The Family of God (Romans 8:15)

Romans 8 15

I love the graphic for the verse today. It shows a new branch being added to the tree. That’s how it is when we are adopted into God’s family. He doesn’t start a new tree for each of us; he doesn’t just add a new leaf or two; he adds a new branch. When we believe in Jesus, God adds us into the family tree as full sons and daughters, not afterthoughts or slaves.

Slaves serve at the pleasure of their masters and don’t share in any inheritance. They don’t really have a voice and are subject to harshness and dominance by their owners. Sons and daughters, on the other hand, do share in the inheritance, do have a voice, and are loved and cared for by their father and mother. It is this second relationship that we have with God through Jesus.

When we believe in Jesus, the Holy Spirit fills us and God adopts us as his sons and daughters. In that adoption we are made co-heirs with Christ, given the full joys of being God’s children. Within that relationship, we can call out “Abba! Father!” an intimate word similar to “daddy,” but connoting more intimacy and closeness. It was an Aramaic term that only children were allowed to use with their fathers. It is special. We are honored to be able to call out “Abba!” to God.

As children of God, we are therefore protected by God in all things. Bad things will still happen to us, as we live in a world overrun with sin, but God has us in his arms. We are a member of God’s family and with that understanding we should not be fearful. God watches out for his family just as we watch out for our own families.

God cares for us and loves us more than we love our own children and parents. As a parent, it’s hard to imagine that anyone would love my children more than I do, but the reality is that God does! If God loves us so much, then why should we fear? Why waste energy focusing on fear when we can instead call out to our heavenly Father who fills us with his Spirit, a Spirit of courage and love?

Be in the Moment

A couple weekends ago I got to take my son to his first home Seattle Seahawks game. (Go Hawks!) It was a playoff game against the Detroit Lions, which we won handily. It was a great birthday present for me! He had never been to a home game, and it was always something I looked forward to sharing with him.

We got to the stadium hours early to participate in the early events provided for fans, and it was a great time together.

The joy we shared together that day is something that I’ll always treasure. I felt like it was sort of a rite of passage for him, being a Seahawks fan living in Kansas, getting to go on this incredible trip. And it got me thinking about other rites of passage that will come down the line.

Logan is 10 years old now, and sooner than I’m ready for he will be going to middle school, learning how to drive, graduating high school, going to college, and starting his life outside our home. As I think about those things, I’m flooded with emotion. I’m excited for him to be able to do all these things that have the potential for such joy, though I’m not looking forward to losing what we have now. But for anything to grow, there has to be change, and part of that change is loss. That’s the part of change we don’t like, but it is inevitable.

I will always cherish the time we have now, even in those moments that are not so picturesque. I’m committed to living in the moment, not looking too far ahead or behind, but really being there with him, my daughter, my wife, my friends, and my family. Learning to just “be” has not been easy for me. My mind often wants to race on ahead, but I’m reminded to enjoy the present and not be so easily distracted by what could have been or what could be.

I’m only going to have one chance to be there for my kids. I’m only going to have one short season of life to play hide-and-seek, Barbies, Madden, and catch. I will only get to coach my kids’ soccer teams for so long. It will be only a matter of time until I won’t be asked to brush my daughter’s hair, tuck them in at night, or tell them bedtime stories. But I can’t think too much about those future losses, because if I do, I’ll miss today. And today is something I cannot get back tomorrow.

What’s in a name? A pastor’s look at hate speech, name-calling, and Donald Trump

Lori.

Logan.

Kamryn.

These three names are not mere letters combined into words on a page. These names are the names of my family – my wife and kids. Each name represents something to me – and your feelings will be different depending on whether you know us or not, or whether you know someone with one of those names. For me, I hear the name Lori, and I immediately think of my beautiful, loving, patient bride of nearly 17 years. You say the name Logan, and I’m not thinking Wolverine, I’m thinking about my soccer-loving, Lego-building, boy genius. I hear Kamryn, and I’m not thinking about Kam Chancellor, the great safety of the Seattle Seahawks, I’m thinking about my amazingly gifted, sweet, caring, intelligent, compassionate daughter.

The name of a person matters.

Think of your closest friend or family member’s name. You don’t just think about how it sounds or how it looks on the page, you think about the person that name represents.

While we can all agree that names are important, and that names carry weight and power, we can tend to slip into the dangerous waters of name-calling in a negative way. In the heat of the moment, we call someone a name, determined to hurt them and win the conflict. We most often regret it later, because we realize that we have crossed the line and hurt someone we care about.

One of the basic rules of “fighting fair” in relationships is that you NEVER call someone a name. You focus on the actions and feelings, but you never stoop to name calling. That’s because it takes the conflict and makes it personal. It reframes the issue as a referendum on the individual instead of the actual issue that caused the conflict.

Think about the last time you were called a name. For me it brings up some pretty negative memories.

Yet if you look on your news feed on Facebook, you will see people name-calling up one side and down the other. You see people writing hurtful, hateful things that they may not have had the guts to say to someone’s face, yet on the anonymous (not really) internet, the gloves come off and hurtful and hateful speech prevails.

I’m frankly embarrassed by what some of my social media friends write, while proclaiming to love God and love others, as Jesus has called us. People disparage entire ethnicities without a shred of guilt. Whole people groups are mocked because of their relationship decisions. Hateful words are spoken about genders different from our own. Entire religions are blamed for the world’s problems. Memes are created mocking the left, the right, and the center. “Jokes” are said that are best left unspoken. And people are hurt, offended, and disparaged.

It. Has. To. Stop.

But it just keeps getting worse. One appalling example is Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Agree or disagree with his policies, you have to acknowledge that he says some pretty rude things. Check out this list of people he has publicly called a loser, dummy, or worse. His words and name-calling would not be acceptable under normal circumstances, yet he still has a good shot at becoming our representative to the world. Is that really how we want our president to talk about other world leaders, politicians who disagree with him, journalists who cover the White House, and general citizens who ask him questions?

Friends, particularly friends who claim to follow Jesus, we have to do better. We can’t say on Sundays that we love Jesus, and then on Monday claim that Hispanics are a burden on our economy. We can’t preach the gospel of love, and then show hatred and speak evil of Muslims. We are called by God to love all people – even, and perhaps most importantly, those who are different from us.

I encourage you to read over your personal posts for the last month, and see if you’ve fallen victim to the name calling and slander that I’m talking about. If you have, delete the post and write something positive instead. None of us is perfect, but we have to try to be better. We have to allow God to transform us into the image of his Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.

In Love,

Kevin