Far More: In Our Families


We are in a week three of four weeks of a series we are calling “Far More.”  And we’ve been talking about the church – about the purpose of the church – and about our belief that God wants to do far more through Journey Church.  We’ve been looking back at the past six years of God’s goodness to us as a church family – and we are looking forward now – as a church body we are asking what does God want to do through Journey not only in the next six years – but in the next six generations!

And so two weeks ago we learned that God wants to bless our community – because God loves our community.  And God’s primary vehicle to express his love to a community is through his Church.  And we are trusting God to do far more in our community through Journey as he leads and directs.

Last week we talked about the fact that God loves all the nations.  He always has.  And God’s people have always been his chosen instrument to take the truth and love of God to all nations, tongues and tribes.  For us here at Journey – specifically we have been led to care for Mali and Haiti.  And we believe as we grow as a church God is planning to do far more around the world through Journey Church.

This week we are talking about the fact that God loves the family.  And specifically – God loves your family – and we believe that God wants to do far more for families at Journey Church in the coming years.

We’ve been using this wonderful verse from Ephesians 3:20 that says, “God is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond all you can ask or imagine.”

This verse has special meaning to me personally – and here’s why.   Come back with me in time – 25 years ago.  It’s August of 1990 I am beginning my Junior Year at Toccoa Falls College in northeast Georgia – I am walking across campus when I see this stunning apparition – this beautiful woman floating gracefully.  And I mean she’s just a shining sun of beauty and grace.  And I remember thinking – Aowwwww!  Something like that.

So I determine I simply must meet this girl – her name was Jody Jensen – and one day I spot my chance – Jody is seated at a round table in the corner of the library and I sit at the same table.  And that’s the day we begin a great friendship.

And I’ll tell you it didn’t take long before I realized that Jody was even more beautiful on the inside and so I decide to pull out all the stops – and so I start laying on the charm.  And things seem to be progressing according to my master plan!  We are growing in our friendship – she’s laughing at my jokes!  She’s as pretty as a flower!

And so the day finally comes when I work up enough courage to ask Jody to date me you know – go steady with me and what not.

And I’ll never forget what Jody said – I looked into her beautiful brown eyes and said, Will you date me?  And she said, No – I don’t think so.  We’re just good friends.

And I remember thinking okay, but am I the kind of friend you want to make out with and marry and have kids and raise a family and grow old with and live happily ever after with because that’s kind of what I’m thinking…  But no – just regular friend.

So listen – even back then – guys knew there was little chance of ever escaping the friend-zone.  It was over.  And so Jody and I did stay friends but secretly I still adored her.  And then one glorious day a year and a half later I noticed – and I don’t know how to say this any other way, but I began to notice Jody was stalking me.  Everywhere I turned there she was.

I played on the basketball team – and I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the shorts people wore in 1990 – but they weren’t very modest.  Ours were made by Speedo.  And Jody would sit in the stands like a NYC construction worker – yeah baby!  You want some fries with that shake!

Well anyway – want to know why I believe God can do exceedingly abundantly beyond all I could ever ask for?  Because Jody married me.  And that’s why I had Ephesians 3:20 inscribed on the inside of her engagement ring. Because when Jody started liking me I realized that God is able to do far more than I ever imagined – exceedingly, abundantly beyond.

And so now we’ve been married 22 years and we have three kids and we are thankful for Journey Church – we are grateful that our kids have you all as part of their family.  We truly are.

So let’s talk about family and church a little bit this morning, okay?  God is able to do far more in your own family.

The first thing I want to remind us today is that your family is important to God.  God cares alot about your family. 

When God was trying to decide how he wanted to communicate who he was – he decided to use the imagery of a father.  God is our Father – the heavenly one.  When Jesus – who was God with Skin – when Jesus who is God spoke with people about God it was Jesus who taught us that he prefers to be addressed as Father.  Our father in the heavens.

Jesus himself said that his relationship with God was as a father and son – they are family – albeit it they are one.  I and the father are one.

From the very beginning we have family – well, almost from the very beginning – Adam was the only human who ever lived outside of a family.  And even then it was for a short time.  God looked at Adam and said, it’s not good for you to be alone – and so now it was Adam and Eve – the first family.

And let me press the pause button and say that this is a very important thing to remember.  Adam and Eve were a family before they ever had kids.  And maybe you are married and you don’t have kids yet and sometimes people ask “When are you going to start a family”  The answer is you started a family when you got married.  And that’s not unimportant.

