In the church, too much time is spent being reactive (fixing issues) rather than being proactive (preparing people for adversity). Family Life has launched a curriculum that looks very promising.

Robert Lewis cites the four commands in Genesis as the impetus for the Life Ready Strategy:

1. Develop Godly Men & Women (Gen 1.25)
2. Build Strong Marriages of Oneness (Gen 2.24)
3. Launch Healthy, image-bearing children (Gen 1.28)
4. Expand His Kingdom (Gen 1.28)

The four pieces of the strategy look very promising. The format is easily useable in a church, small group environment. The material is biblically grounded as well.

Lewis says something very key at the beginning of the promo video: If more time was spent on building strong marriages, the natural result would be strong churches.

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“The Time is at Hand to Leave and Cleave”

Yesterday I preached on the allegiances the Gospel of Jesus challenges us with from Mark 1.10-20. While there may be times that Christ’s call to us may be an utterly radical call to hop on a plane and give the rest of our lives in service on the mission field, more often the call to radical discipleship is in the everyday stuff of life. This season of Epiphany we have been focusing on the fact that God is everywhere and is always revealing himself. The task is for us to have eyes to see his work. This doesn’t just happen, but we need to train our minds, hearts, eyes, ears, noses, tongues, and hands to feel and experience his presence–as we live and move and have our being in him (Acts 17.28).

Yesterday we considered that Christ’s call to a new allegiance is more often a reappropriation and reorientation of our lives–a line which he draws in the sand and bids us to step over that line, turn around and see the grandeur of the ocean.

The Allegiance of Livelihood

When Jesus calls Simon and Andrew, notice that he did not say to these fishermen, “Follow me and I make you become makers of tents and tabernacles…or stonemasons…or anything other than what you’ve known all your life.” Have you considered that God has placed within you, indeed, knit you together, with gifts and talents and passions that he wants you to use in reference to him in the service of others. We minimize our lives and worlds when we strive for our own building up. But when we use these passions and desires for the service of others, we have the opportunity to see God’s glory and our joy multiplied. Don’t shirk the person he has made you to be. Don’t run from the things you love to do because it seems harder. Rather, challenge yourself to re-purpose your loves and passions in service to others, and thereby seeing God’s face more clearly.

The Allegiance of Family

The family in the Ancient Near East determined much of who you are–your profession and your very existence. We get a glimpse of how Jesus reconfigures and challenges the identity and covenantal headship of the nuclear family when he says that those who do the will of his Heavenly Father are his mother and brothers and sisters (Mark 3.31-35). In this, Jesus reorients and challenges the notion that family determines your life. What is more, he is calling his people to a new family based upon faith and apprenticeship to him. To follow him and learn from him.

We long for our children to know Jesus. We believe that parents are the primary disciples in their children’s lives. But we still affirm the call of Jesus to each of our children to repent and believe to be a child of the family of faith.

This reconfiguring of the family can also be seen in the way the Apostle Paul challenges this notion of having to be married and have children to be complete. Not only was he single all his life, and laser-focused on doing what pleased the Father, but our Savior Jesus was single. This challenges the popular notion, and shuts the mouths of those who would ask a single person, “When are you going to get married” or to the married couple, “When are you going to have children.” Relationships and children are gifts and are good. But they are not the definition of wholeness.

The Allegiance of Self

At root of both of the explicit allegiances is the implicit challenge to the gravitational pull of allegiance to our self. Our desire to gather around us “yes men” who merely affirm what we want to be true. Jesus’ first words of public ministry were words of power, words of stark harshness, words of utter grace. Grace in that he offers us freedom from the slavery to our self and our passions. He offers us freedom to experience his world and see him in his world…once we turn from our navel-gazing to see the vastness of his love. Not just at one moment in time, but verily at all points in our existence. If we will have eyes to see.

His call to repent does not come from a call to shape up or ship out. Rather, it stems from his having conquered Satan in the place of judgment and of human weakness and frail and failure–the wilderness.

