The Family You Choose

Posted by Andrew Stevens on

  As a child, I never worried about living without my family. My parents were always around, I had my sister, and we would visit our extended family every year. I have so many fond memories as a child, playing with my cousins at my grandma’s house, going fishing with my dad, or...

Children of God

Posted by Dr. Drew Shofner on

Some of you are in good places in your family right now, and some of you are in bad places. Some of you are frustrated in your families and I just want to let you know that God cares passionately about your family and what you’re going through, and He’s here to fill your family with...

The Family You Choose

 

As a child, I never worried about living without my family. My parents were always around, I had my sister, and we would visit our extended family every year. I have so many fond memories as a child, playing with my cousins at my grandma’s house, going fishing with my dad, or baking cookies with my mom. I realize that not everyone may have these exact same memories, but I do believe that they are fairly similar to memories that many others share.

As I grew older, these kinds of experiences occurred less and less often. I became more and more independent, and family became something that I simply took for granted. They were still there, but I wasn’t. That is to say, I was absent in the sense that I wasn’t as interested in doing all the things that I had done as a kid. When I joined the military when I was 20, this was confounded even more because I literally wasn’t around anymore. I shipped off to Texas for several months for training, and then I moved to Germany right after. I took my wife Rachel with me to Germany, so luckily I had someone, but besides her, there was no one else. We spent three years there and then we moved to Guam for another three years.

Suffice it to say, being halfway around the world from your family takes its toll on you. The things that I took for granted in my late teens became the things that I missed most in my mid-twenties and now into my thirties. I miss just hanging out with my dad watching football games, or going to the movies. I miss grabbing a coffee and talking about life with my mom. I miss spending time with my grandparents, who also live where my parents do. My wife and I have missed so many life events because we’ve been geographically separated from our families for so long – the deaths of close relatives, family vacations, and holiday gatherings just to name a few. Family has also been absent for the births of all of our three children.

I’ve found myself missing all of that, especially the small things, a whole lot more in the past few years. It’s been so much so that I applied to get out of the military early so that we could move back home and be closer to family. I was very hopeful that things would work out, trusting God and praying that whatever happened was where he wanted me to be. Though I was expecting a ‘yes’ to my application, that was not what I received. I was sorely disappointed, but luckily for me I’ve grown a lot over the past 5-6 years, and was able to accept the fact that this was where God wanted us for the time being.

This was around the beginning of October, and about a month and a half later God showed me something that I hadn’t seen before…

My little family was prepared to spend another holiday together, just the five of us. Sometimes for Thanksgiving we hang out with friends, and on several occasions, we’ve had friends over at our house. I think for most military families this is common, though we do know quite a few people around here who have family close by, which has made it a bit more difficult for us.

This year we were invited over to a friend’s house for Thanksgiving, and there were several other church families who we knew well who were also going. When we got there, there were about twenty or so people, with a mix of our friends, and a mix of the host’s family as well. By the time everyone had shown up, there must have been around fifty people including kids. To be frank it was chaos – a beautiful, turkey and stuffing-smelling, love without limits kind of chaos. After we prayed and everyone started getting their food, I just had to stand back and soak it in for a minute.

This was when it hit me…

Even though we didn’t have ‘blood’ family around to celebrate the holidays with, we still had family. I took a picture and shared the post on Facebook because I wanted to capture the moment, and I wanted others to see that the family of God can make a big difference when you’re feeling lonely and separated from your own kin.

As a military family, being separated from relatives is something that we’re quite used to, though the feeling of missing them never really goes away. As we’ve allowed God in our lives more, he’s given us good friends to help fill the void of missing our families. Of course, it’s not an exact replacement – no one can ever do that. But, it’s about as close as you can get to the real thing. And for many people out there who may not share a strong bond with their families, perhaps it could even feel like a suitable replacement altogether. When you have God in your heart, and when you allow others into your life, then God will bring people to you to build you up and be there for you when you need them. And the great part is, no matter where you go, there will always be someone there as long as you’re open and paying attention.

Another great thing about the family of God is that it’s always growing, and we can always add more brothers and sisters! This family crosses boundaries that blood typically does not – race, skin color, culture, as well as many other things! You will meet people you probably wouldn’t have normally, and it will make you a better for it. You will grow as a person, and you will grow in your faith.

With God as our Father, and countless brothers and sisters surround us everywhere we go, there’s no need to ever feel alone. If you do feel lonely, perhaps you only need to look around and realize, as I did, that you are surrounded by more family than you think you are.

