Service: The Church as the Family of God

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Family

In our last exercise, Service: The Church as the Body of Christ, we were introduced to the concept that the Church, like the human body, is composed of three parts serving on three different levels, with each part being delegated a specific role to fulfill in its service for Christ.  As…

  • The corporate Body of Christ, the Church is to reach outward into the world; bringing the good news of Salvation to the lost in order to bring them into the Family of God;
  • The corporate Soul of Christ, the Church is to reach inward to the members of the Family of God; loving and encouraging them while helping them grow toward spiritual maturity; and,
  • The corporate Spirit of Christ, the Church is to reach upward into the unseen spiritual world; waging war against the powers of darkness who are doing everything in their power to promote the worship of their leader, Satan, and to keep the will and kingdom of God from being established on the earth.

Since we covered the basics of the Church as the Body of Christ last time, and since we will wait until we get to the next level of exercises on Spiritual Warfare to tackle the role of the Church as God’s Spiritual Army, this exercise will be given over to a discussion of the role of the Church as the Family of God.  In order get it going, the first thing we need to do is establish just what a Family is, and how it is supposed to function.

God's Family Plan
What is Family? 

It used to be that if asked to define the term Family, most people would respond in the same way—that a Family, the most basic of all societal groups, is made up of a Father, Mother, and their children; with such extended members as grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins sometimes added into the mix.  But, in today’s culture, with its escalating divorce rate and proliferation of lifestyle choices, the term has too often come to mean whatever an individual wants it to mean, or whatever his or her circumstances dictate.  So today, in addition to what is known as the Nuclear Family just described, some of the other definitions in use are…

  • Single-Parent Families…where a parent lives with dependent children, alone or in a larger household, without a spouse or partner;
  • Blended Families…consisting of members from two (or more) previous families;
  • Co-custody Families…where divorced parents share legal responsibility for their children; children who either live alternatively with both parents or permanently with one while having regular visitation with the other;
  • Cross-Generational Families…where grandparents or aunts, uncles, etc, either raise the children or play major roles in their lives;
  • Adoptive Families…where one or more of the children has been adopted;
  • Foster Families…where one or more of the children is being cared for legally but temporarily by a family that is not their own;
  • Bi-racial or multi-racial Families…where the parents come from different racial groups;
  • Gay or Lesbian Families… where one or both of the parents’ is gay or lesbian;
  • Immigrant Families… where the parents have immigrated to another country as adults; and,
  • Migrant Families… who move regularly from place to place looking for employment.[1]

To be sure, many of these are deviations from the ideal established by God at the time of Man’s Creation, documented for us in Genesis 1:27-28 in the following way…

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

This standard was later confirmed by Jesus when, as the Pharisees questioned Him as to the legitimacy of divorce, Jesus replied…

…from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh.  What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate (Mark 10:6-9).

Established by God and confirmed by Jesus, the divine standard, then, calls for 1 Male + 1 Female + their Children to equal a Family.  However, with the introduction of sin into the world following Adam and Eve’s fall from grace in the Garden of Eden, deviations from this ordained norm not only became a possibility but also a reality.  As we now know, had there been no sin, there would never have been any abuse, neglect, adultery, divorce, or death to make the aforementioned deviations possible—and, the Family would have functioned and flourished in the way that God had intended it to do.

Family
How is the Family Supposed to Function?

When considering how God intended for the Family to operate, it is imperative that we keep the following things in mind…

  • Being created in the image of God means that God intended for Men to be reflections in the flesh of His Masculine Principles, while Women were to be the reflections of His Feminine Principles;
  • Additionally, it was God’s intention that Men and Women to come together in sexual union so that they could reproduce the life He had so graciously shared with them—something they would not be able to do on their own; and,
  • As the masculine and feminine representations of God in the flesh, God meant for Men and Women to model before their children and the world the unity and selfless love shared by the members of Godhead themselves; becoming, in effect, living illustrations of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for everyone to see.

As long as the members of any given family are living in right relationship with God and in obedience to His will, not only they but everyone around them will be able to witness God being lived out in the flesh—with…

  • The Man/Husband in the Family demonstrating the love, leadership, strength, guidance, provision, and protection of God the Father;
  • The Woman/Wife in the Family demonstrating the love, respect, wisdom, nurture, gentleness, grace, empathy, and sensitivity of God the Holy Spirit [2]; and,
  • The Children in the Family demonstrating the love, respect, and obedience of God the Son.

However, God’s imaging purposes for these families were not to be limited to their being illustrations of the divine community known as the Trinity; it was also His intention for them to serve as earthly illustrations of the nature and workings of the much larger heavenly family known as the Church.

