Here’s the transcript of Sunday’s message on there is hope – family issues.

We are looking at There is hope – family challenges.

Family can be a paradox – a place of love and support , ” a haven in a heartless world” as one sociologist put it, can be a place of violence, abuse and despair. Something that many of us consider to be the most important and precious thing in our lives can also turn out to be the most painful.

When we asked King’s Lynn What hurts the most 8.3% responded with family challenges. I was one of them. In fact earlier in the week, Jan asked “how can you preach on parenting when we are finding it so hard?” The truth is parenting, one family issue is hard. We are applying God’s word and values by His grace and making mistakes everyday. It’s an area where many of think we are the only one struggling and Satan loves to get in and tells us we are the only one. But when we open up we find the issues are common.

When I think about family challenges, I can identify four biggies – singleness, marriage, children and parents. The stark reality of life in the UK is that 12.8% West Norfolk households are singles, one in three kids are not living with Dad, half of marriages end in divorce.

Is there hope? Yes There is hope! There is hope in Christ and in the local church.
Local churches are amazing things
An alternative city – Matthew 5:14-16 You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
An alternative nation – 1Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.
A new humanity Eph 2:14-15 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace
Family Romans 12:10-13 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. 1 Tim 5:1-2 Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.

The local church, this church is a place where the world can see what society would look like if Christ was the ultimate value and not money, sex, power of some other idol, by which I mean anything good or bad that takes the place of God. no church is perfect, least of all The Gateway, so how does a local church help you and the world gain hope for the family issues of singleness, marriage, children and parents?

Singleness & Marriage

Let’s look at two passages about singleness and marriage in Paul’s letters to the local churches in Corinth and Ephesus.
First the weird one on singleness 1 Cor 7:27-29 “Are you pledged to a woman? Do not seek to be released. Are you free from such a commitment? Do not look for a wife. 28 But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this. What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not;”

Huh? That’s weird for two reasons!
i) It seems opposite to Paul’s high view of the purpose of marriage in Eph 5:21ff where Paul shows marriage is a picture of Christ’s selfless love for the church. Was Paul having a bad day?
ii) Time is short? Paul wrote that nearly 2000 years ago. time is short? By what measure.

As ever with Scripture we need to read on to get the meaning in its context. v29-31 What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not; 30 those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; 31 those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.

The last sentence, makes it all clear. “Time is short” is talking about an overlap of the ages. We are in the present age waiting for the consummation of all things when Jesus renews all creation. When Jesus came the first time, the Kingdom of God broke in. God’s power to save, to heal, to deliver, to raise from the dead broke into an old world, bring the realities of the new. Paul says “For this world in its present form is passing away.” The Kingdom is breaking in, but it’s not had its climax yet. One day Jesus will return and make all things new. The kingdom of God is here in a substantial but partial way. And every person who finds hope in Jesus, is healed, is set free represents the Kingdom growing.

Living in between the ages means this

The concerns and issues of the world still exist. What hurts the most? is still relevant
The gospel has broken in and believers get joy, peace and hope in a future that is transform us now.

That means…
We don’t over invest our hearts or lives in anything besides the Kingdom
We are not over elated by success, or cast down by disappointment because our success is in God.
We have possessions, but live as if they aren’t really ours, because our wealth is in God. There is nothing now that we have to have!

Paul applies that kingdom living principle to marriage and singleness. We are not over elated by getting married or over disappointed by not being married, because Christ is the only spouse that can truly fulfil is and God’s family the only family that will truly embrace and satisfy us.

Lets look at singleness and marriage in the light of the Kingdom of God, at God’s benevolent and sweet rule and reign breaking in to create a new people of God, living abundant lives now and demonstrating God’s purposes in a glorious church to a broken world.

If you are single, you are in great company – Jesus and Paul were single. Christianity is radical – it was and is the first world view or religion to bring honour to singleness. In Ancient society and even today – absolute value was place on having a family and children. Without a family there is no family honour and no legacy. By contrast the early church didn’t pressurize people to marry and support poor widows so they didn’t have to remarry to be able to live.

Seeking marriage can become idolatry – in the modern world for personal fulfilment and in the ancient becoming somebody in society. For the Christian,bottom line, marrying or not is a choice for what makes us best a sign of the kingdom. There’s a radical thought. Bet you never thought of it that way!

In Paul’s day single Christian adults were a startling witness to the kingdom of God breaking in. It shows that hope and significance are not in family or heirs but in Christ and his kingdom.

That’s why the New testament forbids marrying a non Christian. Obviously that’s a now & future thing. If you are already married to a non Christian, Paul commands us to stay in the situation you are in. If you are already married to a non Christian, stay that way.

One of the main purposes of marriage is not lots of sex, or kids, but to build a kingdom exhibiting community – showing selfless love Eph 5:25-27 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.
So if you go from here and marry a non-believer you are showing your bottom line motive is not mission or being a sign the kingdom. One of the main ways marrieds witness to Christ is to show the difference Jesus makes in a marriage. We brake the mould of divorce rates by having Christ in the midst.

If you are single, choosing to not marry non-believers reduces the pool of candidates drastically. But not compromising, you will be blessed for that and be able to minister in ways, marrieds can’t.
Marriage is not ultimately about sex or social stability or personal fulfilment. It was created to be a human reflection of our ultimate love relationship and union with the Lord.