If you don’t know about the joys of a family shared through Christ, then we invite you to attend Severn Run (if you live in the Baltimore-D.C. area), or otherwise look for a local church to get connected to. Wherever you go, if they make you feel like family, then you know you’re probably home.

And if that’s the case, then…

…welcome to the family!

 

Posted by Andrew Stevens with

Praying as a Family

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“They all joined together constantly in prayer.” Acts 1:14

People often have an idealized idea of what praying as a family should look like. In a perfect world, praying with children would be easy. We would sit around the table with our well behaved children (who would have perfectly clean faces and perfectly ironed clothes), we would all hold hands and bow our heads, and even the youngest would remain quiet during this time of intersession with God.

But is this obviously not a perfect world, and I don’t know about your family, but my kids are loud. They usually have the remnants of their most recent meal on their clothes and they rarely sit still for anything other than Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. My house is one monkey short of being a circus. So it can be a struggle to find, or more importantly, make time to teach our young ones to talk to Jesus. But find that time we must

When I was in college I went on a mission trip to East Africa. Our group spent months preparing for this trip. We would get together as a group to learn about the people we would meet and learn about their culture. We practiced how to speak to a group using an interpreter and we had amazing prayer meetings. One of my favorite things we would do during the prayer meetings is, we would pray with our eyes open, we would pray as if God were a tangible person sitting in the room with us. It felt strange at first, certainly not how I prayed when I was growing up, but it taught me that prayer can happen at anytime in any place. My understanding of prayer grew. It showed me another way that prayer can be an extremely intimate and powerful act of group worship.

I have taken this approach and applied it to my own “group”. My family.

My children have a tendency to be intimidated by the thought of talking to The Lord. They think there are certain words to say, a specific way to pray. While I want them to have an attitude of reverence and awe, I also want them to understand that they are God’s children and he delights in them. Even when they thank him for every single one of their favorite toys and it takes 5 minutes to list them all. I want them to simply get used to talking to God, whether that be around the table thanking him for our food or telling him about their Barbies and dinosaurs.

5 Ways to Pray as a Family

 

1. Set aside intentional time to pray together.

Set aside a regular time to pray with your kids or spouse. For my family, this is usually while we are driving to school in the morning or before bed at night. Praying for their safety at school, praying for the teachers and their friends is a great way to kick off the day. At night, we pray once everyone is in bed. The kids will (hopefully) be starting to settle down and it just seems like a natural time for children to open up and talk about whats on their hearts.

2. Pray spontaneously.

If you see a car accident, say a prayer out loud for those involved. If your kids are testing your patience, stop and let them hear you telling God how much you love them even when your tired and frustrated. If you can’t find the car keys, say a quick prayer together about it.

3. Let them see you pray on your own.

Get on your knees in front of your couch, let them see what it looks like to be in communication with the Lord throughout the day. You set the tone and the example for your children in your home.

4. Make a prayer chart or jar.

Make a chart and keep it in a visible place in the house or make a prayer jar. Get a jar or mug and fill it with strips of paper with people and things to pray about. Keep it on the kitchen table, during dinner take turns praying about whatever topic is picked. 

5. Give thanks for answered prayer.

Make a point to give thanks and celebrate answered prayer. Its important for children to understand that God answers prayers.

 

Prayer is one of the most powerful ways we can communicate with the Lord, and helping our children understand that and participating as a family is an amazing blessing.

Adoption is a Reflection of Jesus

November is National Adoption Month.

My wife and I have felt a calling towards adoption for some time and it finally came to fruition about a year and a half ago. We had two foster children, who are biological brother and sister placed in our home and this past summer we finalized their adoption. That means that at the moment we have four children (two biological: 1yr old & 6yrs old and two adopted: 9yrs old & 16yrs old) in our family.

This past year has been a roller coaster and if you would have caught me on a bad day, you might walk away from our interaction confident that you aren’t called to adopt. So why did we adopt? Why should anyone consider adoption? For me, it goes back to my own adoption.

I know that I am a sinner. Of all the things that scripture teaches me, the fact that I am a sinner is near the top of the list. Because of sin, I was hopelessly lost, separated from God with no ability on my own to get right with Him. I was outside of God’s family, an orphan with no father. The Bible describes this condition as being enslaved to sin. My condition meant that I desperately needed a redeemer, a father who would take me in and love me as his own.

That redeemer is Jesus Christ. Because of what Jesus did for me on the cross, my sins are forgiven. When I was forgiven through the grace of Jesus Christ, the Bible says that I was adopted into his family. When I was in sin, I was separated, I was alone, I was an orphan. But in Christ, I am adopted into God’s eternal family.

