Family Talk

I have an amazing friend named Jan, and she truly is one of the women I want to emulate in my life. She brilliantly shines Jesus and grace and beauty and love. Many of you reading this have been impacted by her and love her dearly.

She has this expression she uses often, and I love it. She’ll be sharing something, and right before she shares, she’ll say, “This is family talk.” When I hear it, I feel treasured. I know she considers me family. She trusts me. Also when I hear it, my spirit agrees with her. We are family. We share a purpose and a Father. We can rejoice together in the good and pray together in the hard because we give each other grace.

Family talk.

So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied. Acts 9:31

I was talking with Justin and another friend this week about the family of God. We certainly have our moments of frustration and division. We certainly have been through struggles together and sometimes there are hurts that need to be healed. But still we are family. We rejoice when God uses a member of our family to bring Him glory, wherever that may be. We pray when a member of our family is hurting. When someone from the outside of our family criticizes someone inside of our family, we can get a little defensive.

When I joined the family of God, it was at a large precious church that I still adore. Many many people became my family members at that place. I had father-figures and mother-figures and aunts and uncles and brothers and sisters all over the place. We saw God move there. We were used by God to do big things there. It was an amazing time.

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A few years later, that place went through some struggles. There was hurt. Many of us scattered all over the place during that time of transition. We were like baby birds pushed out of the safe warm nest. For a while there was some division and confusion and hurt. There were things we all needed to confess and forgive. We needed to let go of the former things (Isaiah 43:18). But if you look around that family, whether people left or stayed, wherever people landed, God continues to use us. He took us from ministering at one church to ministering at that church plus a dozen more. He was faithful. He did not give up on us. We healed. We grew. We were forgiven for our part in the struggle. We forgave others.

We are family – even across the miles and across the hurts. We don’t have to agree on everything because we agree on the important things. We can still rejoice in the good, we can still ache and pray in the difficulty, because we are family.

God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. I appeal to you, brothers,by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 1 Corinthians 1:9-10

We serve in an area with many churches. And it’s easy and human to compare and compete a little. It’s easy to focus on our differences and not on what unites us. But we are not called to live easy and human. We are called to be set apart. We are commanded to rejoice with each other and pray for each other. God is moving in many ways across the world, and every move He makes deserves to be celebrated by us all whether we have a part in it or not. Because we aren’t just an organization, we are parts of an organism. We are family, parts of the same body. We are joined together with Christ, and there is no room for division in this body.

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:1-6

I am just filled with gratitude today for my family. I want each of you to know I love you and thank my God for you – truly. You have welcomed me into your family, and you have welcomed my brave wonderful husband and my beautiful little girls. You have treated us with grace. You love us, and I am so grateful for you. I love the Lord more because I know you and because you have treated me with love. I am grateful.

Mercy is Alive.

A few weeks ago, my parents kept my kids and allowed me to go to Keystone Church‘s Communion Gathering.  I was tired that Sunday.  Worn out, actually.  I had been working much, traveling much, and patient with my girls and Justin little.  I felt small and broken.  And there was a song we sang that I didn’t know but one line washed over me:

Now’s the time for us to rise

and carry hope to hopeless eyes

and show this world that mercy is alive

Mercy is alive.  As I sang those words, I realized that is what draws me to Keystone, and indeed to any gathering of authentic Believers.  Mercy is alive.  Mercy is alive.  Mercy is alive.

That rang through my spirit like a bell – shaking the core of who I am.  Mercy is alive.

It started me thinking.  About how much in need of mercy I am.  About how I can show mercy to others.  About maybe that the point of this life for us Believers left here on earth with a heart for heaven is to show mercy to the others remaining around us who are hurting and lost.

It also made me think that maybe I don’t show the church enough mercy.  And by the church, I mean the total number of Believers on this planet – the Bride of Christ.  I have struggled with frustration with the church for a while.  I feel sometimes like the church is sleeping, only slightly less self-involved than the world we are sent to reach.  And on those days, mercy towards the church is hard to find in this heart of mine.

So the Lord sent me to Hosea.  It is so frustrating and yet so powerful a picture of mercy.  In a nutshell, the Lord is angry with Israel.  They are continuously unfaithful, continuously returning to their sin, yet He loves them.  So the Lord goes to a prophet named Hosea and commands him to marry a prostitute who the Lord knows will be unfaithful.  Hosea, in small measure, is going to live a life demonstrating how the Lord feels every time Israel is unfaithful.  Poor man – his home is about to be the most unfortunate word picture in history.  Hosea’s wife, Gomer, despite his love and patience and kindness, returns again and again to her sin.  And each time, Hosea invites her back.  Throughout the book you see, in poetic measure, this push/pull relationship between the Lord and Israel.  He is kind to Israel, and they draw close, and then over time they run back to sin, so He rejects them for a moment as they face the consequences of their actions, and then when they are lost and hopeless, He woos them back and they return to Him.  And it all starts again.

Sound familiar?  It does to me.  This rejection/relinquishment/wooing process has happened in my own life a thousand times.  But it also reminds me of my relationship with other broken sinful people.  We hurt each other, we turn away, we realize our need, we return to each other.  This is why our families are so messy. Even the best families struggle with this broken cycle.  We are sinful people living out the story of Hosea over and over in every relationship in our lives, demonstrating our collective need for mercy.

And since we make up the church – the church lives this out too.  The church will draw close to the Lord, then run back to sin, and the Lord will reject them for a moment and allow them to glimpse life without Him, and then He draws them back repentant.  This is why the church has sometimes been on the wrong side of cultural issues, for example slavery.  The church is not perfect – in fact, we are like a prostitute returning to her sin.  But we have a bridegroom who pursues us, woos us, urges us to return to Him.  He loves us with an everlasting love, despite our continuous inability to get it right.

We aren’t rejected, we are still His bride.  Why?  Because mercy is alive.  Do you get that it is personal?  That it isn’t a concept – it is a PERSON.  Mercy is ALIVE.  Jesus is ALIVE.  Jesus is mercy.

So, since we are ourselves playing the role of Gomer, living in a church full of Gomers, may we recognize the Gomers all around us, and show mercy.  Because when we show mercy, we show Jesus to a lost world.

  • The son who runs away time and time again – he is a Gomer.
  • The daughter who returns to drugs despite the perpetual destruction of her life  – she is a Gomer.
  • The stubborn atheist in a search for truth anywhere but the cross – Gomer.
  • The people who have made sinful decisions that have hurt your family – Gomers.
  • Me in my impatience with my children and my stubborn insistence on my rights and control – Gomer.

But all of us have a Hosea, our powerful Creator who loves us and knew the circumstances of today before a single day came into existence. Jesus is alive, Jesus is mercy, and He will not give up.  He loves us and pursues us.

So we should not give up.  On ourselves, on others.

Our job, as Believers, is to live in the mercy of our King and to show the world that mercy is alive.  The same mercy that right now allows us to breathe……..this……..breath………. He is alive.  He loves us all.

Thank you Jesus for your love and mercy on me – a Gomer of Gomers.  Please help me to show mercy – to show YOU – to a world around me today.