As a church we need to stop making Christian single adults feel like freaks or making them an object of well meant but patronizing pity. Paul speaks so highly about singleness and marriage. For him he felt singleness was a gift from God – he was gifted with a low felt need for romantic relationship. Many singles can testify to that, but I know some desparately want to be married. In some ways it’s hard to know if you have the gift of singleness. If you are single, don’t mistake a desire for personal freedom or an inability to create deep relationships or commitment as a spiritual gift. Don’t be too quick to consider it a gift. Even if it is, it is not necessarily permanent but for a season. It’s hard in affairs of the heart to know God’s calling about marriage.

If you are single and know it’s not a gift, you can and should be actively seeking marriage.
How? 3 quick tips

1. Build friendships first – in the natural settings of family, church and community life.
2. Don’t just go for looks/polish and money – those are idols. Character, trajectory (what they are becoming), mission and interests are far more important and long lasting.
3. Don’t romanticise/sexualise things too quickly – starting as a dating adds pressure. Keep sex for marriage – the Bible is really clear on that!

If you are married and a Christian – you marriage is a picture of Christ’s love for the church. It’s telling a story – God’s a story teller and he wants your marriage to tell the most important story of them all – the love of Jesus his son who gave himself for his bride, the church, us.
I challenge you to love your other half, like Christ loves the church, selflessly dying to self. go back over the There is hope – relationship issues talk or read and apply “The Five love languages” and show the world what a difference Jesus makes

Children

Are a gift from the God and parenting is the hardest and most important job in the world. hard when Mum and Dad are together; I admire and applaud those who are having to do it alone. The church is a family – there is great power in the 2nd family. Ruth in the Bible experienced that when she said to Naomi “Your God will be my God and your people will be my people.”

The traditional view of parenting is control and obedience. Moderns are into love and affection. The Bible shows neither extreme. Ephesians 6:4 tells us Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
When Jesus died and rose again and ascended to heaven. He sent the Spirit to inhabit us.
But in what way? Punisher? No, Controller? No! as helper! Paul told Timothy he no longer had a spirit of fear, but a spirit of love, power and self controlled. We want to raise kids that are full of love, power and self control!
Kids who have learned to think and make right choices, because they know bad ones don’t help!
Approach will change as they go through the stages of life – but is helped by constant choices and helping to think through consequences.
When I tell one of my children to “go to your room and think about what you have just done”. I want them to think about the fact that kicking their sister is wrong. But What are they thinking? I hate my sister. My parents are idiots. How can I get her better next time without Dad knowing?

Before it gets to the kick, the hit, the hissy fit, which still happens way to often. I’m learning to offer choices all the time so that they learn to make the right choice, the self controlled choice when it counts – bask seat/front seat, do you want to stay or come in with me?; red apples/green apples?

Younger – fun to be with or room? Uh huh. walk or carry?

New trousers story – one of my children was wearing a pair of brand new trousers and wanted to play football in them – that would cause me a problem, grass stains. They need to learn to own it!Grass stained trousers are a pain and a problem – but why are they my problem. Teaching kids to take responsibility, own the problem and clear up their messes!
So I gave them the choice – you can wear them, play and then if they get grass stained you will have to scrub them clean. Or take two mins now to get changed. Of course I’m praying they choose to learn a lesson about life! It took 20 mins for my child to scrub them with Vanish and funnily they have always changed out of new clothes first since!

Learning some phrases for my arsenal –
Oh no! Katie just kicked me. Oh no!
How’s that working for you?
Your the worst parent ever. Probably
You love David more. Nice try!
I’m learning to be self controlled in the power of the Spirit – and Oh No! How’s that working for you? Probably and Nice Try! are helping… As is saying sorry when I’ve lost it again.

Parents

One of the ten commandments, in fact the first conditional one, is Honour your Father and mother.
Paul brought that principle into new covenant Christian life and affirmed its lasting helpfulness in Eph 6:2
Jesus saw how the Pharisees tried to wriggle out of honouring elderly parents by spending their care money on other things. Nowadays we ship them of to OAP’s homes.

Bible pretty clear throughout to honour our parents not love, admire, obey, trust or show affection. But always honour. Why? Because some parents aren’t good, but we still need to honour them.
What does that look like?
Find culturally appropriate ways to honour – like giving up your seat on a bus.
If there is anyway in which you can say I got that from you and it is good, then say it!
Don’t stereotype – they can still change
Forgive them – if you are still mad at them, you are still acting like a child.

In the last 30 mins we have looked at how we are living between the first and second comings of Christ, where the kingdom has broken in and is ever increasing. Singleness, marriage, raising children and honouring our parents are all family issues where the kingdom can break in and you can demonstrate to the world that it has and still is!

If you are struggling with family issues, where is the hope?

Jesus offers us the only truly satisfying relationship we need. He loves you so much, he died for you on your behalf to bring reconciliation between you and God. To reconcile the relationship that was broken by your mess – your sin.
If you can’t live without your husband or wife, your kids or even your parents – then they have taken the place of Jesus. Those relationships have become distorted and false god and they are unreliable gods. There’s a 50/50 chance of any of them will die first! And they will let you down. Jesus will never leave you or forsake you.
Jesus is our ultimate spouse – the church is described as the bride of Christ.
Jesus introduces us to the ultimate Father and brings us into the ultimate Family

If you are not a Christian today, come to Jesus.
if you are struggling with any of those issues this morning – singleness, marriage, parenting or parents – we’d love to stand with you and pray.

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