What’s More Important, Family or Church?

We need to order our priorities with intention and do what matters most

What’s More Important, Family or Church?Whether we realize it or not, we form priorities to order our lives. For most of my adult existence my number one priority has been God. Though I held this out as my ideal, sometimes, perhaps too often, my actions didn’t live up to this principle, but I did strive to reach it.

Many years ago, I mistakenly included church in the box that should have been reserved for God. As such, I elevated the importance of church to the level of God, effectively making church activity my highest priority. During that season of my life, whenever the church doors were open, I was there. In addition to attending twice on Sunday, I also served on committees and helped pretty much wherever and whenever someone asked. As a result I spent two, three, and sometimes even four evenings a week at church fulfilling various roles, commitments, and needs.

When I was busy at church doing these things, my young family was at home—functioning without me. I had mistaken the elevated church activity above family life. I have long since moved past that church, but my family is still here. They are my priority over church—any church.

If I ever need to choose between church and family, I now choose family.

As far as church activity, aside from the Sunday service, I limit myself to no more than one other commitment—if that. This helps me keep my actions aligned with my priorities.

Yes, God is still the number one priority in my life. But now family comes in second. And they have for a long time, too. Church, however, is further down my list.

God is number one, as he should be. Family comes second. After that is work, writing, and friends. I suppose church activity comes in next. That makes church number six on my priority list. And I think that’s the right place for it to be.Be intentional, and make a thoughtful determination about what your priorities should be. Click To Tweet

I can’t undo the mistake I made a couple decades ago when I placed church over my family, but I can make sure not to repeat that error again. Not with my wife, not with our children, and not with our grandchildren.

Just because this is how I order my life, doesn’t mean that’s how you need to prioritize yours. But I do encourage you to be intentional, and make a thoughtful determination about what your priorities should be. The next step is to make your actions align with your ideals.

Where Have the Good Men Gone?

Christian men flounder when they lack godly, masculine examples to follow

I recently blogged about a felt need I have for a spiritual role model. Although I presently lack one, I have had them in the past. Almost all have been female. That’s not a complaint just an observation. I’m thankful for these women who have guided me and inspired me, setting an example in how to live as Jesus in today’s society. But where are the guys?

Where Have the Good Men Gone?Christian men fall into two extremes. On one end we have the over-the-top adventurer, the adrenaline junkies, delayed adolescence, machismo to the max, men who act like boys, and the fast and furious. We see this manifest in the size, speed, power, and cost of their toys, an unhealthy preoccupation with sports, and their man caves. This is not God-honoring masculinity as he created men to be. This is irresponsibility and selfishness. And society has made them this way.

On the other side we see emasculated males. This is graphic but true. They are passive in most all things, especially when it comes to spirituality and family. They fear reproach, persist in political correctness, and are quiet when they should speak out. They put on false smiles when their insides are dying. They dare not talk about their struggles, their worries, and their pains. These men yearn for a respect that eludes them – because their actions don’t deserve it. And the church has made them this way.

So here I am, stuck in the middle, avoiding the first extreme while striving not to get sucked into the second. If only I had someone to show me the way.

I have no solutions to share, but I do have a call to action.

Men: I urge you to avoid both extremes, to seek this middle ground of balancing the world’s macho view with the church’s impotent alternative in order to find a biblical, godly center of maleness.

Women: Encourage the men in your life to pursue what God is calling them to become. Then don’t interfere. Though nagging and manipulation are an understandable response to inaction, these tactics won’t help and will only worsen the situation. Be part of the solution.

Together we can figure this out. The world needs us to.How can the church raise up real, godly men? Click To Tweet

How can the church raise up real, godly men? What is the first step to take?

[This is from Peter DeHaan‘s January newsletter, “Spiritually Speaking.” Do you want to receive his complete newsletter each month?]

What Does an Eye for an Eye Really Mean?

In one of the Bible’s more horrific stories, Jacob’s daughter, Dinah, is taken by force and raped by the outsider, Shechem. When Jacob hears of this he does nothing, perhaps because all his boys are in the fields tending their livestock.

Then, despite his barbaric act, Shechem decides he loves Dinah and wants to marry her. He demands his father bring this about. The two dads talk about a wedding.

What Does an Eye for an Eye Really Mean?Dinah’s brothers are furious when they hear what Shechem did to their sister. They pretend to go along with the marriage talks but insist the men in Shechem’s village all be circumcised first. As the men recover from this painful procedure, Simeon and Levi, two of Dinah’s brothers, massacre the city, killing every man there to avenge their sister’s mistreatment.

Though they are right in responding to Dinah’s defilement, they overreact. While the rape of one girl is terrible, wiping out an entire town is a disproportionate punishment; it is excessive.

