My Family

  • My Family
  • Acts 16:13-15
  • Bill Couch
  • November 22, 2015
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11-22-15 sermon from LakeRidge UMC on Vimeo.

We are talking about the joy of sharing our faith. One of the most challenging places to share our faith is with our family—parents, brothers, sisters, children or spouse. One of the reasons this is so difficult is that they know us so well—all our flaws, sins and weaknesses. Who are we to talk to our family about the difference Jesus can make in our life? We are afraid they will respond with: “Talk to me later when I see more evidence of the difference he has made in your life.” Ouch!! So we just don’t take the risk of humiliation.

I think that is one of the big misconceptions we have about sharing our faith. We think we need to have our spiritual act together before we can talk to anyone about Jesus. Actually the opposite is true! Our greatest testimony is that God is meeting us in our weaknesses, failures and struggles. Our testimony is about how we are learning to depend upon him and ask for the help of a Higher Power. How much we need his grace and forgiveness. We are not pointing to ourselves—look at how good I am. We are pointing at Jesus—look at how powerful, loving and amazing he is! It is God’s strength that is made perfect in our weakness. I don’t know what I would do without him. That is our story.

Let’s look at a story about an encounter that Paul, Silas, Timothy and Luke had on one of their missionary journeys that took them to the Roman Colony called Philippi. One of their customs was to find a synagogue in which to worship on the Sabbath. They discovered that Philippi had no synagogue which meant that there were not enough Jewish men to organize a synagogue. It required ten men. They must have been told that there was a group of women who gathered at the river to worship on the Sabbath. Some of them may have been Jewish women married to Roman citizens. Some of them may have been Gentile women who had come to believe in God. This was the Sabbath gathering place just for women who believed in God. Let’s see what happens at the river!

 

13 On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. 14 One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. 15 When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us. Acts 16:13-15

What can we learn from this story about sharing our faith with our family? The answer to this question revolves around the woman named Lydia. Only women were at the prayer gathering. We do not know if Lydia was a single mom, married or a widow—a husband is not mentioned. What we do know is that she brought her household with her to worship. Most likely this included her children and perhaps some business associates who worked with her in her purple fabric business. She brought them with her to worship. This is a recurring theme throughout the Bible that one of the most effective ways we can share our faith with our families is by taking them with us to worship. By worshipping together with our family we are conveying the priority of God in our lives. If there is a debate in your house every Sunday morning, “Should we go to church or not today? It has been a busy weekend; we’re tired; let’s just stay home.” We are communicating by example that all the busy stuff of the weekend is more important than God! Leading by example means we get up and go to church, no debate—this is what we do as a family because our relationship with God is our top priority. I’m so glad we encourage families to worship together—connecting generations with Jesus. Whether your children seem to get anything out of it is not the point. They are learning by your example that the Worship of God is important to you. Values are more caught than taught. What is truly important to you becomes a part of your children’s DNA. Lydia came to worship with her household—they knew this was her priority. What does your attendance at worship and Sunday school or small group communicate to your family about the importance of God in your life?

We also communicate our faith to our families by the way we live our lives every day—between Sundays. When Moses was preparing the Israelites to enter the Promised Land, he said to them:

“These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”

Deuteronomy 6:6-7

 

Put God’s word into your own heart. Make your relationship with God a priority throughout the week. Then as you go about your daily routine look for opportunities to include God in your conversations with family in a natural way. If you put God at the center of your life each day—he is going to leak out!! As you talk with him about how to handle this situation at work or school, he becomes the center. As you lift up silent prayers of gratitude throughout the day, that will leak out. Let your family see you reading the Bible and praying. Don’t make a show out of it but don’t do it in hiding either. Some people have their quiet time at their office or after the kids have gone to bed. Children may never know that you read the Bible or pray! Moses said: “Talk to your children when you rise and when you lie down.” Tuck in prayers of thanks are a wonderful time to pray with our children and grandchildren.

