home > Pastor’s Desk > 2021 > October 17 > YOUR FAMILY IS BIGGER THAN YOU THINK

¶ For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Ephesians 3:14-19

My Grandmother, Ruby McCormack, harvesting on their family farm in the Wimmera, Victoria.

My Grandmother, Ruby McCormack, harvesting on their family farm in the Wimmera, Victoria, in the 1920s.

My Great Grandmother was one of eleven children. My mother was one of six children. After the financial devastation of the Great Depression, my Grandparents, my mother and my aunts and uncles moved from the Wimmera to Bunyip, a small town in Gippsland Victoria, where my Grandparents started over – again, farming sheep, dairy cows, and crops. In the early 1900s in rural Australia it made sense to have a big family because farming was so labour intensive and every farmer depended upon their children to help out on the farm. Today, families of six or more children is far less common. In fact, some couples are now getting married with the intention of having just one child, and even some are telling me that they do not intend to have any children. I wonder what this apparent trend might do to our culture? I wonder whether some of the problems that beset young men who struggle to interact in a wholesome way with young ladies might be due to their lack of growing up with a sister or sisters? While sociologists who study the effect of family compositions on societies examine some of these dynamics and how they maybe contributing to the “me generation”, I think there is also something deeply spiritual and theological to consider as well.

¶ Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers,
older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.
First Timothy 5:1-2

 

A THEOLOGY OF FAMILY

Whenever we follow the words ‘a theology of ’ with another word, such as ‘family’, it means that we are considering what God and His Word state, or teach us, about a particular topic. When we consider our text (Eph. 3:14-19), we might wonder what the reference to God’s family “in heaven” might mean. Eminent New Testament scholar, F.F. Bruce, in his 1983 commentary on Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians, notes that in Jewish Rabbinical thought, God has a heavenly (“above”) family, and an earthly (“below”). God’s heavenly family is comprised of the following magnificent creatures:

We generally lump all of the heavenly creatures that God created under the heading of angels. But the word angel simply refers to one of the tasks carried out particularly by one category of these heavenly creatures. Here is a brief list of five categories of heavenly creatures whom God created with a word who then constituted His heavenly family. and to whom we generally indiscriminately lump them all together by referring to them all as angels —

1. THE CHERUBIM We have good reason for believing that quite probably, the first creatures that God created were cherubim. The Scriptures consistently refer to there being four of these magnificent creatures.

And from the midst of it came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance:
they had a human likeness, but each had four faces, and each of them had four wings.
Ezekiel 1:5-6

Cherubim are always depicted as guarding the presence of God (Isa. 37:16). When the Redeemer, who would later become known as Jesus, created them, these proto-creatures would bear faces that would one day be revealed to the world in the face of Christ. These four cherubim had four faces. Each had the face of a human, a lion, an ox, and an eagle. Thus, whenever Christ saw these cherubim, which would have been continually, He was was reminded (if it’s possible for God to be reminded of anything) that He would one day become a human being who would die to redeem all mankind. This work of redemption would be described by each of the four Gospels where the Gospel of Matthew would emphasise Christ as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the King; and the Gospel of Mark would emphasise Christ as the worker, the ox; and the Gospel of Luke would emphasise Christ as the man of compassion, the human; and the Gospel of John would emphasise Christ as the eternal God made flesh, the eagle.

As for the likeness of their faces, each had a human face. The four had the face of a lion on the right side, the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and the four had the face of an eagle.
Ezekiel 1:10

We are introduced to the cherubim in the opening chapters of Genesis after God had banished our original parents from Eden and sent the cherubim to guard the east gate (Gen. 3:24). They are described most frequently in the Book of Ezekiel. They are present in the closing book of the Bible as “four living creatures” after the Lamb of God is presented as Christus Victor.