This is the type of thing Moses seeks to stop when he says an “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” (Leviticus 24:19-20). In this Moses does not give permission to seek revenge. Instead he seeks to curtail excessive retaliation, a response unequal to the crime. An “eye for eye” is a command of moderation not the authorization to pursue vengeance.

Jesus later takes this principle one step further. He says “do not resist an evil person” and then go the extra mile (Matthew 5:38-42). This is even more countercultural than Moses’s original “eye for eye” command to make the punishment fit the crime.

May we learn from Moses’s words and follow Jesus’s.

What do you think of Moses’s “eye for eye” command? What about Jesus’s instruction to go the extra mile? What do you think of Moses’s command to take an eye for eye? Click To Tweet

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Genesis 33-35, and today’s post is on Genesis 34.]

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Life’s an Adventure; Don’t Miss It

For the past four months my wife and I have been living with our kids while we are between houses. In the summer we stowed most of our belongings in a couple of storage pods and loaded the remaining essentials onto a moving van. As we considered what we would need and what we could do without; practicality took precedence. Most things were Life’s an Adventure; Don’t Miss Itdeemed nonessential, which is a lesson in itself.

A prime consideration was clothes: summer clothes, fall clothes, and winter clothes. Though half of my clothes are in storage, I’ve mostly forgotten about them and don’t miss what I can’t access. I also kept out what we needed for work, but not much else. I estimate about 95% of our belongings are presently stashed in some climate controlled warehouse.

When making this transition, my initial impulse was to seek to subsist during this season of in between. But even though this is a temporary situation, I can’t put life on hold just because I lack a permanent place to live.

Sharing a house with another couple (and their three pets) required some adjustments; not having all our stuff resulted in some sacrifices. But those were minor. Things are working out great, even better than we could have hoped.

As we wind down this phase in our lives, I look forward to being in our own house. I also know I’ll miss living with family. Life today is good; life tomorrow will be good, too.

I’ve seen people so focused on what was ahead, that they dismissed the present. I’ve also seen people so living for today, that they disregarded tomorrow.

I think many Christians also make one of these two errors: so focused on a future in heaven that they miss living on earth now or so fixated on life today that they forget eternity is ahead.

We are wise to do both.

[This is from the November 2014 issue of Peter DeHaan‘s newsletter. Sign up to receive the complete newsletter each month via email.]

Women in the Bible: Hannah

Hannah longs to have children but is childless. Adding to her misery, she’s harassed by everyone around her. Though, she is her husband’s (Elkanah) favorite wife he dismisses her infertility and fails to protect her from verbal assaults from his other wife, Peninnah, who endlessly torments her. Then, when she prays in earnest, Eli, the priest, accuses her of being drunk. Hannah’s life is in constant turmoil.

At her breaking point, Hannah cries out to God. She begs him for a son. In return, she promises to give him to God for a lifetime of service.

Unlike everyone else, God understands Hannah. He answers her plea, giving her a son, Samuel, just as she requested. She responds by singing to God: celebrating his power, the elevation of the oppressed, and the abasement of those overly confident. A few lines of her ode may be digs at Peninnah, her chief tormentor.

After Samuel is weaned, Hannah presents him to Eli for a lifetime of service to God, just as she promised. Each year when Hannah and her family make their pilgrimage to the temple, she sees young Samuel and gives him a new robe.

God then blesses Hannah with five more children.

[Read about Hannah in 1 Samuel 1-2.]

[Discover more about the Bible at A Bible A Day.com: Bible FAQs, Bible Dictionary, Books of the Bible Overview, and Bible Reading Plans.]

Women in the Bible: Ruth

Ruth is a widow and foreigner who remains faithful to her mother-in-law, Naomi. Ruth leaves her family to follow Naomi to Israel. The reason for Ruth’s loyalty to her mother-in-law is a mystery, since Naomi is a bitter woman at this time. However, Ruth also expresses a devotion to God.

When they return, Ruth goes out to glean grain, at great physical risk, so she and Naomi will have some food. Ruth finds favor with Boaz, who knows of her fine reputation.

Naomi sets about to find another husband for Ruth, targeting Boaz and developing a strategy to bring that about. The result is capturing Boaz’s attention. He sets out to make Ruth his wife, deftly dealing with another possible suitor.

Boaz and Ruth marry. Ruth has her first child, Obed. Obed is the father of Jesse, the father of David. That makes Ruth, the great grandmother of King David and a direct ancestor of Jesus.

Ruth’s loyalty to her mother-in-law and to God is rewarded. Ruth marries again, is saved from poverty, and has a son. She is later honored by Matthew who includes Ruth in the family tree of Jesus, one of only four women mentioned.

[Read about Ruth in the book of the Bible bearing her name.]

[Discover more about the Bible at A Bible A Day.com: Bible FAQs, Bible Dictionary, Books of the Bible Overview, and Bible Reading Plans.]

 

Women in the Bible: Rahab

Rahab is a prostitute who two spies stay with when they scope out Jericho. We don’t know if they seek her for her services or merely want to get out of public view.

