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Archive for the ‘family’ Category

It’s a tragic thing when a person exchanges a heritage of faith for a wad of “here today, gone tomorrow” cash.

How does this happen? Here are a few examples:

  • Rampant missing of church in order to make money.
  • Destroying a personal testimony via unethical actions that boost sales or job promotion prospects but corrupt faith.
  • Refusal to show compassionate generosity to people in need, particularly family members or close friends.

These sorts of behaviors are bad enough by themselves but when they are witnessed by children, the offenses are made worse.

Why?

Because they show that wealth is more important than faith.

No caring parent would offer his or her child an arsenic pill.

But when we act as if money is more important than God, are we not doing something far worse? Something that could lead to destruction of our child’s soul?

No matter what money we “leave on the table” by protecting our heritage of faith, it’s not worth destroying our testimony in the eyes of our kids and other impressionable people.

We are to be seen as role models for Matthew 6:33, seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and trusting God to provide what we need for living.

Why this topic today?

Today’s daily Bible reading included the I Kings 21 story of evil Israelite King Ahab wanting the land of a farmer named Naboth. Ahab offered to buy the land that he wanted for a vegetable garden.

Naboth said “No” to the sale, saying that the land was his ancestral inheritance from the days the Hebrews entered the Promised Land. There was no way he was giving the land up for money. Such would show that he cared more for himself than for his descendants.

Heritage comes first, Naboth told the king.

Ahab ended up with the plot, however, because Ahab’s wife, Queen Jezebel, had Naboth murdered.

Naboth’s descendants lost the land and their father/grandfather/etc…., but they were given a heritage of testimony that is still impressive nearly 3,000 years later.

Let’s embrace Naboth’s commitment to a heritage of faith, no matter what carrots of cash or vanity or lust the world might wave in front of our noses.

In 100 years, our descendants would much rather have a heritage of faithfulness from us than they would the minimal — if any — remnants of wealth left after generations of taxes and possibly poor spending decisions.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Husbands want to be respected.

God wired ’em that way.

But until more men start stepping up to the responsibilities of being the household leader that God wants, the respect they receive at home will be less than it should.

And godly wives will be carrying more of the spiritual health responsibility for the home than they should.

I thank God for such women. The kingdom is protected from being weaker, thanks to them.

I pray for their husbands. The kingdom will be stronger as the husbands’ faith grows stronger.

I was reminded of this persistent challenge while reading today from the One-Year Bible. In Judges 13, the Angel of the Lord (i.e., Christ before He was born in the flesh) appeared to Manoah’s wife and told her she would have a son and that he would become a deliverer for Israel in its struggle against the Philistines.

There’s much more to the account than what I’ll share, but what I want to focus on for a moment is this — the Angel of the Lord twice sought out the unnamed wife, not her husband Manoah.

And after Manoah later talked with the Angel of the Lord — and realized it — the spiritually weak husband was sure that he was going to die because he had seen God.

Who put his mind at ease? The faith-filled wife who told him that God wouldn’t promise a child to the barren couple and then kill them before she were even pregnant.

Listen, guys.

If you have a faith-filled wife, you are incredibly blessed.

But you are not off the hook for being spiritually mature and strong yourself.

Actually, you are blessed to have a spouse who can help you to grow even more.

It’s time to step up. It’s time to be the man that God sees as the priest of your household.

Thankfully, Manoah’s wife was a good future mom for the boy named Samson who would turn out to be such a troubled, compromising soul later.

Hmmmm….. makes you wonder how Samson’s life would have been different if Dad would have been a better spiritual leader at home.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Providing or preserving a heritage of holy living is often at the core of faith-filled parents striving to provide for their children.

The same goal is to be in view of those in other positions of spiritual influence such as church leaders, Christian grandparents, Christians aunts and uncles and on down the line.

I’m thankful for parents and a grandmother who were in church every Sunday and who set good examples of not living like the worldly people around them.

And I’m thankful for Sunday school teachers and preachers and other church leaders who visibly nurtured their relationships with God.

As a husband, as a father, as a pastor and as a Christian friend, I’ve tried to be the role model that God called me to be. I’m sure that I’ve stumbled along the way, but at least my nose has generally been pointed in the right direction.

This is important, not only for me but for those influenced by my life.

I pray that you’ll reflect on who has influenced your walk of faith. And I pray that you’ll reflect upon your measure of influence toward others.

This devotion was prompted by Isaiah 51:1, a passage in today’s Bible reading.

Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness and who seek the LORD: Look to the rock from which you were cut and to the quarry from which you were hewn”

God referred to Abraham and Sarah in the verse following this one, reminding the Hebrews of their spiritual connection to the first patriarch (i.e., earthly founder) of the Hebrew faith. They knew the story of the famous couple, the good times and the bad times.

