Let’s Give Thanks For My Family
1 Peter 4:1

?8 days ago, on Saturday, we were sitting on the couch in our new home taking a break from moving and watching a football game. We were enjoying ourselves amongst all the clutter when this commercial flashed across the TV. (This was a Kmart Christmas Commercial, but any Christmas commercial will do.)  

At first I tried to ignore the TV, but when she said Christmas I looked at my watch. On October 24th,  a whole week before Halloween, and we are already talking about Christmas. I understand that for many folks Christmas is big business, and there are some stores that rely on Christmas to keep them open for the rest of the year. But I wonder if 9 weeks out is a bit far, after all there are a few things that we need to do before we get to Christmas. This morning we are in the afterglow of the great sugar rush we call Halloween and in 4 weeks we will have the opportunity to gather with friends and family and count our blessings.    

It’s not that I am anti Christmas, my mom has a whole room in her house where she has her Christmas decorations up year round. I like Christmas, and most of the things we associate with Christmas. But Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Not because of the Turkey, and Cranberry Sauce, even thought that is a great part of the tradition. The reason that I love this time of the year so much is that Thanksgiving is one of the few Holiday’s that have not succumbed to commercialism.  Sure it is a big time of the year for Butterball, but how do you commercialize a holiday that is centered on being thankful.  

We get hit with costumes and candy for Halloween, and then Christmas takes everything else, But Thanksgiving is a holiday when we are given time to reflect and be grateful. I want to spend our time together for the next few weeks getting ready for a time of thankfulness, family, and reflection by talking about some things that we all have to be thankful for. Today I want us to start with our need to be thankful for our families.

Every one of us has experienced joyful and painful times with our families. Your family is not unique in the fact that it has had its share of high points and its low points. God’s intention was that your family was to be a place of love, safety, encouragement, and acceptance. Before we get too far into our topic this morning I want to acknowledge that is not always the case. I wish that all of our families lived up to God’s intention. But the truth is that my personal life doesn’t always live up to God’s intention. If your family was a place of pain, I am sorry, and I want you to understand that was never God’s intention. I pray that you will have the strength to make a better family and home for yourself. I pray that you will be able to provide a place that will cause others to be thankful.

God designed your family to be a blessing to His kingdom, and to love the people He loves. One of the greatest reasons we have to be thankful is because of what our family can become, in spite of it’s failures. God had a purpose and a plan for families, even your family. Families are important to Him, they are a part of His design for the world, family is a place where principles are hammered and honed on the anvil of everyday living.

God designed the family to be the place where character is taught. It is where we learn that we are loved and cared for. It was designed to teach you that you have worth and have something to contribute. It should be where we learn that we can be forgiven when we have failed. It is where parents can model for their children what God is like and how He relates to us. It is where children learn obedience so that they will understand what it means to obey God.

Home is designed to be the place where we learn who God is and learn to love Him. Home is where we learn how to live with other people and take them into consideration. All of this is God’s intent and design. And when our families are acting like God intended then we can find an abundance of things to be thankful for.  

Chuck Colson writes: “the family is. . . the first school of human instruction. Parents take small, self-centered monsters, who spend much of their time screaming defiantly and hurling peas on the carpet, and teach them to share, to wait their turn, to respect others’ property. These lessons translate into respect for others, self-restraint, obedience to law, in short, into the virtues of individual character that are vital to a society’s survival.” 

In essence we need to be thankful because our homes act as our first and greatest school for life. It is in the family that we find out how to be successful in this life. That’s why God created families, but the ones you were born into and the ones you were added to. Let’s look at a couple of the reasons that you can find to be thankful about your birth family and this family.

We can be thankful for our families because The family is where we learn about healing.

When we have been wounded by the world, the home should be a place of retreat. When we have been beat up by the world, the home should be a place where we are built up. Adults and children alike need someone who will believe in them when no one else does. They don’t need to be called names at home after they have been called names in the street. They don’t need to be yelled at after being yelled at in school. When we have been wounded at work the home is where our wounds are mended and our hurts are healed. We need to learn how to restore each other and restore our relationships. ??This is how God wants our families to operate. We continue to believe in the people in our home and pull them in rather than push them away. We heal each other rather than hurt. We look for the good in spite of past performance. Home is the place where we are supposed to find true love.

The Bible says, “Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, never haughty or selfish or rude. Love does not demand its own way. It is not irritable or touchy. It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong. It is never glad about injustice, but rejoices whenever truth wins out. If you love someone, you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.

Does that sound like what happens in your family? Your home is supposed to be a place where you can be loved, and where people are patient and compassionate with you. God designed your family to be forgiving and loyal. That is your responsibility to your family, and it is up to you to make sure that your family is a place of thanksgiving. ??The story is told that in 1502 a large block of marble was donated to a church in Santa Maria, Italy. The church hired a sculptor whom they assumed was experienced in working with marble. However, the man was not as capable as he claimed to be, and soon after beginning, he had ruined the magnificent piece of stone. For a long time the church draped a large sheet over it not knowing what else to do. But when Michelangelo heard what had happened he went to examine it. After some time, he began to work on the marble and found its grain to be beautiful. As he began to sculpt what was once thought to be ruined became one of the great art pieces of all time, the statue of David.