And before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal.
¶ And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures,
full of eyes in front and behind: the first living creature like a lion,
the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man,
and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight. And the four living creatures,
each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within,
and day and night they never cease to say,
“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,
who was and is and is to come!”
Revelation 4:6-8

2. THE SERAPHIM We have good reason for believing that God created the cherubim, He then created these other tremendous powerful creatures referred to as seraphim. These two creatures must be unimaginably large. While the four cherubim are around the throne of God, the seraphim are described as being behind and over the throne of God who lead all of heaven in worship of the Most High. When the majestic seraphim speak, the whole place shakes – 

Above Him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings:
with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.
And one called to another and said:
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;
the whole earth is full of His glory!”
¶ And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called,
and the house was filled with smoke.
Isaiah 6:2-4

3. THE RULING “ARCH” ANGELS After the Seraphim were created, there is good reason for thinking that God created seven extremely powerful ruling or “arch” angels. The Bible names two of them (Michael – Jude 9, and Gabriel – Daniel 9:21; Luke 1:19) but ancient Jewish tradition refers by name to five others including: Raphael, Uriel, Saraqael, Raguel, and Remiel  (1Enoch 20).

But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.”
Jude 9

My Uncle Angus with my mum ca. 1940

My Uncle Angus with my mum ca. 1940

4. THE WATCHERS We can deduce from scripture and Jewish tradition that God then created about two hundred (one traditional refers to two hundred thousand of them) Watchers who appear to have been created by God in preparation for the task of assisting the yet-to-be-made humans who would live on the yet-to-be-formed earth. These Watchers were given the ability to move between the dimensions of heaven and earth and report back to God. We might speculate that they also appear to have been created with the power to shape-shift which apparently enabled them to take on a functional human form. While each of these heavenly creatures constituted God’s heavenly family, it appears that the Watchers were specifically designated as the sons of God (Gen. 6:2; Deut. 32:8) of whom left the boundaries of God’s purpose and became both corrupted and corruptors of mankind. These corrupted Watchers appear to be in view in Genesis 6:2 having sexual liaisons with women and siring the nephilim (the giants). It is probable that Lucifer was one of these Watchers who left his station after God’s final creation – the woman. The prophet Daniel distinguishes the corrupted watchers from the holy watchers in Daniel 4:13.

¶ “I saw in the visions of my head as I lay in bed, and behold, a watcher, a holy one, came down from heaven. He proclaimed aloud and said thus: ‘Chop down the tree and lop off its branches, strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Let the beasts flee from under it and the birds from its branches…The sentence is by the decree of the watchers, the decision by the word of the holy ones, to the end that the living may know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men.’
Daniel 4:13-14, 17

5. THE HOST OF ANGELS Then, it appears that God, with just a word, created billions upon billions of ‘ordinary’ angels, especially when we reflect on Christ’s statement in Matthew 18:10 where He intimates that rather than each person having just one guardian angel, each person may in fact have more than one guardian angels. (Considering earth’s current population is around seven billion, this might mean that there are at least fourteen billion ordinary angels.) I do however feel rather improper to call these phenomenally powerful creatures ordinary. The Biblical data is that they can interact with our material world including the removal of a several tonne stone (Matt. 27:60; Mark 16:4) which had been used to seal the entrance to Christ’s borrowed tomb (Matt. 28:2) and the opening of locked prison doors.

¶ Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”
Revelation 5:11-12

 

THE VASTNESS OF GOD’S HEAVENLY FAMILY TELLS US A LOT ABOUT GOD’S FATHER-HEART

All of these magnificent heavenly creatures constituted God’s heavenly family. God the Father had individually named each one (Isa. 40:26)! Therefore, God’s heavenly family consisted of billions of billions of myriads of creatures whom God knew and loved. But still God wanted create an even larger family! To do so, He created man and woman (Gen. 1:26-31). His mandate to the man and woman was to enlarge God’s earthly family by – be fruitful and multiply! To state the obvious, God loves family!!! To state the not-so-obvious: Satan hates family! The Bible tells the story of how God wanted to have an earthly family of children who would love and willingly obey Him. The hope was that Israel could be that model family. But they betrayed God. And every time it appeared that Satan had ruined God’s plan to have a heavenly and earthly family of sons and daughter who would love and honour Him, God redeemed the situation. When the chosen people, Israel, turned their back on God, God announced that He would send His only Son to be the redeemer of a new family, the church.