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, Abba! Father! (Romans 8:15)

Again, Paul says that God sent his son to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons… “So you are no longer a slave, but a son…” (Galatians 4:5,7)

In both of these passages Paul shows us that there are only two conditions — we are either slaves or we are adopted children. We either have the spirit of slavery and fear, or we have the spirit of adoption.

Our adoption is what brings us into God’s family. It is a spiritual reality, a spiritual change of condition that takes place when we are saved. But physical adoption is something that is desperately needed in our community and around our world. We need Christian men and women who are willing to model Christ’s love for us and give that love to children in need.

Why did my wife and I choose to adopt? I believe that adoption is central to the gospel. Christ adopts us when we are separated from him. I believe the church can show the love that God has for us by adopting children in need. When we show children that we are willing to be their earthly redeemer, they become open to the idea that they have a heavenly redeemer.

When we considered what Christ has done for us, we felt there was no clearer picture of the gospel than to adopt children who need a family. We chose to open our family, open our home, and open our hearts to these children. We chose to take them in and freely give them the gift of being a part of our family. We took the orphans and made them sons and daughters.

There are over 400,000 foster children in the United States. There are millions of orphans around the world who need loving families. I believe the church can be the leader in helping these children find their place in a home and family that will love and care for them. Since Christ died for my adoption, I feel called and compelled to show that love and do it for others.

Children of God

Children of God

Some of you are in good places in your family right now, and some of you are in bad places. Some of you are frustrated in your families and I just want to let you know that God cares passionately about your family and what you’re going through, and He’s here to fill your family with a new grace. In Genesis we see how the aftershock of sin and how the struggle begins to work its way through the family structure. Even in the origin of family, sin begins to cause pain. Now, God isn’t saying this is the way it should be, He is saying this is the way it is when I am not the source. We were made for God’s family, you were made for unconditional love, you were made for grace and for acceptance; you were made to be delighted in.

Family should be a place of nurturing, a place where we get our very core identity; where our hearts and hopes are shaped. Family is a place where our vision and understanding of ourselves is formed so very deeply. But so often in this world, all of that is mis-shaped, and we live under what can feel more like a curse than under the grace of God’s love. In families that are curse-full families, long records are kept and stuff is thrown in each other’s faces and there are pointed barbs and humor is used as a tool to wound; passive aggressive so that you don’t have to own your stuff. Here’s the deal, own your stuff! We shame, we embarrass, we guilt, it’s all a form of the curse brought about from separation with God. 

God didn’t place us in earthly families that it might be about us. The message of the curse is to earn love but the message of the cross is to receive love. Jesus knew who He was, He was God’s beloved and He didn’t earn His love, He just lived the love of the Father because God is so loving! Even on earth with all the imperfections, we can become people full of grace, fully dependant on God alone as our source. We can be families made for grace that accomplish God’s purpose on earth. Until we are living full of God and completely dependent on Him as our sole source of life, we will always be living under a curse and never experiencing family as God intended.

I just want to pray for our families…Father God, we’ve got one shot at this journey on planet earth. This planet is spinning fast through space, and time is passing and life is passing. The seasons are turning and in Jesus’ name, we are just asking for help in terms of getting family right. Lord, open our hearts to the depth of your Word, to the eternal truths that are revealed about you and how you made us to be a family. God help us to be willing to change. Father, build our family, bless our family and help us to accept being your family. We pray this in Jesus’ name, as all God’s peoples say, Amen! -Dr. Drew Shofner

We're so disturbed, we don't even agree with ourselves!

We're so disturbed, we don't even agree with ourselves!

A big part of the insanity of this world is that we don't recognize the insanity. A big part of dysfunction in a family is normalizing disfunction, so that you pretend what is crazy isn't crazy. You pretend that what is unhealthy is ok. You pretend what is morally or ethically wrong isn't wrong. There is a whole other level of 'crazy' when you pretend crazy isn't crazy!

You and I are in a world where we breathe in the second hand smoke of hell so much it has become normal to us. Satan is stirring up dissension all the time to disturb us, and all this talk of peace and this talk of the fruit of the spirit, seems strange and other worldly. When we live without peace, then we don't bring peace to our relationships. 

You and I were created to live in the presence of God, and God has brought the kingdom of heaven to create peace on earth. When you believe in Jesus, you're not believing religion, or a set of ideas, you're believing in a person. That person doesn't just come and stand beside you, that person comes to live inside of you with a new spirit, and now you're living the rest of your life from being disturbed and disturbing others, to being at peace. -Dr. Drew Shofner

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