Family


The Human Family as a Pattern for the Church
 

The fact that the earthly family was meant to be a living illustration of God’s heavenly family will become clearer to us once we have compared each according to their…

  • Origins or creations;
  • Missions or mandates; and,
  • Means or methods of carrying out their missions.
Families of God

A Comparison of Families

From this illustration, we see that when God created the First Adam (1 Cor. 15: 22, 45) and his bride, He did so in such a way that it would serve as a prophetic picture of the Second Adam and His Bride, the Church.  For Adam, referred to in the genealogy of Jesus Christ in Luke 3:38 as “the son (with a small “s”) of God,” was meant to foreshadow the eternal Son (with a capital “S”) of God, Jesus Christ, in that…

  • He was without sin (at the time of his creation);
  • He was lord over God’s creation; and,
  • He was without his companion and helper.

Therefore, God set about providing him with a helper through a unique creation:  first putting Adam into a deep sleep, God then opened his side and removing a rib or bone from it, He fashioned from it a female counterpart specially designed for Adam.  This process, on a prophetic level, was to be a picture of what God was going to do through the Second Adam when, as Jesus was dying on the Cross, He fashioned His Bride, the Church, around the “bone” taken from the wounded side of Christ—that “bone” being the Disciples.

As for their Mission and Means for accomplishing them, they are virtually the same; for, both types of families were created for one purpose:  to reproduce the life of God, both the physical and the spiritual, as a means of bringing the will and purpose, and the glory of God to the ends of the earth.  Given the significance of this Mission to time and eternity, it should come as no surprise that the number one priority of God’s enemies would be the corruption and destruction of the Family, both the earthly and the heavenly ones—which is something we will learn more about in our next exercise.

Smiley Face with Earphones2

 

Bill Gaither reminds us what it means to be part of “The Family of God”…

 

[1] Edwards, Julie Olsen. “The Many Kinds of Family Structures in Our Communities.” Based on the author’s work with Louise Derman-Sparks in Anti-bias Education for Children and Ourselves NAEYC 2009.

[2] This is not to say that men cannot be nurturing or that women cannot be leaders or providers, etc.  These statements are merely meant to be generalizations of Godly ideals.

A Pop-Sized Picture of the Father

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Moma and Pop1

My Father and Mother

Greetings, all of you overcomers!  Although it was my intention during this visit to continue on in our discussion of Club business, I have decided that in deference to Father’s Day (and since you have already met my mother), this would be a good time to introduce you to my father—my earthly one, that is.  I find that I very seldom mention him to people these days, but that isn’t due to any lack of love or respect; it is only because he has been gone from our lives for such a long time now.  You see, back in 1972, he died suddenly of a heart attack at the relatively young age of fifty-eight, and when I was just twenty-three.  Even though he has missed the last forty-one Father’s Day celebrations here on earth, and I only knew him for an all-too-brief twenty-three years, he has had a powerful impact upon my life because he provided me with a wonderful earthly image of what my heavenly Father is like.

If I had to pick one word to describe my father, I think I would have to say that he was a real character—and I mean that in the best possible way!  He was quick-witted, with a great sense of humor, and he brought laughter and joy into our lives, often at the oddest moments.  I don’t think I ever met anyone who disliked my father!  While his given name was Herbert, and that was the name by which he was known to his brothers and sisters, he answered to several other, less formal names, when he was in the company of other people:
–  Among his friends and co-workers, he was known as “Big Head” or simply “Head,” because his head was slightly larger than normal, which meant that he had to have all of his hats custom made;
–  With my mother and grandmother (and I still don’t know the origin of this nickname), he was known as “Piggy”; and,
–  To his three children, he was known simply as “Pop.”

Pop was one of three sons, born into a working class family of seven children.  Although I don’t remember much about his father (other than he was a tall, lean man who loved to do jigsaw puzzles and, because he chewed tobacco, he had a spittoon in every room of the house—so nasty!), from all indications, he was a no-nonsense kind of man, one who very wisely insisted that each of his sons learn a trade.  And, since he was in charge of training the apprentices at one of the local shipyards, all three sons went through the apprenticeship program there, with my father learning the skills that would make him a master machinist.

A Night Out on the Town

A Night Out on the Town

This kind of work, however, put a real crimp in Pop’s lifestyle.  That’s because he was a man who thoroughly enjoyed the nightlife.  In fact, he was something of a man-about-town, a playboy, or what we might refer to today as a regular “party animal!”  Because he was especially fond of big band music, when one of the bands was in town, he was sure to be in attendance; staying out so late that he was often caught by his father, sneaking in at home with his shoes in his hand, just in time to get dressed for work.

Besides the bands, dancing, and the nightlife, my father’s other great love was sports, especially baseball and football.  He not only refereed football games, but he also played baseball in the minor leagues, as a catcher, at the same time that Yogi Berra was working his way up through the minors and on to the big leagues.  My father loved sports so much that he would do anything to see a game; at times, even “hawking” concessions in the stands, attempting to sell cold refreshments to hot spectators with such catchy jingles as, “Step right up, get it cold and sweet, give your teeth a treat, and your tongue a sleigh ride!”

