In a moment. I am going to ask you two questions that I want to hear your answers to. You do not have to answer if you do not wish to do so but I wanted you to be prepared.
For this first month of 2017, we are going to hear what the Bible says about how families and our church can empower kids and teens in a variety of ways including their faith in Christ to help them become productive and God honoring adults.
Which leads me to my two questions:
What do you want the most for your children and grandchildren?
Here is the second question:
What do our children and grandchildren need the most to live well and thrive?
For me, a personal relationship with Christ and the life which grows out of that relationship is what I want most for my two, and God willing, one day, their children. I believe that having this faith can and does help them to live well and thrive.
Our main text for this morning is one which partially quoted from time to time and often appears on plaques and other home décor as a favorite verse regarding family. It is Joshua 24:15:
The quoted part is “but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
But here is the entire verse from some different translations:
First the NIV
But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
Now the English Standard Version (ESV)
And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
Then the New American Standard Version
If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
Here is the Message
“If you decide that it’s a bad thing to worship God, then choose a god you’d rather serve—and do it today. Choose one of the gods your ancestors worshiped from the country beyond The River, or one of the gods of the Amorites, on whose land you’re now living. As for me and my family, we’ll worship God.”
Finally, the King James Version:
And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
Last Sunday, I said this in connection with an emphasis on focusing on one word for the year ahead:
We have moments when a single word, spoken or read, causes us to focus clearly on our lives – the commitments we make; the decisions which must be made; the values we live by… A single word is often the pivot… on which important choices and decisions turn in relation to our relationship with the Lord and the world.
I quoted our text as one illustration of how a single word makes a difference in our lives to illustrate these points. The word was and is choose.
Some context is very important here to understand why Joshua tells the people of Israel “choose you this day who you will serve.”
This verse is in the last chapter of the Old Testament book of Joshua and a major chapter in the history of ancient Israel is ending. In chapter 23 and verse 1 we read:
After a long time had passed and the Lord had given Israel rest from all their enemies around them, Joshua, by then a very old man, summoned all Israel…
Israel is at peace and about 70 years has passed since the dramatic departure from Egypt and Joshua is nearing the end of his life.
Now when we get to chapter 24, Joshua calls together the leadership of Israel
Then Joshua assembled all the tribes of Israel at Shechem. He summoned the elders, leaders, judges and officials of Israel, and they presented themselves before God.
Shechem is north of Jerusalem and is in a part of Israel where some important events took place in the early days of Old Testament life. What Joshua does here is challenge the people to renew their commitment to God. It is a renewing of the covenant with God.
Joshua lays down a very clear command that I think we can translate as follows:
Who or what is going to be your source of values to live by? We, my family and I, are picking our God, the God of Israel. Who are you going to pick?
One of the things that I noticed as I studied this passage in preparation for today is that ancient Israel was in a state of transition as was Joshua himself. A new chapter for Israel was starting to be written and Joshua, as we read through the rest of chapter 24 is facing the end of his life. His leadership is coming to an end.
Aren’t transitions a time when what we truly believe and valued is tested?
A sudden job loss occurs…
A serious medical issue occurs…
A death comes…
Children leave home and begin their adult life…
Retirement brings major changes…
And families are affected, directly and indirectly, by these changes and the transitions which come with them. What or who then do families follow and build their values and beliefs on which helps them to choose the right path and help the children make good decisions to become responsible and productive adults of faith?
As I reflected on what Joshua was calling the people of Israel to do the idea of an empowered family came to mind. And not only an empowered family but also a God honoring and God centered family. Let me suggest this morning that an Empowered Family Has a Set of Values they live by and which helps them navigate transitions and opportunities in life.
As I re-read the whole verse for the first time in a while, Joshua’s opening statement really caused me to stop for a moment…
if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you,
What a statement to make! Quite frankly it jarred me a bit that Joshua would make such a statement. But he knew the people of Israel and what they were capable of.
But it is a key question to ask at a key moment in the life of this nation and its people.
Who are you going to follow? Upon on what or who will your base your values?
What are your set of values in your family?
More important, upon who or what are your values based?
For Joshua and his household, his family, it was the Lord.
Now, you may be thinking this morning, “Pastor Jim, my kids are out the door and have been for a while, this doesn’t apply to me.”
I respectfully disagree.
Some here have grown grandchildren and even some grown great-grandchildren. You still have influence.
Plus, as the church, the family of God, influence is part of what we do and who we are here. We have some specific values and beliefs that we believe are vital for families and individuals to choose and believe in.
Think with me for a moment of the people who have been spiritual fathers and mothers to you over the years.
The question Joshua raised with the people of Israel is a question that is asked of each of us and our families today.
Who is going to be your god? Who or what is going to be your source of values? What or who are you going to worship?
The challenges to families, as we are very much aware, are numerous.
There are economic ones…
There are educational ones…
There are health issues…
But, in line with what Joshua says, I think that we need to consider the societal challenges and pressures on the family. Our culture has sent and continues to send a variety of conflicting messages about body, money, power, sex, personal choices and the like.
And one of the biggest pressures in my opinion that families face is the pressure to perform well, academically and athletically, and not just high school kids but elementary and middle school kids have to deal with. Futures are at stake… do this, do that, pursue this avenue, get a coach, get a website, have lots of accomplishments on your applications.
I think that if Joshua were here today he would be asking us the same question.
“People of God! Are you going to follow and serve the Lord our God or another god? What or who are your families going to serve and follow? We choose to keep serving and following the Lord!”
Let us pray to the Lord for inspiration and vision during this series so that as family members and members of this church we can do somethings to help families thrive in ways that honor God and bring stability to them.
Thanks be to God for the family we call the church!