My Less than Perfect Family

My family life is not what I dreamt it would be.

Linn Winters
Apr 29, 2018    32m
Pastor Winters really delves into what our family life can look like when it doesn't shape up the way we planned. He uses The Book of Ruth to illustrate how a life that turns out so different then our dreams can cause us to feel like God has left us, this can lead to sadness and bitterness. However, people can enter your life, people sent by God, that can restore your faith. He also urges us to strives to be a person who restores someone else's faith in God. Video recorded at Chandler, Arizona.

messageRegarding Grammar:

This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

Linn Winters: 00:28 OK, we're in a series called fighting for your families. And there's a chance, that as we've been having this conversation, some of you are saying, Linn, you're making me depressed because the truth is you've spent the last few weeks describing like these perfect families. I mean if you did this, and this is how you ought to lead and this how you are going to interact...I am just going to be honest, my family ain't perfect. And let's just be truthful, none of our families are right? None of our families are perfect. We've got moments we go, "Boy, you know, I wish I would've been more attentive to my wife, I wish I would've been kinder to my husband, I wish I would've spent more time with." None of us has got a perfect family, that's just the reality of it. Matter of fact, that's why I love double dating with your family. I come home after a double date and I go, man, I'm glad I'm not them. I run into husbands once and a while and I go, ooh if I was his wife, there are things that would happen to him in the dead of the night. I'm just saying, I've had moments I come home, and I go, man, if I were married to her, I would go biblical. I would go biblical on her. I'd be quoting that verse, better to live on a rooftop, then in a house with a nagging wife. I'd be living on the roof.

Linn Winters: 01:48 That's right. we get it right, we get it. None of our families are perfect. But truth be told, we've also got some families in the room, and you'd say, "Linn, we're just not normal imperfect. We've got stuff, we've got things going on that when we started out that wasn't the plan. That's not what we thought this was going to be like." We've got spouses. that just say, I thought my marriage was going to be healthier than this. We've got single parents. There is no way when you walk down that aisle, there's no way, when you were 12 years old imaging your home, that you thought you were going to be a single parent someday. That just was not even the plan. Some of us have a kid, some of us have a couple of kids who are living in rebellion and are as far away from God. And you just go, look, I'm just telling you I tried so hard. And that whole push thing that we talked about, I pushed our kids toward God. I just don't get it, and I don't understand it, and I'm just telling you there's not a day we don't wake up and there's not an ache for where our kids are living right now. Some of us have special needs children. And if we were honest, we'd just say out loud, that's not what I thought it was going be. That's not how I envisioned my family.

Linn Winters: 03:05 Here's what we're going to figure it out today together, that God does some of his best work with less than perfect families. Which ought to bring hope to every single one of us in the room. That God has the capacity to do some of his most remarkable, remarkable, remarkable, amazing things with families that are not what we thought they were going to be in the beginning.

Linn Winters: 03:35 Matter of fact, grab your bibles. Go with me to a passage that unpacks the story of a gal, that I guarantee you, she never expected her family to look like this. This was not what she dreamed of when she was a little girl, it's not what she had planned. Go in your bibles to the book of Ruth and it's fairly easy to get there if you just go to the front of your Bible and then work to the right, when you get to the book of Judges, slow down, slow down, slow down. Because Ruth is this tiny book on the end of the book of Judges.

Linn Winters: 04:11 Ruth, Chapter One. Let me try to set up the setting for you. Ruth begins with the story of a woman by the name of Naomi. Naomi is married. She's got two a wonderful sons, her life is good. The dilemma that comes up is that there begin to be hard times in Israel. There's a famine going on, there's no place for employment. And so her and her husband make the decision, hey, we're going to move over to Moab. It's a neighboring country. The economy there seems to be doing well. We'll go there and kind of ride things out, will come back sometime in the future. Now here's the struggle of Moab, Moab is a country that has always been almost constantly been hostile toward Israel. At times they've actually been waging full out war. The rest of the time, they've just been angry and resentful. And now as Israelites, they're going to go move into Moab because the economy is better. The other hindrance in Moab is this, that their religion is dark, dark, dark. The Moabites worship Baal. Baal is a fertility God. And so it's very, very common, every single year as you're getting ready to plant the crops, you go into the temple, you spend time with the temple prostitutes to invoke fertility. In really, really rough years, it's not unheard of that you would go to a statue of Baal who is holding a bowl, you light a fire underneath the bowl and they would actually throw children into the bowl in order to evoke Baal's favor. It's a dark place to go. The closest I could get you to that is Tucson.