On the other side – you empty nesters out there?  Your kids are out of the house?  You still have a family and it still requires attention and work – it might look different, but you and your spouse are still a family.  And God loves your family!

I think it’s very important to remember that – and let me share this encouragement with these new moms and dads up here on the stage today – you were a spouse before a parent.  So make sure you care and feed your marriage as well as you care and feed your kids.  Marriages suffer when we get the order wrong.

And sometimes you can ask my kids – when they were younger every once in a while they’d get mouthy with Jody – and I’d remind them that I loved their mom long before I knew them.  And I will love her long after they leave the house – And there’s no way I’d let a stranger talk like that to my wife let alone my one kids.

So Adam and Eve – a family before they had kids.  But this leads us naturally to my second encouragement about your family.

There is no such thing as a perfect family.  Listen – Adam and Eve start having kids.  How long before serious family dysfunction shows up?  Well, how about by Genesis chapter 4?  Adam and Eve’s kids are killing one another.  Cain kills Abel.

And let me tell you something – if nothing else, by the end of the book of Genesis you get a pretty good understanding of the reality that there is no such thing as a perfect family.  Because it’s one jacked up family after another.  Starting with Abraham.  Sarah can’t get pregnant – sleep with one of our family servants –  Hagar and also with these other people over here.  Okay.  Jacked up!  Abraham baby daddy!  You’ve got one jacked up, crazy story after another.  Brothers throwing the youngest into a well – selling him into slavery.  That’s Joseph.

Why didn’t God choose better families?  Because the truth is that sin has ruined us all.  From the very beginning we needed a savior.  There is no such thing as perfect parents because no man or woman is beyond the need of a savior.

This is why I try to remind parents dedicating their kids – that there are no perfect families.  You will not be perfect parents.  I know how motivated you are to be loving and patient and kind but there will be days when you blow it.  Every seasoned parent in this room – if asked- will be able to take you back to a day when they wished they could have said something different – or done something different – every parent has some regrets.  Don’t punish yourself.  There are no perfect parents.

Which brings me to the third truth about your family.  Every one in your family needs Jesus.  Some more than others.  Oops – I meant None more than others.  All of us need Jesus.

Jesus knew this.  You know Jesus – some people like to paint this picture of Jesus as this great teacher who walked around and was Mr. Nice and somehow people got carried away and now we think he’s God.

But Jesus always told us the truth no matter how preposterous it sounded.  And listen to how Jesus puts this in Matthew 10: 37 “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine.

Jesus knows how to have a strong family.  It comes as a by-product of loving Him.  Jesus wants you to love him more than you love your kids.  Your parents – your spouse.  In Luke Jesus says that in comparison – it should seem like you hate your parents compared to the love you have for Him.

You want to be a great dad?  Turn your attention first to understanding what it means to love Jesus.  Want to be a good spouse?  Love Jesus more than you love your spouse.  Love Jesus more than you love your kids.

Love begins with God.  We love because God first loved us.  And when we trust Jesus we begin a lifelong loving relationship with Him.  And he teaches us how we can become the most loving person we can become.

Which means he makes us the most loving spouse we can become, through faith in Jesus.  The most loving parents – comes through faith in Jesus.

And this sounds counterintuitive in a sense, but when it comes to prioritizing our relationships – it’s God first – then our spouse.  If we get those mixed up then we make an idol out of our spouse and there will be trouble eventually.  God first, then my spouse then my kids third.  And if I get those two mixed up there will be trouble on the horizon.

It’s quite possible to make an idol out of your children.  It’s not hard to spot.  Children are great but they make lousy Gods.  Love God first.  Spouse second.  Kids third.

Aside: Now some might not have a spouse right now – obviously, adjust the order accordingly.  Your kids move up to second.  But if you ever get married?  They kids get notched down ever so slightly.  And this is a real – and maybe the greatest challenge a blended family faces.  It doesn’t mean that you love your kids less.  It means that when it comes to priorities – your mom or dad are doing you a favor by protecting and honoring their love for their spouse – it’s right and best both for them and for you.

Following Jesus – loving Jesus is the best thing you can do for your family.  Tend to your soul.  A neglected soul will not go away – it goes awry.

First – God loves your family.

Second.  There are no perfect families.

