Family: The Heartbeat of Our Father

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What makes your heart beat? Once when my little boy was on break from school, we went out on a family adventure to ride go-carts. I noticed my heart beating faster and faster as we zoomed around every other miniature driver on the track. Trying our best to maneuver into first place, I was endeavoring to keep calm as the last little punk kid in front of us hogged the middle of the road and purposely blocked us from gaining the lead. I can honestly say that I do not have road rage, but in that moment, something very strange came all over me. I now know it couldn’t have been the love of God. I was on the edge of my seat as I shouted out, “Move it, dude!” And then to my surprise, I heard my kindhearted four-year old, who doesn’t have a mean bone in his body, shout out, “YEAH! Move it, dude!” My eyes widened as I realized what I had done. (Just to let you know, I was quick to repent, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, I’m glad to report, we gained the lead and won the race!)

I realize now it was a little ridiculous to lose all self-control at a family-fun center, especially since we were traveling at the hair-raising speed of less than 10 mph. But I’ve found that I’m pretty passionate about my Justus. In fact, I’d do just about anything for him. If he says, “Faster, Mommy, faster!” you better believe I’m going to press the pedal to the metal, even if it means “accidentally” bumping into another go-cart and getting in trouble with the track attendant. (That may or may not have happened. You’ll never know.)

Let me ask you again, what makes your heart beat? Fast things are fun and can give us a rush of adrenaline, but of course I want to challenge us to dig a little deeper than that. Recently my husband sat me down and dared me to answer a similar question. “Sarah,” he said, “what are you passionate about?”

He went on to say, “Whatever the answer is, we are going to start doing whatever it takes so that you can spend the majority of your time doing that.” I stared at him for a moment, searching my heart for a clear and concise answer. So many thoughts were swimming through my mind, and the truth is it took me a few days to narrow it down to one precise answer. I finally came to this conclusion. I am passionate about seeing people HEALTHY—spirit, soul, and body.

During my days of spirit searching, and in order to answer Jeremy’s question adequately, I found myself asking God the same question, “Father, what is it that makes Your heart beat?”

About a week later, I got my answer. I was on my way to teach at GO Ministries; and even though I had prepared a message, I could sense the Lord wanting to take me in a different direction. He spoke to my heart, “Your message is called, ‘Family: The Heartbeat of Our Father.’”

I immediately remembered a quote from E.W. Kenyon that changed my life: “Christianity is not a religion; it is a family, a Father and His children.”

What a revelation! We have a good Daddy who became so passionate about us that He gave His Son, the only family He had, in order to gain a family that outnumbers the stars in the sky and the sand on the shores. He wanted to give us a home and adopt us as His own. A few years ago, I wrote these song lyrics in awe of His love toward His family:

Who is this Love, Who reaches out to us,

draws us into Him and calls us children.

Who is this love, Who opened up His home,

we were strangers in sin, but Love let us in.

Now I cry out, “I have a Daddy!”

I cry out, “He loves me!”

Behold what Love, You have freely given us

Behold the Love, He is Jesus!

God wasn’t content being the almighty, too-big-to-touch, hard-to-reach Man upstairs. He wanted to be known as a gentle daddy, full of grace with a desire for intimacy and close-knit conversation. He wanted a family to fellowship with—a healthy family at that.

So what is it that makes for a healthy, natural family, as well as, a healthy church family? To start, I believe a healthy family makes Jesus the center of attention. In a healthy family, there is no vying for place or position, but each member finds his or her value in Him alone and daily chooses to sit “down in His shade with great delight” (Song of Solomon 2:3). Some of the best preachers, worship leaders, and ministers I know are those who shine the big light on Jesus and then hide themselves in His shadow.

a healthy family makes Jesus the center of attention.