They knew that through all the trials and trip-ups, Abraham and Sarah ultimately trusted God and did the right things.

They knew that God was faithful to His promises made to imperfect people who sinned, yet continued aspiring to serve God.

And they knew that Abraham was willing to sacrifice the earthly thing that he loved the most — his beloved son Isaac — in order to obey God.

That’s the quarry of faith from which they were cut.

I want to demonstrate a quarry of faith that provides a heritage of holy living, prompting rock-solid faith among those I influence.

This is what I want for my children. This is what I want for my congregation members. This is what I want for any that see and learn from my faith example.

I pray that this is your desire, too.

As always, I love you
Martin

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I’ve been gone for a few days on a getaway with my family.

It was good, but it was also a lot of work.

I’m talking about camping in the Florida Keys and making many of the preparations for six adults.

Lori was very helpful, lightening the workload a bit and I am quite grateful for her diligent nature.

I had a hunch about the amount of work that would be required but I didn’t know what would be involved.

I do now.

And I’d still make the same choice, mosquitoes, “NoSeeUm” biting flies, humid heat and all.

Why? Because showing my love for family was far more valuable than the cost of effort and time and money paid in order to provide for the loved ones.

I thought of this truth this morning while reflecting on Tuesday’s John 19:38-42 reading in the One-Year Bible. In that passage, Joseph of Armithea and Nicodemus laid their social, political, financial, theological stakes on the line by going to Pontius Pilate and asking for the body of Jesus that had just been crucified.

Both were prominent, socially established Jews in good standing with the ecclestiastical authorities and each had to have been aware of the consequences of being perceived as sympathetic to the Preacher hated — and essentially murdered — by the Sanhedrin.

It was going to be costly in some way to them, they almost certainly knew.

But not doing what the Lord was calling their hearts to do would have been even more costly.

Somehow, some way, Jesus had become as family to them and they were going to do whatever it took in order to show their love.

When they apparently “signed on” earlier as secret supporters of Jesus, Joseph and Nicodemus didn’t know that they would be putting their worlds on the line for a Messiah who had just been murdered.

But when a need arose that perhaps they alone could resolve, they put their shoulders to the wheel and their self-interests on the back burner, doing all that was needed, hassles and potential hassles and all.

They did it because of love.

Stinging words from some surely did follow.

The heat of peer pressure and social isolation surely followed as well.

But serve their Messiah they did.

I’m glad.

And I’m instructed.

Please, when the Holy Spirit is stirring your heart to do something for Jesus, even though influential people around you won’t like it, show your love of family.

Put in the work for others.

Put up with the buzzing and biting and stinging and oppressive heat on you.

It’s what we do for family.

Whatever we do will be far less than what Jesus did for us.

As always, I love you
Martin

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Every time I read Mark 3:21, I imagine a pained look on Jesus’ face.

This is the place in the Gospels where His family is saying that Jesus has lost His mind and needs to be taken to back to the family compound.

The preceding verse describes how Jesus and His apostles are so caught up one day in ministry to large crowds that they haven’t been able to eat. That was the trigger that convinced Jesus’ mother and siblings that He was out of control and a threat to Himself.

I know it sounds crazy to us, this idea that the Carpenter of all creation is seen by His family as a “nut case” simply because He misses dinner in order to preach to a crowd.

His family was already sick of His religious activism, though, and tired of hearing all the peer complaints about the eldest son’s whacky religious beliefs and teachings.

They had already felt a lot of pressure, I’m sure, from local Jewish bigshots who didn’t like how Jesus was undercutting the tradtional Jewish power structure.

But Jesus was having a huge, positive impact on countless lives. Many were being physically healed. Even more were being delivered from inner angst and were walking in the peace of God’s forgiveness.

This is what Jesus wanted His family to see and celebrate, I’m sure.

Yet, they came with an agenda to keep Him from doing God’s work.

Oh, how that must have pained His heart.

It’s no wonder that He said in another gospel that His true family is whoever does the will of God.

I’m glad that Jesus didn’t harbor hard feelings toward His mom and His siblings.

Yes, they terribly embarrassed Him by allowing themselves to become pawns in the schemes of the Enemy.

But, if He showed them grace as Hie rejected this scheme with no residual malice, His call later for their support of His ministry might be well-received.

And it was.

They did become believers. In fact, His brother James became a key leader in the Jerusalem church.

I encourage you to be patient and focused on God’s calling if and when a relative starts giving you grief because of your overt faith.

Yes, it stings when a relative thinks you’re not thinking clearly as you pursue your practice of faith.

But you know what’s best.

Stick with it. Lay your wounded feelings on the altar of sacrifice.