Linn Winters: 05:57 Maybe Amsterdam, okay, maybe Amsterdam. And so this is a dark move. They know they're going into hostile territory. They get there and Naomi's sons marry Moabite women. So stop and think about what's shifting for her. I guarantee you her dream had always been that they would marry good Jewish girls, now they're marrying Moabite women. These are women who worship other gods, false gods, now that's coming into our family. If that's not enough, you ready for this, Naomi's husband dies shortly thereafter. Scripture doesn't give us the exact timeline, but shortly thereafter one of her sons dies, shortly after that the other son dies. And now Naomi finds herself in Moab, with two Moabite daughter in-laws and none of her original family with her. And I guarantee, I guarantee, I guarantee, I guarantee, this is not what Naomi had planned. This is not what she thought her family was going to look like, her a widow and two Moabite daughter in-laws.

Linn Winters: 07:03 Now we get to the passage, Ruth Chapter One, verse 20. Here's what she says, "Don't call me Naomi anymore. Naomi means pleasant. Don't call me pleasant anymore, because there's nothing pleasant about my life. Don't call me Naomi she told them, call me Mara. Which means bitter." Because I'm just telling you, when you call me pleasant, it is like taking a knife and sticking between my ribs and twisting it. You just remind me of what I've lost. Just call me bitter, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me, the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.

Linn Winters: 08:15 Some of us have been there. You see some of us have looked at our families and we go, Whoa, this isn't what I thought when I walked down the aisle, when we had our first child this isn't what I was thinking this was going to be, And it goes beyond that, right? This isn't just a family talk. There are some of us that go, I don't know why I lost the job. I don't get why our finances are so devastated. This is so outside my plans, this is so outside of what I thought was going to happen, that you and I would join Naomi in this moment and go, just call me bitter. Because the reality is the Almighty has turned his back on me, the Almighty has forgotten me and this is very different. This isn't the family I dreamed up, this isn't the home I thought it was going to get, this isn't the life I thought it was getting into. You get what Naomi can say that, because she is viewing her life as a punctiliar moment. She's in the worst of it, and sees no end of it, and in that moment she goes this is bad. Naomi doesn't see the rest of the story, and if she did, her heart would be so thrilled. Her heart would be in such a completely, completely different place. Because here's what Naomi doesn't know, she's going to end up going back to Israel with one of her daughter in-laws named Ruth. That when Ruth gets back there, she is going to meet an amazing, amazing, god-fearing man, they're going to get married. When she has a son, the women of Israel are going to gather around Naomi and say, "Ruth has been so faithful to you, Ruth has been so dear to you, that the reality is she's been better to you than seven sons." A remarkable thing to say. And you're ready for better than that? The son that she is going to have is going to end up being the grandfather of King David. Ruth, her daughter-in-law is the great grandmother of King David. If that's not cool enough in the story, because of that Ruth's line, Naomi's line, is actually going to be the lineage of Jesus. And you want to say to Naomi, Naomi, don't get bitter, God's not done writing the story of your family yet

Linn Winters: 11:08 And guys, here's what you got to get in this moment. Sometimes, sometimes God does his best work outside of your plans. That what you thought was going to be the way it was going to work and each of your kids was going to go off to college with scholarships. Sometimes, maybe even most times, God does his very best work in our lives, in our families, outside of the lines that any of us had planned along the way.

Linn Winters: 11:50 Ruth and Naomi end up returning back to Israel. And as they get ready to go Naomi says to Ruth, "Look, there's no reason for you to go with me. You're a Moabite woman, you're young, you can stay here, you can get remarried."