Of course, all of that changed with the outbreak of World War II.  While many other young men were going off to war to serve their country, my father was kept at home to work in the shipyard, serving the war effort by keeping the nation’s ships afloat.  It was then, while working in the shipyard, that the third great love in my father’s life appeared.  That was when a prim and proper, no-smoking, tea-totaling turret lathe operator named Florence strutted by in her sleek and slim, pleated and perfectly pressed trousers and, as the saying goes, the rest is history.  The nightlife suddenly lost its appeal, having been replaced by the simpler forms of entertainment that were more appealing to my mother—like a Hershey bar with almonds and a trip to the movies; and Herbert, the dapper man-about-town, gradually disappeared, re-emerging later in the person of Piggy and Pop, the devoted family man.  Ain’t love amazing?

I am sure that, in the coming together of two people from such opposite ends of the spectrum, there had to be a lot of personality conflicts, especially in the early years of their marriage, but to be honest, no one ever knew about them.  That’s because my parents never argued in front of us or anyone else; whatever disagreements they had were settled behind closed doors.  And, I cannot remember a time when either one of them said a disparaging word about the other; my mother always showed respect for my father and my father faithfully demonstrated his devotion to my mother in the countless little courtesies he used to show her.

The Greatest Thing a Father Can Do for a Daughter

My Pop Certainly Did This!

With my father around, my mother never had to be concerned about the maintenance on the car; he had it checked regularly, kept it gassed up, and every morning before my mother left for work, he would back the car out of the garage and warm it up for her, just so she wouldn’t have to get into a cold car.  She really didn’t have to worry about grocery shopping either, because every other Thursday night when my father got paid, he would shop for food—and he was a good shopper, at that.  Also, out of consideration for my mother’s allergy to cigarette smoke, Pop would either go outside, or he would pull a kitchen chair over to the corner, under the exhaust fan over the stove, to smoke his little cigarillos.

While Pop wasn’t perfect, he was present, both physically and emotionally, and was a father who cared about what was going on in his family.  He was also a provider who worked hard to see that his family’s needs were met, as well as a protector who would have done anything to keep his loved ones safe.  He was the kind of father who would take out a loan so his family could go on vacation, and then spend the rest of the year paying back the money.  He was the kind of father who would give us his last dollar if we needed it, and was one who frequently stopped at the ice cream store on his way home just because we liked chocolate chip ice cream and pinwheel cookies.  And, he was the kind of father who would say that, for him, the most important thing in life was to be surrounded by “his hen and all of his little chicks.”

It took me a while to realize it but in his presence, his provision, and his protection, Pop was painting a living picture for me of a heavenly Father whom I could trust to always be near, always meet my needs, and always safeguard my way.  And, when I recall those times that Pop was sitting in the corner of the kitchen, and how he used to call me over to him to ask what was going on in my life, and if I needed anything, he was planting an image in my mind of a God who wanted me to come to Him at any time and for any reason, with full assurance that He would be there to hear and answer.

I am so grateful to have had the father that I did but, sadly, not everyone can say the same thing.  For some, the fathers that they knew did everything imaginable to distort the image of what a father should be.  If this has been true in your life, please don’t let the sins of your father keep you from fully trusting the Father who loved you so much that He gave His only Son to die for you.  Instead, when you are tempted to think of God in terms of the father that you knew, why not take all of the negative things that your natural father did and think of what the opposite of those things would be;  then, by taking a negative image of a negative image and reprinting it, you will be creating for yourself a positive picture of the spiritual Father who is just waiting to reveal Himself to you.  And, once you have done that, you will be free to joyfully celebrate Father’s Day every day for the rest of your life, and on even into eternity.  Just imagine, when God finally has all of His “chicks” gathered around Him, what a great Father’s Day that will be!

Mother hen and her chicks.

Safe under the wings.

 

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Instead of the musical selection that I usually include at this point, here are the first four stanzas of the old hymn, “Children of the Heavenly Father.”  The words were written in 1858 by Karolina Sandell-Berg and, according to the Cyber Hymnal,  “Shortly before writing this hymn, San­dell and her father were on a boat trip, when he fell overboard and drowned before her eyes. It is thought this tragedy gave birth to the lyrics.”

Children of the heav’nly Father
Safely in His bosom gather;
Nestling bird nor star in Heaven
Such a refuge e’er was given.

God His own doth tend and nourish;
In His holy courts they flourish;
From all evil things He spares them;
In His mighty arms He bears them.

Neither life nor death shall ever
From the Lord His children sever;
Unto them His grace He showeth,
And their sorrows all He knoweth.

Though He giveth or He taketh,
God His children ne’er forsaketh;
His the loving purpose solely
To preserve them pure and holy.