When the king of Jericho commands Rahab to turn the men over to him, she commits treason. She hides the men and lies to the king that they already left, but she doesn’t know where they went.

Rahab knows God favors Israel and will give the city to them. So in exchange for her protecting the spies, she asks for the safety of her family when they raze the city. In her list of who’s included as family, she mentions parents and siblings, but not a husband or any children. After securing their promise of protection, she helps the spies escape.

Later, Joshua confirms Rahab and her family will be spared, while the rest of the city will be destroyed. She then lives with the Israelites.

In the New Testament, Matthew reveals Rahab is one of Jesus’ direct ancestors and the great-great grandmother of King David. She is honored as only one of four women mentioned in Jesus’ family tree. Further, the book of Hebrews affirms Rahab as a person of faith, one of only two women included in its impressive list. Finally, James confirms Rahab is righteous because of her actions in hiding and protecting the two spies.

While our reaction may be to judge Rahab for her profession, God sees her differently, as a righteous woman of faith, rewarding her accordingly.

[The story of Rahab is in Joshua 2 and Joshua 6; she is affirmed three times in the New Testament.]

[Discover more about the Bible at A Bible A Day.com: Bible FAQs, Bible Dictionary, Books of the Bible Overview, and Bible Reading Plans.]

 

Women in the Bible: Tamar

Tamar’s a victim who takes extreme action to vindicate herself. She’s the daughter-in-law of Judah, suffers at his hand, responds with guile, has twins with him, and is one of four women mentioned in Jesus’ family tree. Talk about a messed-up situation. Here’s her story:

Tamar marries Judah’s oldest son. He’s evil and dies. She’s passed on to his brother to produce offspring in his stead. The brother doesn’t cooperate, and God kills him. Judah promises Tamar his third son when he’s old enough and sends her back to live with her parents to wait. He has no intention of following through. He lies to her.

Once she realizes this, she dresses like a hooker, and waits where she knows Judah will be. Not knowing who she is, he sleeps with her, and she gets pregnant. He uses her.

When Judah finds out his daughter-in-law is pregnant, he condemns her to die.

Then she reveals who the father is. Judah confesses his role, and he professes Tamar as righteous. They, along with their son Perez, are part of Jesus’ genealogy.

Tamar’s drastic steps ensure she will have a family and be cared for; God ensures she has a legacy.

The story of Tamar is in Genesis 38 and concludes in Matthew 1:3. She’s also celebrated when the elders bless Ruth in Ruth 4:12.

[There is another Tamar, sister of Absalom, written about in 2 Samuel 13.]

[Discover more about the Bible at A Bible A Day.com: Bible FAQs, Bible Dictionary, Books of the Bible Overview, and Bible Reading Plans.]

Women in the Bible: Dinah

Dinah, the daughter of Jacob and Leah, is the central character of Genesis 34. Though we know what happened to her and because of her, we know nothing about what she said, did, or thought.

Her story begins tragically. She is raped by Shechem. Yet after his act of lust, he falls in love with her, offering to give whatever dowry is asked.

Jacob doesn’t respond to his daughter’s rape. Is he passive, afraid, or wise as he waits for his sons to return? Dinah’s brothers are outraged when they hear the news and immediately come home.

While their father fails to act, Simeon and Levi, two of Dinah’s full brothers, do. They kill Shechem and all the men in his village; then they rescue her from Shechem’s house. Later, her other brothers plunder the town.

Although Jacob criticizes Simeon and Levi for their excessive reaction and the subsequent risk to the entire family (should neighboring towns take revenge), Dinah’s brothers felt duty bound to avenge their sister’s rape, despite the risk of retaliation or harm.

After her rescue, nothing more is said about Dinah. The end to her story is for us to wonder.

[Discover more about the Bible at A Bible A Day.com: Bible FAQs, Bible Dictionary, Books of the Bible Overview, and Bible Reading Plans.]

Reflecting on Church #3: Pain is Real; Handle it Honestly

With our journey of visiting fifty-two churches over, I can reflect more on the complete experience. Today, I’ll add to my thoughts about Church #3.

This church set a fine example in how they confronted tragedy in an honest way. I’m encouraged to see the church function as a church should, grieving together and supporting each other. In the days after our visit, I prayed for this congregation, their pastor, and the family in the midst of heartbreak.

On a personal level, I wanted to return to experience a normal service, but after a while, I realized this wasn’t necessary. I’d already seen them for who they are, not from a typical Sunday but from a remarkable one. Their character emerged out of calamity, shining as a bright beacon of hope, pointing us to God.

My memories of this church are bittersweet and the lesson they modeled is profound. More churches need to deal with pain in a forthright manner, not glossing over it, ignoring it, or wallowing in it, but by being real.

[See my reflections about Church #1, Church #2, or Church #4.]