Look for times to share what you are reading about in the Bible. Weave it into dinner conversations or when riding in the car. “When I was praying for you this morning, I was just overwhelmed with gratitude that you are my son or daughter.” “I was praying for your friend that is sick, how is he doing? Let’s pray for your teacher right now.” Share something that you are reading in the Bible: “Today I read in the Bible where Jesus said, that if we do something to the least of these, we are doing it unto Him.” Then ask questions, “Whom do you think He was talking about when He said ‘the least of these?’ What is something we could do as a family to help those in need?”

Look for things that are happening around you or that you are hearing on TV and connect those with God. Let’s pray for the people in Paris. Driving by an accident or hearing a siren, pray for the people who are in an emergency situation and pray for the first responders. Just a quick prayer: “Be with those persons in crisis right now. And protect the fire fighters and policemen as they rush to help.” This makes God a natural part of our conversations and of life. Some people think that the only way to talk about God at home is to have family devotionals. Those are wonderful experiences and there are materials out there for families with children of different ages. What I’m encouraging you to do is look for ways to include God in daily life—in what’s happening right now. Put God on your heart and let him leak out all over your family—in a natural, loving way. Don’t preach or whine. Just share how God is meeting you in your everyday life in the midst of the joys and struggles.

After Lydia was baptized with her household, she invited Paul and his companions to come to her house. Knowing Paul, I’m sure her children got to hear his story of his Damascus Road conversion experience. I’m sure they heard stories of how God’s angel rescued him from prison. Another way to help our families grow spiritually is to bring them in contact with people of faith and let them hear their stories. Invite some of the senior citizens of church to go to lunch with you some Sunday after church and share their story about how they have experienced God in their lives.

Another powerful way to share your faith with your family is that time when a teachable moment occurs. Pay attention to questions about God, Jesus and the Bible. If you know the answer, spend some time talking about their question and how and when you learned the answer. Who helped you learn about God? If you don’t know the answer, say so and say let’s find out. Can we search the internet? Who can we ask? One Sunday after church, a lady and her young son waited patiently for me to finish a conversation with someone. Then the lady said, “My son has a question I could not answer.” I bent down and asked the boy what was his question. He asked, “Where did God come from?” I responded, “That is a great question and one that is hard for us to understand. God is the only one who has no beginning and no end. He has always been and always will be. He is the one who made everything, but no one made him. That is what makes him God. Does that help?” He politely responded, “Yes” and then walked off. The answer may not have satisfied him, but at least he knew how amazing I thought God was. Teachable spiritual moments—seize them and don’t let them slip away. Pray for God to thump you on the head and say “Pay attention to this question. This is a teachable moment. Enjoy.”

The Jewish people were masters at weaving God into their daily lives and conversations. But they also had some rituals that provided special teaching opportunities. Several years ago, we were invited by some of our Jewish friends to experience a Passover Meal in their home. As the dinner began, the youngest child surveys the strange food on the table asks a question that has been passed on for centuries at the Passover Meal: “Why is this night different from all others?” Then from a book throughout the meal, we heard the stories of what God had done among his people. How he delivered them from slavery in Egypt and gave them the Promised Land. When we left the dinner that night, Margaret and I said, “I wish we had something comparable to that in the Christian Faith.” Special holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter provide an opportunity for us to remember the stories of our Christian Faith. To find a way at the family meals and gatherings to each share, “What is one thing I want to thank God for today?” What is my favorite Christmas Story from the Bible and why? Why do we celebrate Easter? What is the meaning of the symbols? We make our own traditions that connect the holiday with God. They can become traditions that will be passed down for generations.

Live out loud. Live your faith and talk about your faith. Share your story of what God is doing in your life. Look at your bulletin insert this morning. Several opportunities to share your story and learn more about how to share your faith. You can record a DVD with your story of faith—captured to share with your family for generations to come. Our media ministry will help you with that. Or you can use an app and share your story in an interview format with another family member via Story Corp . These recordings are available on the web and stored at the Library of Congress—your story will become a part of American History!

Also listed are two group studies that will begin after the holidays. One is on how to share your faith with anyone—it is called “Just Walk Across the Room.” Another is specifically about how to share your faith with children called “Faith Begins at Home.”

I hope you will take a step to share your story and learn how to more effectively share you faith. What will you do this week to Live Your Faith Out loud? One of the things you can do is take some of the invitation cards to our Advent worship services and invite someone to worship with us!