Jesus told a moving story of the Father’s heart in the story of the prodigal’s son (Luke 15:11-32). The prodigious father in Christ’s story is like our Heavenly Father. Even though his younger son has left home and brought shame to their family name, the father longs for his son to return to him. It powerfully describes God the Father and His heart for His children. God loves His children. God knows each of us by name.

We get a glimpse of what Father God’s ultimate family is going to look like in Revelation 7:9 where it describes all of the redeemed joining with all of the Father’s heavenly family. God clearly loves and wants a big family.

¶ After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
Revelation 7:9-10

GOD LOVES FAMILY

It’s difficult to imagine how happy, joyous, and full heaven is — and will further be. The suggestion that God created humankind because He was in some way ‘lonely’ becomes apparently and obviously fatuous after considering what we now surmise about those He created to populate the heavenly realm and experience God’s unfathomable and limitless love and goodness. It’s important for Christians in Australia and New Zealand (because we often have the gospel presented to us in a rather individualistic terms) to understand that the gospel is not merely about having a vertical relationship with God — it’s also about a horizontal relationship with other wretches who have also been saved by the grace of the Lamb of God who will ultimately entrust the redeemed with positions of unmerited and unbelievable privilege in the age to come-

They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them,
for He is Lord of lords and King of kings,
and those with Him are called and chosen and faithful.”
Revelation 17:14

Do you not know that we are to judge angels?
How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life!
First Corinthians 6:3

If we endure, we will also reign with Him;
if we deny Him, He also will deny us;
Second Timothy 2:12

And you have made them [the redeemed] a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.”
Revelation 5:10

Thus, when we come closer to Christ in unreserved surrender through prayer and the heeding of His written Word, our hearts are transformed from seeing “our family” as just those connected to us by blood, to seeing our family as our Heavenly Father sees it—that is, when we are redeemed by Christ we are adopted into a new and much larger family – God’s family. There is so much joy in heaven when just one formerly lost person turns to the Saviour and repents –  because God’s heavenly family shares in the Father’s joy every time this happens –

Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
Luke 15:7

Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Luke 15:10

Every believer belongs to the family of God. That makes us brothers and sisters. And because we understand that our Heavenly Father’s love for each of us is infinite (Eph. 3:17-19) we cannot possibly be less loved if more people are added to God’s family. Therefore, unlike the Cadbury Chocolate kid sulking upstairs after is new baby sister arrives home from the hospital, is not how the son or daughter of God reacts when a new believer is added to the Church – the family of God. This means that every local church should reflect God’s heart for God’s family. Let us pray for, and seek to reflect, God’s heart for the lost. Let us pray for and take active measures to welcome people seeking to be reconciled to God. And in the process of seeing people find peace with God through Christ, we rejoice that our spiritual (fictive) family has just become bigger, because we share in our Heavenly Father’s joy every time this happens as well.

 

Your Pastor,

Andrew

Let me know what you think below in the comment section and feel free to share this someone who might benefit from this Pastor’s Desk.

1 Comment

  1. LYDIA

    Thank you Andrew for broadening my vision. When I was about 16 I discovered that God had given me more than my immediate family but had in His wisdom given me a much larger Family. That has never changed. Also I believed what the Scripture teaches us about Angels. What I didn’t dwell on much though was that there were different types of heavenly beings. To me angels were that, they had tasks and praised God. Yet God created a Family, His heavenly family and made this universe in all its magnificence with what you just wrote Andrew. There was complete love. A love that can’t even be described except in Jesus Christ, the fulfillment of that. I’d always understood that God was self-sufficient and didn’t need anyone else. Theologically that might be correct, yet – His love is limitless and I short- changed that. So only, just lately, have I come to understand that His love is FAR greater and by His desiring Family around Him and then after all that was completed, made the Earth ready for mankind to dwell on and to praise Him, made my LORD not an abstract God but One Who desires what we sometimes destroy. I guess it is like putting flesh around the bones – this is Who God is – but – this is Who God REALLY is!

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AMAZING ACCESS

Anyone who has attended a large event such as the recent Will Graham Outreach event that was held at the Launceston Silverdome would be familiar with the varying levels of access that are provided to staff and volunteers associated with this type of event. The security system used included identification in the form of different coloured shirts, prayer volunteer cards, and all access cards that permitted access to the entire venue with no questions asked by security personnel. This is like the access level that God has to our lives. Being omnipresent, He has unhindered access to every aspect of our lives. He knows our innermost thoughts, sees all that we do, hears all that we say. God has the ultimate ‘all access’ card.