The Bible warns us of the destruction that comes as a result of envy, jealousy, and a spirit of competition within a family. Remember Cain and Abel—brothers whose story ends tragically? Cain hates his brother Abel because God honors Abel’s gift more than Cain’s. God even comes to Cain and tries to comfort and reassure him that he still has the chance to bring an acceptable and pleasing offering, an offering that would bring Him honor as well. But instead Cain chooses to believe the lie and stronghold in his soul that God loves and values Abel more than him, so he murders his brother. Envy is a deadly emotion that stirs up anger and strife, and if it is not uprooted from the heart, it has the ability to cause confusion and hurt in a family: “For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there” (James 3:16). But a healthy family is able to genuinely rejoice with each other’s successes and truly honor their unique God-given gifts. Honor shouldn’t just be expected to flow up; honor should go up, down, and all around. Romans 12:10 urges us to “be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another.”

I also believe a healthy family is warm and welcoming; they have the ability to show heartfelt hospitality and bring comfort to each other through kindness. Rahab showed us a perfect example of this. She sowed extreme kindness when she helped and hid Joshua’s spies in a time of war. It took courage to let them into her home, but her warm welcome saved her life and all those in her house. “By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace” (Hebrews 11:31 nasb, emphasis mine).

a healthy family is warm and welcoming.

When I first met Jeremy and brought him home to meet my family, we were shocked by the welcome he received. I have an amazing family. Perfect, no, but amazing, yes! And within this family, I have two crazy brothers. Well, I’ll give them this—they are both extremely charming, kind, anointed, and hilarious. But also crazy! Here’s just one example.

At the time, I was still getting to know Jeremy, trying to play it cool, and doing my best to impress. But the moment I introduced him to my brothers, any couth that I had went flying, more like soaring, out the window forever. I was stunned to see them come out of the bedroom wearing tight cut-off shorts, trucker hats, and strumming guitars as they performed the worst hoedown song you’ve ever heard, complete with fake country accents, dance moves, and all. To my surprise, Jeremy loved it. And the truth is I loved it too. The only thing that mattered is they made him feel right at home.

A healthy family is a place to belong. Psalm 68:6 says, “God sets the solitary in families.” So many people are hungry for a place to find love, a place to call home, and a place to belong; but where there is a lack of love, there is an abundance of insecurity. In a healthy family, each member finds his or her passion, potential, and purpose. In a healthy family, everyone fits.

a healthy family is a place to belong.

Jeremy and I are looking for the graces in our children, and we’ll give our lives to nurturing their callings and anointing. We do the same thing when it comes to our staff and our Family Night team. As leaders we are always before the Lord, finding out who goes where and who does what because we want to be just as aware of the anointing on their lives as we are of our own. Our motive in this is not just so they get a job done for us but because we love them and want to see them flourish in life. People do not walk in the fullness of their grace until they step into their perfect place. I’m interested in seeing all members of our family become all that God has called them to be. I never want to undervalue, undermine, or dumb down the amazing ability that each of our people carry. It’s worth the time to build up, encourage, and celebrate the gifts that God has given us in people.

I have such fond memories from my childhood with my immediate family. We are all very close and have been for as long as I can remember. I didn’t realize it then, but our family was such a light to other families, and now I know that there has always been an anointing on us to be a family. I believe that every family has an anointing to be a family, but not every family is yielding to that anointing.

In fact, when I was in high school, other moms would ask my parents, “How did you get your children to love each other so much?” and even today it is still normal for me to hear people asking my parents advice on how to have a successful family.

I decided to ask each person in my family his or her opinion on why we have a healthy family. I leave you with a few nuggets from my family to yours.

My dad: “Having a great family is not about being perfect; it’s about love and forgiveness.”

My mom: “We laughed together, we played together, and we prayed together.”

My brother Josh: “It wasn’t a bunch of rules that kept us together: it was the love of God, the real thing in everybody that made it possible. When somebody was down or off, the others would believe God, and that family member would make it.”

My brother Jordan: “We spent so much time together, lying around on the couch laughing at each other. We were always together. We always had a real awareness of God, not a fake churchy awareness, but everything we did from baseball to youth group involved Him. From the funny times to the hard times, we always looked to Jesus.”

Papa and Mimi: “Love never fails! Grace! Grace! Grace! That’s Jesus!”

When you look behind the scenes at our family, you’ll find imperfect people who, like any other family, went through some stuff. But I can tell you there was always one thing we had and still have today—only Love between us, and His name is Jesus.