What Is a Family?

September 14, 2007

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It sounds so basic that it seems like a stupid question. Anyone knows what a family is — a mom and a dad and kids. OK, an extended family includes grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and many others who are all biologically related in some way. This picture is my sister, her four kids with husbands and their kids. What about blended families? Are step-children and siblings family if they are not biologically related but only legally? How about adopted children? They are certainly considered family because they are legally defined as family. So what happens when our laws change to include same sex marriages and they adopt children? Now we begin to ramp up and say that legally defined family doesn’t make them real family. Enough confusion? Our Sunday School class is wisely returning to God’s basic design, intension and purpose of humankind, and the design of marriage and of family. Last week we unpacked three very fundamental principles:

PRINCIPLE 1: We are “image-bearers” of God. I was created for this purpose, to bear His image by reflecting His character.   The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.  We don’t glorify God by simply doing our best.

trinity.gifPRINCIPLE 2: The primary human relationship is between a man and a woman. The unity between a husband and his wife is basically a Trinitarian concept. So we reflect His character in relationship because He is relational at His Trinitarian core. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit relate to one another in the context of total and perfect unity. So if we are to glorify Him, we reflect his character by relating intimately to one another in the context of unity. “One flesh” is more than sexual union. It is a reflection of God’s character in a Trinitarian way when two equal entities become one thing. The role of marriage comes before our roles in marriage.

PRINCIPLE 3: All relationship language of scripture applies to families. For example, Romans 12:9-21 talks about Christians being devoted to one another, contributing the needs of others, rejoicing with others, and responding in peace even when we have been offended, to name a few. All of these “one-another” guidelines apply to family interaction.

These principles don’t resolve the debate and they don’t solve all the problems associated with our confusion. But they do indeed lay a strong foundation that we can build on. I am thankful to Dr. Mark Fulmer for offering us such a substantive lesson.

Each Spring, I teach a class on Counseling and Civil Law. Before we explore the laws relating to divorce and marriage, we spend about a month exploring this: God’s purpose and intent for marriage and family. We can’t begin to understand how to evaluate the health of a family until we understand the beginning of the design.

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My Three Favorites from Luciano

September 9, 2007

Luciano Pavarotti died of pancreatic cancer on September 6, 2007 at age 71. He made a major contribution to us all and to me. I will remember him most for three of his solos:

Ave Maria (Schubert version)

Nessun Dorma from Puccini’s Turandot

Celeste Aida from Verdi’s Aida


What Children See, Children Do

September 9, 2007

Powerful visual example of how children mimic what they see us as adults and parents do.  What a challenge to provide a model of virtue so that our influence is a positive one.  

Paul was confident that others would do well to model after him:

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1)

And he uses the same word to describe our using God himself as our model. 

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.  (Ephesians 5:1)

hoehner1.jpgSo we are to practice imitating good role models.  In his commentary on Ephesians, Dr. Harold Hoehner develops this thought exegetically for three pages.  He points out that the believers should be imitators of him and that believers should imitate other believers.  He summarizes that followers of Christ should be “gracious to one another as a reflection of Gods grace.”   When we imitate worthy models, “the result will be harmony and growth to the body of Christ.”  

It seems to me that imitation is the way we learn at the early stages of our development.  Children imitate their parental role models that they love and trust; then they imitate other role models that might not be so worthy.  Young Christians can learn a lot from older Christian models.  This is why discipleship and mentoring are so important to the young church leader.  I wish every young seminary graduate could sit under the tutelage of an experienced pastor for at least five years before taking on a senior leadership role.  More personally, I would like to lead the kind of life that my children could imitate and grow into virtuous mature followers of Christ.  Fortunately, they have all done a wonderful job of seeking out strong role models to learn from.  I am very grateful to be called their dad. 


Coming to the Throne as a Child

September 3, 2007

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I’m not a follower of royalty nor am I usually interested in keeping up with the headlines of the rich and famous, whether scandalous or newsworthy. But a picture in the July 25 issue of Hola captivated my interest. This magazine is dedicated to entertaining folks with pictures of royalty all over Europe, particularly with connections to Spain. About three years ago all the crown princes of several European nations (Norway, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, and of course Spain) were getting married and their choice of spouses was quite the buzz. Now they are all having babies, so the magazine is full of baby pictures. This picture triggers my fascination with how a child approaches the throne of the most high-ranking religious figure of the land. Check out the apparent innocence of Infanta Leonor (about age two) as she checks out the area occupied by Cardinal Archbishop Rouco Varelo of Madrid presiding over the baptism of her little sister, Sofia. Rather than being aware of her status and privilege, she simply feels at home in her world as she knows it. And check out the Cardinal’s countenance: acceptance and delight. Neither one of them is concerned about why she should not be there enjoying herself.

Shifting focus to Leonor’s dad, I was impressed by the scripture reading by Crown Prince Felipe. He chose Ezekiel 36:24-28. My positive reaction was not so much to verse 24 which refers to God’s future gathering of the Nation of Israel into their own land which has nothing to do with the baptism of a new baby in Spain, nor verse 25 which refers to God’s forgiveness of Israel’s idolatry and His acceptance of His people as holy which has nothing to do with “sprinkling with clean water” in baptism, but I was attracted instead to his inclusion of verse 26-28. He did not have to include these references to a “new heart” and a “new spirit within you” that will replace a heart of stone with a heart of flesh. I like this reference to God placing His Spirit within us so that we are motivated from within to “walk in His statutes” and obey Him. While baptism does not accomplish all that, we have a picture of what happens in the fulfillment of the New Covenant.

Initially, we must be “born again,” that is to experience a birth of the Holy Spirit which changes us into a new kind of creation.

As adopted children of God then, we obey God’s laws because we love Him and we act in keeping with our new nature, not because we need to earn the privilege of coming close to Him. Jeremiah spelled out this new way of relating to God in detail and it was referenced again in Hebrews.

Now as a child like Leonor, I can come to Jesus with no distraction solely child-before-the-throne-2.jpgon the basis of His grace and mercy and cleansing and renewal. And then, the encouraging words of Hebrews 4:16 makes sense:

Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need.

Sometimes I approach the throne of grace too casually forgetting that I have no business there in my own merit. Other times, I exclude myself from coming close to God’s throne because I am too preoccupied by my uncleanness and not enough mindful of the consequence of Christ’s shed blood on the cross for me. So I learn a little something of great importance by noticing a little girl’s comfort in a very big and powerful world.


Walking with Abe

September 3, 2007

abe-k.jpgAbe Kuruvilla can soar with the eagles and walk with the pedestrians. On the loftier side, he just finished his third doctorate and teaches preaching and the spiritual life at Dallas Seminary. But his writing is crystal clear about everyday experiences. Each of his blog posts has a one-word title, like Power, Sound, Freedom, and Control.   He writes about that “big idea” in a most engaging way and then transitions into a spiritual perspective with brief Scriptural support. For example, the Christian “walk” is a metaphor that has to do with how we live our lives. Click and read how he handles this common experience. His thinking is uncommonly clear, his heart is uncommonly godly, and his topics are surprisingly common. I’ve added a link to his blog on the list to the right to make regular visits convenient.