WHY FINDING TRUTH MATTERS

How can we determine whether a claim is true or false? Some people think there are different kinds of truth — my truth, their truth, and your truth. But how do they know that their assessment of truth is true? After all, their assessment – that there is my/their/your truth might just be based on their truth rather than the truth. Truth has certain qualities that distinguishes it from what is false-
 Truth corresponds to reality.
 Truth is verifiable (that is, if it is true, it can be evidentially shown to be so).
 Truth is falsifiable (that is, if it is false, it can be evidentially shown to be so).
 Truth is sometimes testable (that is, claims that are experiential can be tested by experience – including scientific claims, historic claims, and existential claims).
We have good reasons for the believing that the Bible is true because it is the divinely inspired, reliable and authoritative Word of God which has been superintendedly preserved by the Holy Spirit (read more about this).

THE 5 MOST IMPORTANT YEARS OF ANYONE’S LIFE

Parents, Kids Church leaders, and Christian school teachers should be intentional about shaping children to be fully devoted followers of Christ who have reasons for believing Christianity is true – which shapes them into virtuous contributors to society and to find their role in God’s Kingdom. This will be one of the necessary and indispensable means for the Church to fulfil the Great Commission of Christ.

TIME- YOU CAN’T CONTROL IT – BUT YOU CAN LEARN FROM IT

We live in a fast paced world. We expect things to happen quickly. None of us like to be kept waiting. Even when we order something online we expect it delivered straight away. Some of us having to work two or even three jobs just to be able to pay the bills. We describe ourselves as time-poor. Yet, we all get twenty-four-hours in a day. Sixty-minutes in an hour. And sixty-seconds in a minute. Most of us need to adjust how we see, understand, and treat our time. This will involve, what will be for some, adopting a foreign and largely unaccustomed view of time that involves worship, sabbath, and deepening relationships. From this biblical perspective we will come to see time as a gift from God, not a curse, or source of frustration. Within this gift of time God teaches us how to worship in those times when it is difficult to do so. Rather than thinking this divine gift of time is ours to do with what ever we want, God uses this gift to teach us that we should gift it back to Him beginning with (but not limited to) treating Sunday as a sabbath to come together to recommit our hearts, voices, minds, and presence with God’s people, back to God. God gives us passing time to learn to deepen relationships – especially with our kin, and our friends. Time is meant for relationship building. 

I AM WHO I AM BUT I AM NOT WHO I USED TO BE BUT I AM NOT YET WHO I WILL BE

One of the greatest lies that the would-be enemy of all our souls attempts to perpetuate is that we are what we are and we can never change. This lie is whispered into the ears of many people’s invisible ears so imperceptibly that they actually think it originated with them. “You were born this way – and you can never change”, “This is who you really are – and you can never change”, “There’s no hope of anything ever changing for better – so you might as well just kill yourself” and so on. But these sly alien voices inside the heads of the vulnerable are lies. People can change. People do change. Some circumstances were always going to be temporary and were always going to change. I know this is true because I am living proof. I am who I am but I am not who I used to be and I am not yet who I will be.

WHO DOES THIS EPHESIANS FELLA THINK HE IS?!

It may well still be the best-selling book of all time – and continues year-by-year to be so – but certainly is not the best-read of our current times! If there was ever any doubt about this, the events this week in Hobart, at St. Mary’s (Catholic) College Girl’s School, should remove all doubt! A furore erupted over the news that the prescribed Scripture reading for the year-end graduation celebration, which incorporated a Mass, was “Wives submit to your husbands” taken from Ephesians. Callers into ABC radio’s breakfast program decried this assault against women – especially young, vulnerable girls. One caller, responding to the news that the text being used was a citation from Ephesians, denounced Ephesians and apparently demanded, “Just who does this Ephesians bloke think he is?!” Another caller stated, “Why are they quoting ancient Roman philosophers in the twenty-first century?!” And yet another caller somehow linked all religious wars to passages like this one in the Bible! He remarked, “I’m an atheist. All wars are started by those who are religious! No war was ever started by atheists!” (Perhaps he had never heard of Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot, Vladimir Putin, who were collectively responsible for the deaths of over 20,000,000?) This furore led to the Archbishop conceding that the Ephesians passage did not have to be used at the graduation ceremony. But this furore has highlighted just how unaware many Tasmanians are about what the Bible is, what is actually says, and why it says it. And I am now about to correct this deficiency.  

