Tony Miltenberger is a husband, father, and follower of Christ. He is currently serving as the lead pastor at Restoration Church Centerville, ohio.

It's all in the family.

The first thing you'll be happy to know is that this post has nothing to do with Phil Robertson or Duck Dynasty.

Merry Christmas from my family to yours!

Merry Christmas from my family to yours!

It does have to do with family. I've already explained some of my thoughts and opinions on Christmas, but the one thing I haven't done is talked about what I do enjoy during this season. What I appreciate most is family. I have an incredible immediate family; three beautiful children and an amazing wife, but I also realize during the holiday season that my family is much bigger than that. There is a larger family that I get to be a part of, and they are pretty amazing too.

One of the parts that I enjoy the most is connecting with the extended part of the family that I don't get to see very often, but when I do the conversation picks up right where we left off. The family that wants to hear about everything I've done in the last year, and loves the fact that it has been so amazing. The family that, despite the fact that we only see each other every now and again, I can still see the love in their eyes. Family is amazing.

Over the past two weeks I've enjoyed two different work Christmas parties, and as I found myself looking around the room I realized (even though we don't share any DNA) I care about these people and they care about me. This makes us family. The people I work with are awesome.  At one point we were sitting in a large gym eating a delicious meal and I took an inventory. I was in awe of the relationships I have with the people in the room. In some cases they have literally changed my life. They have challenged me to grow, we have laughed, we have cried, we have made ourselves a family.

The last group of family are just good friends. The friends who I can be unfiltered with, who have no expectations of me, that simply appreciate the fact I'm around. When I get together with this group we laugh, tell stories, and have a genuine appreciation of what we've been through together. We share authentic community.

In Greek the word that describes all this is oikos. It means family, dwelling place, house of the Lord. I think the reason why all of these relationships mean so much to me is because these are the people who have shown me what the Kingdom of God really looks like. They have shown me love. These are the same people who speak into my life when I need an encouraging word or challenge me to go the extra step. Along the way we have done life together and, while we don't have it figured out, we all know we'll be together for a long time to come. Jesus talks about this in the book of Matthew 12:46-50. He is in a crowded home and his family is trying to get into the building to be with him. When someone points this out to Jesus his response is a classic description of oikos. "For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother." Family is so much bigger than the blood that runs through our veins.

Building strong relationships and becoming disciples really starts with one thing: building a strong family. This Christmas season I just want to encourage you to pause and celebrate the family.

Who in your life has been family for you? Who have you reached out to and celebrated oikos with?


5 things that I do to enjoy Christmas.

A little bit of crazy.

A little bit of crazy.