Third.  Loving Jesus the most will help you love your family more.

Fourth – once you decide to follow Jesus the Bible becomes an incredible resource to teach us how to raise and love a family.  The Bible will strengthen your family.

The Bible has paved a path for a healthy family.  Because the Bible addresses the roles we play in a family.  And we all have a role and many have multiple roles.  Some are sons.  Some are sons and husbands. Others are sons and husbands and fathers.

The Bible will guide us in our roles – and it is filled with valuable advice.  The Bible is way better than facebook when it comes to raising kids.  Facebook is great to see pictures of your friends kids and to watch funny videos of cats falling off couches.  But please don’t rely on facebook to raise your kids.

Rely on this book.  From the very beginning – the ten commandments – if all you took into your family were the ten commandments you’d be way ahead of the curve.  Honor your parents.  Treat them with respect.  Kids – you know this is repeated a ton – and only you own this.  How you treat your parents – how you talk to them and about them when they are not in the room – that’s on you.  And God says the best route – is a route where you choose to treat your parents with respect – honor them.

How about when the ten commandments say, don’t lie.  Don’t lie.  Don’t be a liar.  Lying erodes confidence among relationships.  Lying burns relationships.

How about when Moses said God wants us to take a day off? Mom and dad?  Take one day off and hang out with your kids, please.  Trust that God will make up for the lost income or whatever.  The Sabbath is for you – for your soul – and it’s also for your family.

How about don’t commit adultery – don’t covet someone in your heart – right?  Honor your spouse with your mind and body.

In the New Testament we find codes for husbands and wives.  The bible tells husbands to love their wife.  To treat her with love- or else our prayers will be hindered.  Did you know that?  How serious is God about husbands treating their wives with love?  God’s like, don’t bother chatting me up if you are treating your wife disrespectfully.  God’s not playing that game. (1 Peter 3:7)

Wives – don’t nag your husband.  No man has ever been nagged into becoming a better man.  Treat him with respect – acknowledge how hard he is working to provide for your family.   

Dads?  The bible says don’t exasperate your kids.  Don’t drive them crazy.  Don’t harangue them or badger them or belittle them or exasperate them.  Don’t do it.  You aren’t honoring your kids – you aren’t making them more loving my whittling them down with mean words.

See – the Bible teaches us and often it talks it terms of warnings – watch out – don’t do this.  And sometimes we do it anyway.  But what do we do then?  What do we do when we blow it?  We repent to God and we apologize to our family.  We make alot about saying the words I love you to our kids.  But just as powerful are the words, “I am sorry.  I was wrong.  Please forgive me.”  Every bit as powerful and in some ways more shaping.

See the Bible will make your family stronger.  And lastly, so will the church.

Being part of a church will make your family stronger.  It will.  Here’s why I say that.

A good church will teach what the Bible says and the bible is useful for teaching and instructing and it is also useful at times for correcting and rebuking.  And so a good church will bring us back to the Bible and bring us back to depending on God for the strength we need to be the family member He has called us to be, right?

2. A church makes a family stronger because it’s a place to grow together in faith.  And I don’t need to say too much about this.  I speak to many people who say something like, well it’s been a long time since we’ve been in church but then we started having kids and we thought it would be good for them.  But I’ve spoken to quite a few who said, I came here for my kids but I didn’t realize that God wanted to do something new in my own heart – but I know now.

A good church will challenge you all to take the next step in faith and adds life and adventure into a home.

3. A church helps your family become stronger by giving you chances to serve together.  I am so thankful for the chance my kids have to serve here.  Whether setting up on Saturday – or tearing down after the service – you have chances every week to help your kids learn how to serve – and that trait will go a long way in their life.  Humility.  Care for others.  Whether here on Sunday or at places like Heartland Hope or elsewhere – families that serve together are stronger.

So let me turn the corner here – and this is where I will give the word first to those who are new to Journey – this is your first time visiting us.  I’m about to talk to the regular attenders of Journey about something that is important for the future of our church.  And if they’ve been here the past couple of weeks they know I’m about to talk to them – and they are counting on me to talk to you first to let you know that you are excluded from this – but please listen in case you feel that Journey might be your church home – I want you to know how we talk about things that some feel are sensitive issues.  And to some there is no more sensitive issue than money.

Not me – I don’t mind talking about money.  And if I offend you by telling you that you should give your money away then you love your money too much.  I mean, I just spent 20 minutes telling you what you should be doing with your family – did that offend you?