Consider these questions to guide you in your application of this passage into your life:

1. Your skills at fishing were never meant solely for you. They were intended for and are made even greater when used in the service of others. How has God gifted you? What do you find you are most excited about?

2. How can you make the family of Christ more of a priority in your life? What areas of welcoming others into your life and being open to being known is God calling you to?

3. What allegiances is God challenging you to question and forsake?

 

Children Watch More than They Listen

An excellent article in The Plough (which if you have not read or subscribed to is an exceptional journal worhty of your consideration) entitled “They Watch More Than They Listen” challenges our parental sensibilities for thinking that if we merely transfer right content and place our children in the right schools for high-level academic learning we have done a good job. This is a sliver of what we are called to do in the training and loving aspect to parenting.

It is without doubt that I want to transfer truth. But too often I fail–daily, I fail–to love my children and live the truths I want to convey. Here are three paragraphs that cut me and reminded me that Scripture models for me the longsuffering and grace of God. In light of all that I am the beneficiary of, how can I not also extend such a life to my children.

The real problem arises – and this is more widespread than one might think – when children are taught to “do as I say, not as I do.” Told this half-jokingly in one situation after another, they gradually learn that there is never anything so black and white that it is always good or bad, at least not until they make the wrong choice at the wrong time. When that happens, they get punished for their lapse of judgment. And they will always find the punishment unjust.

Being a father, I know how hard it is to be consistent – and conversely, how easy it is to send confusing signals without even realizing it. Having counseled hundreds of teenagers over the last four decades, I also know how sensitive young adults are to mixed messages and inconsistent boundaries, and how readily they will reject both as clear signs of parental hypocrisy. But I have also learned how quickly the worst battle can be solved when we are humble enough to admit that our expectations were unclear or unfair, and how quickly most children will respond and forgive.

Reflecting on the ways in which children so often mirror their parents – in actions, attitudes, behavioral characteristics, and personal traits – my grandfather, writer Eberhard Arnold, noted that children are like barometers. They visibly record whatever influences and pressures currently affect them, whether positive or negative. Happiness and security, generosity and optimism will often show themselves in children to the same degree that they are visible in their parents. It is the same with negative emotions. When children notice anger, fear, insecurity, or intolerance in an adult – especially if they are the target – it may not be long before they are acting out the same things.

Relationships & Losing Control

Am slowly working through Lesslie Newbigin’s “Christian Freedom in the Modern World.” In light of the last post from The Marrow of Modern Divinity, I thought this a mighty helpful teasing out of not only the human relationship we were intended to have but also the ultimate relationship of God to his people.

When I turn from dealing with natual objects to dealing with another person, I am in a quite new world. I am no longer in the position of a subject dealing with objects; I am no longer the single centre of decision and will, and a centre which is inaccessible to my will in a way that nothing in the natural world can ever be. I am in the presence, therefore, of something which can resist me finally in a way no natural force can, with something which can hide itself from me as no natural secret can. A secret of the natural world can in the end be wrested from it by persistent and painstaking research. THe simplest secret of my friend’s will towards me can never be so reached. I can only know it when he chooses to speak–he, a new subject not in my control.

It is this quality of ultimate resistance which is a big part of true friendship. Loneliness, the terrible loneliness of the egocentric man, means, above all, being without any such resistances. It means being the sole subject in a world which is all objects, being alone on a wide sea where one can go everywhere and see everything, where no path is closed and nothing will ever finally resist, where one is always at the centre of the world with a vast horizon all around. The joy of friendship, or a large part of it, is the knowledge that my friend is not in my power, that he is not merely one of the objects in my world, but that he can do to me what only another subject can do–challenge and resist me.

So it is with any and all relationships we have or hope to have. Blissful infatuation eventually gives way to the battle of the wills. Rather than being frustrated, we can embrace the joy and secret and challenge of being vulnerable and enjoying the fact that another subject willingly opens up his/her life to me.

In the same way, we cannot study God as though he is an object. We receive his self-disclosure as an act of grace and opportunity. We relish the secrets he reveals to us when he wants and how he wants. We cannot shake our fists when he is not ours to command.