July Family Talk
I don’t know about you, but in the Neill household when July 4th rolls around, you know that you are at the mid-point of summer! So, I thought it might be a good idea for all of us in the First Family to do a little “mid-summer checkup” to make sure that we are where God would want us to be as we move into those “lazy hazy days” ahead of us.
Why do a mid-summer checkup? Well, summer can have a way of lulling us into spiritual laziness! I believe God gave us summer to relax and enjoy the beauty of His creation, to rejoice in His love for us and the good gifts He graciously gives us. I’ll even go one step further than that: I really believe that summer at its best is a foretaste of what our life on the renewed earth in eternity will be like! But that’s where we have to be careful; summer is a foretaste of heaven, not a replacement! Sometimes, the relaxed nature of summer can lull us into forgetting the God who gave us the summer to enjoy. And when we love the creation more than the Creator who gave us the creation...well, we know where that can lead to, now don’t we!
So, we need a checkup to make sure our priorities are still in shape. First, we need to make sure that our commitment to God has not slipped during the summer. Did you commit to a plan for reading the Bible this year? Did you develop a schedule for a morning or evening quiet time with the Lord? Sometimes, when our normal schedules are adjusted for the summer (particularly those of us with kids in school), we forget to keep our commitments to spend time with the Lord in His Word and in prayer. How are you doing in that area of your life?
Second, we need to make sure that our commitment to the church is in place. Vacations, weekend getaways and camping trips, and lazy evenings in the backyard can affect our commitment to Christ’s bride. For those of us with children, it is very important for us to think about what message we may be giving our kids when we “slack off” in our faithfulness during the summer: “Church is where we go when there’s nothing fun to do.” A great scholar of a previous generation was fond of saying, “What we as parents do by exception, our children will do to excess.” But it’s not just about our kids. How do our decisions about worship, giving, and Bible study during the summer reflect our attitude, not to church but to the One who says that the church is “My church”? Of course, we willall have weekends when we are out of town and away from our church family. But is the family of God a priority when we are at home?
Third, while we’re thinking about kids (and grandkids), I have to add one more area of our checkup. During the summer, are we prioritizing the spiritual care and nurture of the children that God has placed in our lives as much as we do during the rest of the year? A lack of self-discipline in our family Bible times, prayer times, and ministry times can leave our children confused at best, and spiritually starving to death at worst! So, check that area of your life as well. (And by the way, don’t forget that the summer can be one of the best times to get involved in a ministry project as a family. If you need ideas, touch base with me or with Russ and Jarica Frink, our missions ministry team leaders! Or, just look around in this issue of The Messenger.)
Now, just so you understand my heart, let me respond to those of you who are thinking to yourself, “Now, Pastor, we are just as committed to God and to our church and to training our kids as ever...but there’s nothing wrong with relaxing and taking a little time off during the summer, is there?” Beloved, your question reveals something about the way in which you view these areas in your life. So, let me ask you: if you are married, do you slack off on showing love to your spouse in the summer? If you have children, do you relax from feeding them when school gets out? Of course not! Because showing love to your spouse or feeding your children is not a task; it is a joy. In the same way, our love for Christ...for His church...for the spiritual nurture of our children...is not a task that we perform. It is a joy that we have in being in fellowship with Him and with His people, our brothers and sisters in Christ.
So, enjoy the rest of your summer...and stay healthy, both physically and spiritually! And then, when Labor Day rolls around, you’ll be that much stronger and ready for joys and adventures of fall!