But if you are new to Journey I’d say don’t give to us until you believe in us.  Until you trust us.  And then you can give.  But I’m not after your money.  Even though I’m talking about it.

So Journey Church regulars we’ve been meeting in a gym for six years now and the time has come for us to raise money in order to find the future home of Journey Church.  We believe God wants to do Far More in our community and in our world and in our families through Journey Church.

Let me ask you to dream with me for a minute.  How might a permanent church building positively affect your family?  How could a church building make your family stronger?

Listen, I’ll be honest with you – when we walk into a building of our own – the greatest change will be the positive effect it has on our families.  I mean – some of you are here for the first time and you went and peeked into the nursery and it’s a plastic cage, right?  And some of you are like -the people seem really nice – the people in the plastic cage seem nice – but it’s still a cage.  And some of you here for the first time are like, “Why are there so many people here putting their children into the cage?  What is this place?”

That’s actually a step up from when we started and we put the nursery in the hallway.  Okay kids – you got all this room – it’s all yours all eight feet from one cement wall to the other cement wall.  We had these toddlers with their over sized heads trying not to crack their heads against the walls.

I mean our first and second graders are marching into the middle school science room.  Okay kids, so glad you are here – let’s turn off the Bunsen burners now and listen to the story!  Don’t lick the test tubes!  No jonnie that’s not a juice box – that’s hydrocloric acid!  I mean seriously folks.

Right now the kindergartners are in the shop class welding flowers for Mothers Day.  Seriously?  Hey, it’s what we’ve got.  It’s the only room they gave us.  Seriously folks, why are you here at this church?

Having a building of our own is going to make an immediate impact for the good for our families.  It will be the first and most obvious good thing to happen for Journey.

We have 500 here on a Sunday and exactly zero on Wednesday night.  We’ve got nothing going on for your family during the week.  We have an office with a meeting room that we do youth group in and it’s great, but it’s a warehouse.  Imagine what we could do for our students, for our kids, I mean, we haven’t begun to effect families the way we could…

So let’s dream about a buidling where we come alongside the families in this town for generations to come.  Okay?

Our goal is to raise enough money to buy the land for the building.  If God were to miraculously provide land – then this money could go toward the building on the land.

But our goal is to raise enough money for the land.  And we believe it’s about ten acres.  And we believe it will cost somewhere around $750,000.  And here’s where it starts.  It starts with me asking you to fill out a little card that we will hand out next week and you tell us what you think you are able to give toward this project over the next three years.  This is not a contract.  I’m not asking you to sign anything.

But Next Sunday I am asking you to come prepared to put a  number on a little card.

But we do want to know what we think might be doable.  It will help us to know whether these ideas will ever become reality or not.  And so it’s important.  And if jesus were standing here I believe he would say the same thing – and I will show you this statement from Jesus in Luke 14 as proof.

Luke 14

28 “But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it?29 Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. 30 They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’

And I’m asking all of our Journey Church regulars to put a number down on a piece of paper.  I’m praying for one hundred percent participation at some level.  Even if you can’t do alot.

Listen, many hands make the work lighter.  This project is not light.  But it makes it lighter if many hands are involved.  And so – maybe you are thinking well I won’t pledge anything and I’ll be the surprise giver – the unexpected gift.  Don’t do that.  Be part of our church right now.  You will be pleasantly surprised how whatever you can give is part of the answer to the question, “How in the world are we going to pull this off?”

Next week is a big week – so please come ready to and prepared to celebrate what God is going to do in this next adventure for our church family.

Then the following week, on May 10th – We’re calling it Kick Start Sunday – I’m asking that if you have the capacity to give a portion of your gift on the first week – to bring it in the 10th.  We’d love to have some money in the bank in case something happens – some land comes available at a perfect price- we’d love the flexibility to be able to act – and so some will be able to bring in a portion – some will not – all we are asking is if you are able – it would be helpful and appreciated.

These are exciting times for us as a church body.  And we need to pour prayer over the entire project.  We need to remember that although our families will benefit from this – our ultimate goal is to bless families that right now aren’t even in a church.  They haven’t even thought about church in a long time.

We started Journey to be able to bless those families.  And I know we are asking alot of you, but we serve a God who is able to do exceedingly abundantly Beyond all we can ask or even imagine.

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