Linn Winters: 12:09 But Ruth says to Naomi, "No, no, despite the fact that you've been sad, and despite the fact that I know you're struggling right now. I've still seen something remarkable in you. There's something your God is doing in you, that I'm just telling you my gods don't do in me. There's something about the all mighty Jehovah that's different than Baal, and I just know that there is no way I could do what you're doing right now and be in the same place that you're in right now. And I have to figure out what it is that your God has that my God doesn't. And I'm going to come with you."

Linn Winters: 12:59 Back to the passage. It's verse 15. "Look" said Naomi to her sister, "Your sister in-law is going back to her people and to her gods. Go back with her." There's no reason for you to come with me. I'm simply an old widow woman going back to try and find mercy with my own people. I don't have any sons to take care of me. I don't have a husband to take care of me. There is no welfare. There is no social security. I'm literally going to live as a pauper. There's no reason for you to go back with me.

Linn Winters: 13:35 But Ruth replied, "Don't urge me to leave you or turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people." And ready for the next phrase, "And your God, will be my God. Where you die, I will die and there I will be buried. May The lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me."

Linn Winters: 14:06 Then Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her and she stopped urging her. You get the moment, despite Naomi's struggle, despite the fact that she's still trying to get her heart land in the right place. The presence of God in her life, and the fact that even in her disappointment that she chooses to lean in to God in that moment is remarkable to her daughter-in-law Ruth. She sees something in Naomi that she has personally never, ever, ever experienced in her life.

Linn Winters: 14:46 And guys, here's the lesson, when you and I are going through our worst times, when our family is not what we thought our family was going to be, when our kids are rebelling and we just never dreamed that that's what was gonna happen, when our marriages on rocky waters. What you do next is loud. It's loud. Life, I know, I know this isn't what you thought it was. He's cranky and he's ornery. What you do next. Big deal.

Linn Winters: 15:38 Single mom, I know you never thought about being one. This isn't the plan, but whether you go running off to try to find some man to fill your void, or if you lean into God. What you do next. It's a big deal,

Linn Winters: 15:58 And even for us that aren't dealing with family issues right now. My job went south, the doctor said, cancer. What you do next? People are leaning in and watching because, you ready for this, your voice has never louder than when you're walking through the storm. You will never have a more powerful, clearer testimony about whether or not you really believe in your God, than when you have to lean on your God. It's what Ruth sees in Naomi and says, I don't understand it, I don't get it, I just need it.

Linn Winters: 16:46 Some of you know I've got a sister named Michelle. Michelle was our daughter of rebellion, my sister of rebellion. Remember I told you at the beginning, some of our families have marriages that aren't great. Some of our families have single parent homes. Some of our families have rebellious children. Some of our families who have special needs children. It's not what we thought. My family had all four. And Michelle, Michelle was our daughter of rebellion. And guys, I'm just telling you from the time that she was a teenager, all the way up through all of our twenties and early thirties, it was dark. It's interesting, Michelle was kind of what I call the respectful rebel. She wouldn't tell us what she was doing, just did it. And whatever you think is on the list is on the list. And then, in the early days of Cornerstone she started coming. And I'm just telling you, her life turned. I mean 180, and this rebel became a follower of Jesus Christ with all of her heart.

Linn Winters: 18:04 So that's good, story not done yet. She ends up in ministry. She was the women's minister here for a long time. Her husband was the men's minister here for a long time. God calls them to San Antonio, and a couple of months ago the doctor came walking in the room and said, Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. And it's in your brain. it's in your lymph nodes. it's in your lungs, it's in your gut and it's in all your female parts. And they started radical chemo. I mean, they were just pumping her full of chemo. Can I tell you, that in that moment, her family leaned in. See we were saying, hey, Michelle, no, no, no. The girl of rebellion who is now the follower of God, what are you going to do now when the doctor says cancer. You don't know that her boys were leaning in to see what mom was going to do. Guys ready for this? Because in our darkest moments our voices become the loudest,. Her church leaned in, her neighborhood where she had started a book club and most of them didn't know her Jesus leaned in. What is this woman going to do now? And guys I'm just telling you in the moments which are the most frustrating for us, in the moments in which we would be most inclined to be Mara, and go look, this isn't what I thought. This isn't what I believed it was going to be I feel bitter. What you do next is loud. Here's the cool part. My sister, despite the fact the she had moments of real weeping in which she would say, I'm probably never going to see my boys graduate. This isn't what I thought. I'll never see them get married. I will never know my grandchildren. And my sister chose in that moment to lean in to God. To say, God, would you just take something that's so imperfect and so broken and would you just do something, for your glory and remarkable. Because, because, because what you and I do in our darkest moments, is the loudest conversation you'll ever have with our family, with our friends. Now, the cool part of the story is that doctors came back just a few weeks ago and said, "Hey, there is no cancer except for one small spot on the lungs right now." And we are just thrilled out of our heads.