God will strengthen you if you press into Him without faltering.

Perhaps some of those relatives will eventually come to believe as did Jesus’ relatives.

Now that would be a wonderful thing.

As always, I love you
Martin

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It’s such a short fragment of a verse but it spoke loudly to me this morning.

He blesses the home of the righteous” (Proverbs 3:33)

As soon as I read this, my mind zoomed through memories of times past when my heart was thrilled by God’s blessings upon my home. Times when I wrestled with giggling kids on the family room floor. Times when I hugged and encouraged teary-eyed kids wounded by words of peers.

And times when I saw the Holy Spirit pour encouragement into dinner visitors who felt the unconditional love of my family.

The list of cherished, recalled blessings goes on and on and on, of course.

Just as your list does if you’ve sought to have a righteous home.

It has not been in the plan of God to pour out abundant wealth into my home. I assure you that I would have appreciated it if He had, but I’m content and grateful with the non-tangible blessings that actually have far greater worth and require far less maintenance.

The cost-benefit ratio of righteousness vs. blessing is clearly in my favor, as it is for every surrendered believer.

We pursue the righteous living that God desires and deserves and He provides the blessings that we desire but DON’T deserve.

Please, my friend, determine today to change one of your life patterns that could become more righteous in nature.

Perhaps you’ll stop watching unrighteous TV programs tthat corrupt your mind with sarcasm, sexual innuendo and rude language. God certainly isn’t happy with such choices and won’t bless them.

Perhaps you’ll stop trying to influence family members in hurtful ways so that you can get your way.

Perhaps you’ll start praying consistently with your spouse or children before you part ways for the day and before you go to sleep at night.

The possibilities are endless for bringing more righteousness into your home.

And as you do, the endless supply of blessings from the infinite God won’t be far behind.

As always, I love you
Martin

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To hear this Morning Devotion, please click A legacy lost
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I can just see the family members hurriedly sifting through every bag, chest and drawer in their house as they search for proof of who they are.

There is a look of desperation that grips their faces, a look that is rooted in the fear that their mission will fail.

The men in these families know what is at stake. And so do their wives.

Failure means exclusion from the priesthood, even though they know that they are descended from the priestly line.

It is a terribly sad micro-story recorded in Ezra 2:59-63, an account that shows the failure of an unknown number of families in terms of documenting their priestly geneology.

In Ezra 2, thousands of Jews are preparing to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the city after decades of desolation. The new king in Babylon, Cyrus of Persia, is even helping with the project’s cost. The core objective of the Jews is to rebuild the temple and resume the worship practices of the Jews.

Priests would be the overseers of this long-desired resumption of Jehovah worship. Not only would the priests derive the great satisfaction of serving God and their people, but they would also derive their financial support from offerings at the temple.

The descendants of the priests Hobaiah, Hakkoz and Barzillai had to have been thrilled when they first heard the king’s plan. But then when they realized that they would have to provide their ancestors’ documentation of temple service, things got tough.

All they had to do was to find an ancient counterpart to an ordination certificate or a diploma from a priestly seminary or some temple document with Grandpa’s signature in a place required for the priest on duty.

They found nothing, despite the likely repeated sifting of their homes and repeated trips to the homes of close relatives.

This failure had to have been emotionally devestating, made even worse by the realization that a few moments of careful filing decades earlier would have prevented this calamity.

I’m sure that you can imagine how the descendants of Hobaiah, Hakkoz and Barzillai felt when they had to accept the fact that their places as temple servants were forvever lost due to filing errors.

So how does this sad story relate to us?

What are you doing to secure your legacy? To pave the way for your biological or spiritual descendants to follow in your footsteps of serving God?

Serving as a priest in the Jerusalem temple is not an option for you and for me. However, if you’re a Christian, you are part of God’s new “royal priesthood” (I Peter 2:9) called to declare the praises of God. And you are pass on that role to those who follow in your footsteps, whether it be your biological children, your relatives’ or friends’ children, a younger adult convert or any other believer of the generation after yours.

It is so good when I encounter a Christian teen whose solid faith can be traced to the careful imparting of God’s love and truth from faithful parents who received the same from their parents who received the same from their parents.

It’s like being one of the soon-to-be-priests in Babylon who are packed and ready to go to Jerusalem, with Grandpa’s priestly ordination certificate tucked into his inner robe right next to his heart.

Dear friend, be careful in the living of your faith so that God is served and pleased. But NEVER forget to be equally committed to imparting that faith to your child, to somebody else’s child or to a young adult who can carry your torch of faith after you’re gone.

Your legacy will be served and your spiritual descendant will experience a sense of joy, not confused loss, when he or she senses God’s call to return to Him.

As always, I love you
Martin

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