THE LORD IS MY ROCK

Of the many tributes paid to her majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, was the often noted reflection that during her reign the world underwent a series of rapid changes that were dramatic and unprecedented in human history. There were technological inventions that revolutionised the way people could access international travel options enabling them to be virtually anywhere in the world within a matter of hours. New forms of communication emerged with the development of a global satellite communications network enabling people to watch Neil Armstrong take his one giant leap Live on their black-and-white TV screens (as I did in the corridors of Corio Primary School in 1969). Space exploration, the stuff previously just in the realm of science fiction writers, became a reality with manned and unmanned voyages to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. But the past one hundred years have also been a time of great upheaval with empires crumbling, governments toppled, wars waged, genocides committed, pandemics raging, nations birthed, rulers assassinated, and massive refugee movements from oppressive Islamic and Communist regimes. Added to this has been the demise of professional journalism and the rise of internet-citizen-journalism where it is now common for TV News reports to feature footage taken from someone’s cell-phone which was posted on social media rather than the more expensive option of sending their own film crew there. And while we’re mentioning the internet, let’s not forget to mention – the internet. This alone has possibly been the most monumental change in the way people communicate, work, learn, and shop. But while it was noted that the Queen had witnessed all of these many changes, it was also noted that the Queen herself was an unchanging constant during all these upheavals who brought about a sense of stability, peace and reassurance. To millions of people around the world, she was their rock in a world of turmoil and change. Yet this was only possible because she herself had an immovable, dependable rock upon which she had built her life.

WHO BUILDS A CITY ON A HILL?

home > Pastor's Desk > 2022 > October 7th > Who Builds A City On A HillFor those who don’t know, I was born in Geelong, and have always been fan of the Geelong Football Club. But I’m not just a fan, I’m a paid-up member of the Club. In fact, I’m a student...

5 INDISPENSABLE GUIDELINES FOR NEW PARENTS

This is not for everyone. If you are already a parent, this is not for you. Instead of reading this I suggest you read one of my other more abstract Pastor’s Desk articles. If you are not a parent and have no intention of ever being a parent, this is not for you. Instead of reading this I suggest you read one of my more weighty articles on FindingTruthMatters.org. If you are not yet a parent and one day hope to become a parent, this is for you. Find a quiet place, take the next six minutes thirteen seconds and use the reading of this article as an investment into your future parenting strategies. I did not invent these guidelines. Like many parents who have also discovered the value of these guidelines, once discovered, they seem obvious. These successful parents probably grew up with own parents who inculcated these guidelines almost intuitively. However, my suspicion is that this is becoming increasingly rarer. As with all true guidelines they are adaptable, flexible, and are not a guarantee of parental success — but if ignored they become the point in the mathematical problem solving where you can see you made an error in your working out. In other words, while these guidelines may not guarantee success, if ignored their neglect almost certainly leads to frustration and disappointment. Here are five indispensable guidelines for every prospective new parent.

WHAT WOULD IT TAKE FOR ATHEIST & MAGICIAN PENN JILLETTE TO BECOME A CHRISTIAN?

I’ve been praying for Penn Jillette for some time now. It began when I first heard him ridicule the Bible and Christianity. My fascination with Penn (and Teller), and other world-class magicians, has been due to my pursuit to develop my craft of preaching. There are a lot of similarities between preachers and magicians (just as there is also a lot similarities between solo musicians and preachers). I seek to learn from magicians about how to keep an audience’s attention, how to tell a story, and how to make a point by employing the element of surprise. But there are some significant differences between what magicians do and what preachers do though. A magician is deliberately deceptive. A preacher is striving to uphold truth in an honest way.