Linn Winters: 21:13 Guy's here is what you need to hear me say, the best part of the story is not the doctor's answer. The best part of this story is watching my sister lean in. Because what you do, in your darkest moments of your life are the loudest moments of your life.

Linn Winters: 21:34 When you go on with the story Naomi and Ruth moved back. They get there and we don't know where they lived, but it's not too hard to guess. Somebody loaned them a shack of some sort, and so now they're just trying to make their way. And Naomi is too old apparently to go work in the field, so it becomes Ruth's responsibility to gather any and all food that they're going to have. And so how it would work is, is that she would go out into the field as the harvesters were harvesting, she would walk behind to see if they dropped anything. Now, here's what you need to know. The job of the harvesters was not to drop anything. So literally Ruth is looking for just a tiny little twigs that have just a little few shoots of barley on them, and she walks the field all day trying to pick those pieces up.

Linn Winters: 22:28 A guy by the name of Boaz, who just happens to be kind of a cousin two or three times removed. So you need to know this isn't Tennessee we're talking about. Okay so it's a cousin two or three times removed. Comes along and says, Hey, who is that girl working in the field? And they say that happens to be Naomi's daughter-in-law, and they're back here, and she's harvesting. And he says to them, "Hey, you let her harvest all she wants, don't give her a hard time. Matter of fact, as you're harvesting, I need you to accidentally on purpose drop some on the ground for her." Here's the passage, it's Ruth chapter two, starting in verse fifteen, "As she, Ruth, got up to glean, Boaz gave orders to his men, let her gather among the sheaves and do not reprimand her. Even pull out some stalks for her from the bundles, and leave them for her accidentally, on purpose to pick up and don't rebuke her. So Ruth gleaned in the field until evening. And then, she threshed barley she had gathered and it amounted to an ephah. She's got this pile, she carried it back to town and her mother-in-law saw how much she had gathered. Ruth also brought out and gave her what she had left over after she had eaten enough. And her mother-in-law asked, where did you glean today? Where did you work? Blessed be the man who took notice of you. And then Ruth told her mother-in-law about the one at whose placed she had been working. The name of the man I worked with today is Boaz, she said, The Lord bless him Naomi said to her daughter in law, he has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead."

Linn Winters: 24:33 Who's he? Naomi says, Hey, bless Boaz, and she says He has not stopped showing kindness to the living and the dead. It's not Boaz. It's God. And Naomi who started with bitterness, Naomi who started with hey God, I don't get it and I don't understand it and this isn't how it's supposed to work. Suddenly sees the hand of God again in her life and she says He, He has not stopped showing kindness. I didn't see the story. I didn't understand where this was going. It's why I got angry, but now I see His hand. There is this amazing passage of scripture that says, "And God is the father to the fatherless." Naomi, in this moment, knows that Boaz is literally the hand of God working on her behalf.

