reluctant to take a hard line against sin, and preach only that which tickles the ears (2 Timothy 4:3). People are lolled into a false sense of spiritual security, and not told they are headed for Hell. Woe be to the hirelings (John 10:11-13)! Then there is a new breed of "Independents". Many are mavericks and aren't accountable to anybody. They have no boards to oversee their ministry or finances, and they pretty much do and say what they please. But God is keeping the records and both extremes are missing the mark.
When Jesus comes to catch us away, there will be many Church leaders as well as nominal Christians that won’t be going up to meet Him in the air. Those who don’t live for Christ now, will have to die for Him later during the Great Tribulation (Revelation 20:4).
We must live in this world, for sure, but we are not of this world. We are called to be salt and light, to demonstrate God’s love, and preach the Gospel to every nation (Acts 1:8).
Standing on the Word of God is not a popular position to take, in America’s lawless mindset. A lot of single Christians sit home alone on Saturday nights, because they won’t compromise with the world. Many godly parents are estranged from their children, because their kids know they don’t approve of their lifestyle, and are ashamed to be around Mom and Dad.
In our society, Christian persecution comes in many subtle ways. For some, it can come through our own families, and yet we are called the enemy in our own households. Whichever way it comes, it is a small price to pay for loving the Lord, (or perhaps for acting too self-righteously...Selah).
I have found it much easier to win the lost, than to deal with lukewarm, backslidden Christians...especially family members. They know enough about you and the Scripture to use the Word against you. In their own self-righteousness, they accuse you of being "holier-than-thou". If we do all we know how to do to speak the Truth in the spirit of love and humility, and they still don’t want to hear, it is best to walk away. You cannot deal with an unteachable spirit or a hardened heart. Just keep praying for the time they will return to the Lord. In their day of calamity, they won’t call the ones who encouraged them to compromise God’s Word, and end up in sin. They will call those who know how to get hold of God and pray them through.
So keep on, Christian warriors, finish your course and keep the faith…forget those things which are behind and press on (Philippians 3:13-14). I know it is not easy to "walk the talk" in your own families, but keep on keeping on. In the end it will be worth it all. Our God will strengthen and sustain you.
You are the blood-bought Church! Your day is coming, and you’ll never stand alone again! Amen.
W. O. W.
Don’t refuse to go to church because it’s full of hypocrites. Remember, there is always room for one more!