Jen Brewer and her husband, Jeff, went out from College Church to plant a new church, Hope Fellowship in Lombard, where Jeff is now the lead pastor. At the College Church Women’s Bible Study Christmas celebration, Jen talked about how her family shines holy light this Advent season and throughout the year.
There’s a sign in our kitchen that says, "Welcome to our crazy, fun, happy, loud home." Granted it's certainly not a complete description, but it's accurate, to one degree or another.
We are the kind of parents who have our kids dump out all their Halloween candy in the middle of the family room floor just to see the massive mounds of candy given out that year. It's just fun.
When the kids were little we often had 80s dance parties to get out all our energy at the end of a long week—and we turned up the music really loud! Today, the music is still loud on occasion and we have four girls who enjoy hearing themselves talk. We’re an all there kinda family. We’re excitable, we’re loud.
Our evening Bible times would hardly ever be described as smooth sailing. Take the night when our story of Mary and Joseph was interspersed with random discussions, wonderful insights and revelations and thoughtful questions from our youngest daughter about exactly how babies are delivered.
In the midst of the chaos, we desire that the overriding tone in our home reflects our faith in Jesus, our love for others overflowing from the hope laid up for us in heaven, the gospel, the word of truth, bearing fruit and growing, increasing knowledge, wisdom and understanding of God resulting in lives that please him, endurance, patience, joy, thankfulness and forgiveness through God's power at work within us.
These are the beautiful qualities Paul praised and prayed for the Colossian believers in his letter. And these are the beautiful qualities we want exemplified in our family, in our lives. Along with Paul's praises and prayers in the Book of Colossians, he shared loving encouragements, warnings, admonitions and instructions about how to live out the Christian faith.
And I need this help. I need all of the Word of God to help me for two reasons—so I can recognize lies and so I can respond in truth. When we studied Colossians in Women’s Bible Study, we discovered one of the main reasons Paul wrote was because the believers there were being deceived by various false teachers.
There are a myriad of ways we are influenced, and sometimes deceived, by the world—television, movies, ads, books, Pinterest, Facebook, well-meaning friends, churches, seminars and blogs that all share how to be a phenomenal (or at least, a more effective) wife, mom, grandma, sister, friend, neighbor, hostess, community member, co-worker, coordinator, communicator, caretaker, cleaner, crafter, Christian.
And many of these things are fine and helpful. But what's not helpful is when they become our highest ideals instead of God's standards ruling our lives. But there is one other influence that deceives me most. It’s my own dreamy, often unrealistic expectations that cause wrong thinking about how life ought to be or ought to go. My standards. My ideas. My ways.
Recently, there was an incident in which my girls needed correction for their relationship struggles. Since they are older, I was delighted with the opportunity to sit down and share much of what we had learned in Colossians—about what Christ did for us and how we are now to live out our Christian lives with one another.
Here's what I envisioned happening, and what I would like you to believe happened at that moment (and every moment I discipline my children).
The classical music started playing overhead....dun, dun, dunna, dun, dun, dun, dun... And the girls profusely thanked me with, "Oh, thank you, dearest mother, for so clearly and faithfully revealing our hearts to us through God's wonderful Word. Please forgive us and continue to pray for us as we live out our lives together in a manner worthy of the Lord." They hugged each other and merrily skipped out of the room together. Oh, what a delight to this mother's soul!
Recognize the lies, the lofty expectations in my head?
Here's what really happened. There was no classical music, just some barely audible mumbled apologies, some rolling of the eyes, furrowed brows, two unhappy countenances, and then the question--"Can we go now?" That's it. It wasn't pretty, it wasn't perfect and it certainly didn't fulfill my picturesque dream.
So, I respond in truth. The reality is that just like me, my kids are sinners and are still growing in the grace of God. Like me, they are still being established in the gospel. Once again, I'm reminded that I cannot control my kids' responses or change their hearts, but I can trust God to bear fruit in all of us—in his timing, in his ways, for his glory.
Author Paul Tripp states, " Admit it, we’re all still a bit of a mess; that’s why we need God’s grace today as much as we needed it the first day we believed. You and I need to say it to ourselves again and again. We need to look in the mirror and make the confession as part of our morning routine. Here’s what we all need to say: 'I am not a grace graduate.' "
You and I need to come to him broken and acknowledge that we can't fix ourselves. We need to truly believe that through his death on the cross and resurrection from the dead, Jesus is able to forgive us and restore our relationship with God. If you've hesitated and never confessed your need for Jesus or never submitted to him as the ruler of your life, that is something you can simply do now. You will become a child of God. You will have new life in Christ.
I'm not sure if you will ever visit our home. If you do, I hope you will enjoy a warm, pleasant, peaceful atmosphere. You may not get a sense for how loud we are. You might not notice the crazy. You probably won't have the privilege of being folded into our 80s dance parties. But I do pray that you find our family rooted, established, built up and walking in the faith of Christ Jesus our Lord, abounding in joy and thanksgiving.