3:16 (Part Three: For God So Loved...Your Family)

John 3:16 KJV
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

I always enjoy talking about God’s love for us. It is comforting and empowering to know there is nothing I can do to make God love me any more or any less than He does right now. He has “lavished,” the Bible says, “lavished His love on us.” Wow!

Let me expand on this a little and tell you He loves your family as well.
I have noticed that we are most happy, most at ease, most satisfied with life, when our families are in harmony and well. There’s just nothing in life that compares to having a family in sync.

Of course, that’s not always how it is. Priorities get messed up. Life gets tough. It is way too easy to pull apart.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “I just don’t know how it happened. We were so happy, but over time things changed. Now, I don’t know what to do.”

It reminds me of the Old Testament story of Jacob and his family.
Jacob was quite the character. He was a deceiver and trickster in his youth. Deceiving his brother created much stress for him; but time, a wife, and a family began to shape him up and mature him somewhat.

Though Jacob had a knowledge of God and a heart for Him, his character was weak. He became enmeshed with the culture. His wife worshipped idols that she herself had stolen from her parents. Their children were away from God. Life had gotten complicated.

Values were clouded. Pressure from a God-less culture weighed in. Mistakes were made. The family was struggling. Sounds a bit familiar, doesn’t it?

He took his family to a place called Shechem. Jacob and Leah’s daughter, Dinah, went into town to visit with the girls there when she met up with the son of the town’s mayor; the son’s name happened to also be named Shechem. He violated Dinah. The Bible says she was defiled by Shechem, or raped by him. Jacob’s family was infuriated, so much so that Dinah’s two brothers, Simeon and Levi, went into town and killed every male they found.

This family was a mess. Broken. Sinful. Shamed. Dysfunctional.

So many are there. Never intended to be. Never wanted it to be. “Can’t believe it happened to me.” But, here we are. Hurting. Fragmented. A bit dysfunctional. Unfulfilled. And pretty much lost. If that describes your family – or if you’re headed there – or if you’d just like things to be better – let me tell you some good news.

Now, I take you to Genesis Chapter 35. I take you to a God who, no matter what, loves your family. In all of Jacob’s troubles, notice what God says in

Genesis 35:1 (MSG):
God spoke to Jacob: “Go back to Bethel. Stay there and build an altar to the God who revealed himself to you when you were running for your life from your brother Esau.”

Earlier in Jacob’s life, he was fleeing from his brother because he had deceived him and stolen from him. And in a dream, he encountered God in an incredible way. Read it for yourself in Genesis 28.
Jacob called that place, “Beth-el” which means “the house of God – the gate to heaven.” There he promised to follow God. There he promised to be grateful for God’s blessings and to tithe all that God would give him.
But my, how things had changed.

I tell you, this sounds like God is reading our mail today. I know this is getting personal. We’ve been blessed by God. Most of us have encountered Him at some time. And we made promises and commitments and vows to Him. And then…well, we got this job, you see. And the kids, you know they are so busy. I mean we have dance and gymnastics and soccer and football and basketball and cheer and baseball and there are these friends and church and… “And you know, things are changing. Times are different. God understands.”

And we run at that pace until something happens that gets our attention. It’s not always tragic. Sometimes we wake up and look at these people in our house and we hardly recognize them. They’ve grown up. They’ve changed. They don’t have time for you. They have lives of their own and often lifestyles now that scare you. And maybe at some point in all this you say, “Dear God, what happened?” And that feeling in the pit of your heart you get when realize the “Dear God” doesn’t even have much place in your life and family now.

So, what do you do?
In His un-limitless love, God says to Jacob and He says to us:
1. Go back to Beth-el.
Go back to your core. Go back to your heart. Return to the God you once knew and was once taught about.
God said, “Jacob, take your family to church!” Not just a building. Not just a Sunday service. Go back to God and His grace and power and glory.

Go back to where you left God. Go back to the Bible – principles and Godly values and commitment.

2. Get rid of your alien gods.
Jacob gathered his little broken family together and said, “I want you to realize these idols of ours – these things we’ve let come between us and the Lord – today we get rid of them. Today we dispose of those things that keep us from walking with the Lord.”

That’s not easy. And you don’t need to be a tyrant or a madman about it. But to get your family back – to be fulfilled and close and healthy – you’ve got to make the hard choices and choose Jesus over all the stuff.

3. Take a good bath and put on clean clothes (vs 2).
You see, Jacob’s family had become so influenced by the culture, they lost their identity as God’s children.
Their daddy said, “I want you to take a good bath, put on some clean clothes, we are going to meet God today.”

Can I make a suggestion? If the Holy Spirit is talking with you today and you’re thinking, “I need to make some changes”; can I suggest you give this a try.
1. Spend this week just praying about it and meditating on this.
2. Talk first with your spouse, if you aren’t a single parent, and share your heart and thoughts with them first.
3. Have a family meeting. Sit around the room and be real with your family.

When Jacob and his family started back to church, God began to work wonders for them. “Terror spread on their enemies.” Oh I tell you, God will honor your efforts to go back to Beth-el.