Linn Winters: 25:36 Guys, I'm just going to tell you right now because some of us are struggling. And some of us are going, man, I don't know why I lost that job, I don't know why the finances are bad. Some of us look at our families and say, I don't know why it feels fractured. I'm just telling you, wait. He has not stopped showing kindness. The story is not written yet, it's not over yet. Don't let your hearts turn bitter. Look for the hand of God. Which means for some of us that are single parents right now and you're trying to navigate it. You and I need to be willing for God to bring a Boaz into the life of our family. Someone maybe even outside of our family, and I'm not talking about someone romantic or someone you're going to marry. I'm just talking about someone that God uses to be his hand to fill in some of the gaps for you. In my life it was a guy by the name of Tom Lutz. Tom Lutz was a leader at our church. He ran a thing called Christian service brigade, which was simply a very bad version of cub scouts. I'm 12 years old. He's the leader. He is an eighth grade biology teacher and something happened that, that man decided to be Boaz to a 12 year old little boy who needed the hand of God in his family. And I can remember riding my bike about four and a half miles one way to junior high. He taught in a completely different junior high in downtown Phoenix. When school would get out, I would ride my bike another mile and a half in the wrong direction. I would sit in the parking lot outside the door of Tom Lutz's apartment and wait for an hour and a half for him to get home from teaching school. And he would let me in and I would hang out with him until evening time. He was really cool, he had snakes, so that made it all work. But I had the wonder of seeing a Christian man and understanding what Christian manhood looked like in the guy who was Boaz to me. And then we would load my little 10 speed in the back of his Pinto. Remember Pintos anybody? We were taking our lives in our hands, anyways, and they he'd drive me home. And I'm just saying to you, if you're navigating being a single parent right now, let God, let God have a Boaz. It's OK. It's OK. Shoe on the other foot.

Linn Winters: 28:00 I wonder if some of us need to be Boaz. I wonder if some of us need to be the kinsmen redeemer for someone else. That you would know someone in your life, and you would say, hey, they're life is not how they thought it was going to be and it may be a family thing, you know it may be a single mom, it may be a marriage, maybe kids. Or it may be something totally different. It may just be hard times financially. It maybe we just moved to a new state and we're lonely out of our minds. But God could use you as a kinsmen redeemer, as a Boaz, in somebody else's life. You would be at the very hand of God to them. In the life of a single mom, it might be as simple as just inviting her kids to come along on family outings every once in a while so they can just see what a family looks like when it's all together. It could be as simple as saying, hey, it's school's starting back up. I'm going to take the kids on a shopping spree. Because I guarantee you for her, getting school supplies and getting clothes for those kids as a hard thing. Or Christmas. It could be just saying, hey, we're going to as a family, go over and do a work project. Because I guarantee you there's 100 loose screws in her home. For some of us, it's not a family in crisis. For some of us, it's a neighbor who just lost a job. Someone who just heard cancer. And you and I could decide to be the kinsmen redeemer. You and I could decide to be Boaz. The hand of God to remind them that God is kind and that God has not forgotten them. Because God does some of his best work with our imperfect homes. With our less than perfect lives when we let him.

Linn Winters: 30:25 Let's bow our heads. I just want to ask you with heads bowed and something to process in your heart, feeling a little bit like Naomi, And you're at a moment in your life right now where you say, don't call me pleasant. There's just nothing pleasant about my life right now. This is not what I thought. Call me bitter. I just want to say to you, the only reason you feel that way is because you don't know the rest of the story. You have no sense or no idea what God is about to do. And that a better thing would be, in this moment, to pray and say, God, would you do something remarkable with my little messed up family. With my life that isn't turning out the way that I plan? Would you do something? Would you write the rest of this story in a way that I can't even imagine right now? Some of us just a few moments ago when I talked about being Boaz to someone else. You had a family, you had a person that God brought to your heart and you said I could be Boaz to them. I can be the one that says, hey, drop a little extra weight on the ground, who showed up to take care of shopping, or just hang out with a family, or took meals to someone with cancer. I could be God's kinsmen redeemer for them.

Linn Winters: 31:53 Heavenly father, we come to the moment and we just thank you. We thank you that you're reminded us that some of your best work happens outside the lines of our plans. That even screwed up, broken up, messed up families, can be redeemed and do amazing and powerful things. If we simply choose to lean in the right direction in the hardest moments of our lives. So God, here's what we're praying. God, do something remarkable. With our marriages, with our children, with our friends, with our family, with our coworkers. Because you do your very best work outside our plans. And this we pray in Jesus' name. Amen.

Recorded in Chandler, Arizona.
Read More
Cornerstone Church
1595 S Alma School Road
Chandler, Arizona 85286