Our communities are filled with people that appear to be a ruined mess, a lost cause. They have made life-altering mistakes. They are broken. But God has given us families that we might be healed and restored to life. And that’s a reason to be thankful. ?
The second reason we can be thankful for our families is because The family is where we learn about our worth.

We understand that we have value and worth to God through the way we were valued in our families. We love our children, not because they make us proud, but because they are our children and no one can take their place in our lives. They don’t have to accomplish great things to be appreciated. We are not accepted because of our performance, but because we are members of the family. Our acceptance is not based on how beautiful we are, how intelligent, how strong or how successful we are but because of the blood that rune through our veins.

In this church family your acceptance is based on the fact that you accepted by God and that you are important to Him. You do not have to earn your way into the family, you are an integral part of it. We do not want to give the message to anyone in our family: “I will love you if. . .” or “I will love you when. . .” God’s love is not conditional. We are not here to manipulate others, but to restore them. ?
That being said we have to watch what we say to one other. The names we call each other can affect our whole outlook on life, and children are especially vulnerable to this. The way they think about themselves all through life can be affected by a word or a name which they have been called. This is inexcusable behavior for a child of God.  Our words can hurt or they can heal.

As a Child of God you are called to the restoration business. We are to bless each other with our words. Galatians 5:15 says, “If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other”. We need to look for ways that we can encourage, compliment and build each other up rather than tear each other down.

Sometimes the way that we teach people about their worth is by reminding them what they were created for. Sometimes that gentle reminder causes conflict that is a part of the healing process. Sometimes we have to care enough to confront. After all love isn’t letting people do whatever they want. That's cowardice or apathy. Love cares enough to tell the truth. A problem can never be healed if it is never confronted.

Many families deal with conflict by pretending it does not exist. They sweep it under the carpet and live in denial rather than experience the pain of facing the truth and working through the problems. Many families become dysfunctional because they are living with unresolved conflicts and refuse to face them. I find it difficult to believe that God is happy when we enable someone in their destructive behavior. In his letter to the church in Galatia Paul also reminds them that the entire law is fulfilled in one statement: Love your neighbor as yourself. All of our interactions should be in the spirit of love. ?
It is so easy to retaliate and take revenge. When we are hurt we are tempted to hurt back. But someone has to break the cycle. Someone has to say, “I will not live like this any longer. I will be the one to make the change, even though I may feel the other person is more at fault than I am.” How else can we take the words of Jesus to heart when he said, “Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” Luke 6:28.

Every family has its own set of dysfunctions, whether that is in the immediate family or the extended family. We don’t want to continue those dysfunctions, we want to stop them and even reverse them. We say “This far and no further. We will not allow the sins and sickness of past generations affect our family and home. There will be no abuse of any kind here, physical, sexual or verbal. There will be no name calling here. There will be no unfaithfulness. No abuse of alcohol or drugs. Others in our extended family decided not to work, but we will work so that the needs of our family are provided for.”

At some point the patterns of past generations have to be broken. Determine that your family will be the one. Determine that your family will bless each other and give worth to each other. Your family will be the beginning of a Godly line, the beginning of a new generation that will produce healthy and productive people who will be a blessing to future generations. A Family that gives worth is a blessing to be thankful for. ?
Finally this morning I want to remind you that The family is where we learn about service.

Our homes should be where we learn how to live unselfishly. From the earliest years where we teach our children how to share, to adulthood where we learn to share the responsibilities and work in the home. We learn how to think of the needs of others. We put others first. We go out of our way to serve, even when it is inconvenient or uncomfortable. 1 Peter 4:1 says, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms”.

We become imitators of God and participate in His character as we administer His grace. We lose our lives in order to gain our lives. We lose ourselves in serving others, putting their needs before our own. When this is not present, chaos ensues. Dysfunction in the family, or on a personal level, comes when we put ourselves first. Paul wrote: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves” Philippians 2:3.

Back in 1963 there was a movie starring Marlon Brando called “The Ugly American”. It was a fictional story, but it dealt with the very real perception of Americans overseas. We were seen by many as “Ugly Americans”. A quick google search had more than one article that said that many of the people in other countries view American tourists and American businesspeople as being loud, arrogant, demanding, thoughtless, ignorant, and intolerant of people who weren’t like them.

That’s what the world thinks about us. Too often many Americans who traveled and lived overseas behaved badly. They thought of themselves as a privileged people. They saw themselves as members of one of the most powerful nations on earth. They saw themselves as part of a country that had gotten it RIGHT militarily, industrially/and culturally.  Basically they saw themselves as the best people on earth. They had it “all together and everybody else came in 2nd.

Unfortunately that’s not just am American problem, that’s also a church problem. Our culture is that we got it right, understood it right, believed it right and everyone else is wrong. That has left us feeling  a bit superior. It’s difficult to serve the least of these from this ivory tower. That’s a far cry from Paul’s teaching to humbly consider others better than ourselves.  

Our families need to be a place where we can find hope and healing. We live in a rough world, a place where selfishness and inconsiderateness rules the day. We are surrounded by folks that are longing for a little hope and healing, your family, this family, must be that place.    

Our families, this family needs to be a place where we understand the value and worth of everyone created in the image of God. Not the the ones that we like, or can use. But everyone have value and worth.

Our families must be a place where we learn to not only love God, but to love the people He loves. To practice acts of service and compassion. When we can do this, then we will finally have it right, and that is something to be thankful for.

Offer a prayer of thanksgiving for our families.

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