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Posts Tagged ‘family’

rebuild
The work the Lord burdened Nehemiah to accomplish finally begins in Nehemiah chapter 3.  There are quite a few things to note in how this work was carried out and by whom.  Let’s consider how the people of God began to rebuild their gates and walls as a unified community that we might glean some wisdom and insight for our own undertakings within our own communities.

Beginning in Nehemiah 3:1, we find the high priest and all the priests next to him begin the work.  Here, we have a picture of how godly men should lead.  Godly men ought to always lead by their good example.  When their is work to be done, ministers may indeed delegate it, but they must always also be willing to participate in it.  Far too many spiritual leaders today want to lead with their positions and power plays rather than by example.  A good leader will always do just that…literally lead in any profitable undertaking with his own two hands.

Secondly, we find that many men and women from neighboring communities came to help rebuild Jerusalem.  We find the people of Jericho, Gibeon and Mizpah, Zanoah, Beth-hacecerem, Beth-zur, and Keilah all coming together to help this effort.  Surely we should help those close to our community when they are in need in addition to serving our own.

In verse 12 we find a family helping.  Notice, too, that this was a father and his daughters.  Here was a man who was part ruler of Jerusalem coming, helping, and bringing his girls to help.  Not only did he not think himself above the effort because of his high position, he brings his whole family… of girls!  What a great picture of inclusion and unanimity among the builders of this wall.  Many a man with daughters and not sons may keep his girls from getting dirty and feel awkward to bring them along, but here we see just the opposite in God’s perfect Word.

Notice who else we find building in verses 8 and 32: the goldsmiths, the apothecaries, and the merchants.  These were the business owners; the blue collar men who made everything for everyone else to buy and use.  These guys didn’t use their businesses as an excuse not to show up.  They closed their shops or they went after hours to help this work get done because they considered it more important than making money or being open every single day of the year.  If shop owners can commit to the common good in their trade, they can commit to the common good as God commands outside of their trades as well.

Next, we find men working on this building project opposite their own houses.  How about that!  How many people do you know that would forfeit their time and money to work next door while they look across the street at all that needs done at home?  This is quite a testimony of the character and faithfulness these people had to accomplish God’s work first and their own needs second.

Finally, in verse 5, we find that not everyone was on board.  There was one particular group singled out as not being willing to serve their Lord.  The nobles of the Tekoites “would not stoop to serve their Lord.”  Here, the nobles were not noble, but full of pride which led only to disgrace for them and their name.  The reproach of being named here is shameful and it goes to prove how when we refuse to work with others in unity and harmony out of nothing more than sheer pride and arrogance we will be disgraced publicly for our stubborn selfishness…and rightly so!    Let that never be said of us!  If we cannot humble ourselves to serve God, we will never humble ourselves to serve anyone else.  Every good thing we do will always be self-serving thus rendering it purposeless and void of any wholesome “good.”

There will always be those who will refuse to do right even when everyone around them is working together toward a common goal.  There will always be dissenters and dividers among the true people of God.  But, by and large, when the people of God work together in love and obedience to Him, the work gets done, God is glorified, and we are blessed.  As Matthew Henry says, “If everyone will sweep before his own door, the street will be clean; if every one will mend one, we shall be all mended.”  

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family

In Exodus chapter 18, Moses’ father in-law comes to see him.  He had heard of all that God had done for His people and wanted to speak with Moses first hand.

Apparently, Moses’ family had not been with him during a large portion of his ministry thus far.  His father in-law, Jethro, likely understood, not only the great importance of what God was doing through Moses, but also the great importance of Moses having his wife and children with him in any further endeavors.

Moses’ family coming with him served firstly to encourage and help him.  The very names of his sons, which are made special note of here in the scripture itself, serve to encourage and remind him of who he is.

Gershom, meaning stranger; pilgrim; sojourner, reminded Moses of his lifetime lack of belonging and future citizenship in heaven.  Eliezer, meaning God is my help or God delivered, reminded Moses of where his strength and help really lie.

Our families are called along with us as our primary line of encouragement and support – second only to the encouragement and support of the Holy Spirit – any time God calls us into ministry.

Moses’ family coming with him served secondly to be an example for God’s people on how his chosen ones ought to function in their own family.  Moses, being the chosen leader of the people of God, had a great responsibility to show them how to lead their own families and affairs to the glory of God.  This is the same reason the New Testament makes clear the importance of the leaders in God’s church having their own family in order first, before they may be allowed to lead God’s church.

 Matthew Henry puts it this way, “Moses must have his family with him, that while he ruled the church of God he might set a good example of prudence in family-government, 1 Timothy 3:5.  Moses had now a great deal both of honor and care put upon him, and it was fit that his wife should be with him to share with him in both.”

So, when Jethro came with Moses’ family in tow, the very first thing Moses did was to greet him respectfully and take and interest in their (his own) family’s well being.  As tempting as it must have been, Moses did not run out to Jethro and Zipporah (Moses’ wife) and tell them of all the amazing signs and wonders or run them over with all that God had done right away.  Instead, Moses took care to greet Jethro with the respect he was due and to ask of his welfare first.  Others first.  This is a basic, foundational principle God’s leaders must possess.

Finally, Moses shares his wonder-filled testimony with his own family, who, had previously only heard of it second, third, or tenth hand.  Henry says, “Conversation concerning God’s wondrous works is profitable conversation; it is good, and to the use of edifying, Psalm 105:2.”

Unfortunately, we have many who would disagree with both Moses and Mr. Henry.  They warn us, “Don’t talk too much about the things God has done which cannot be explained.  Do not give him glory for his signs and wonders.  Do not even mention those things that belong to the realm of the spiritual and miraculous.” Many disagree with Moses and Jethro and Mr. Henry because they fear; they doubt; they disbelieve; they envy.  Therefore, they seek to silence anyone who would share the great and mighty works of a God who will not be tamed for mere man’s comfort.

In disbelieving and discounting the works of God, those ones miss both the blessing and the benefit of rejoicing in and knowing well a God who is greater than our greatest imaginations.

As we see evident here in Moses’ own family, the result of speaking the truth about the signs, wonders, and miracles of God first hand is rejoicing and strengthening of faith.  Some might even call this instance conversion for Jethro.  Jethro heard of the good for God’s people and he was genuinely happy for them.  He wasn’t jealous or suspicious or contemptuous or unfavorable concerning God’s providence and people.  He was genuinely happy and rejoiced – even he, a foreigner.

Because the leader and his family made their table-talk of that which glorified God, they found themselves rejoicing rather than murmuring, complaining, or running down their would be friends as the people following behind and all around them were so quick to do. This leader of God’s people kept his own family spiritually healthy even when those who were following behind him could do nothing but grumble, complain, accuse, and fault-find.

Just as in the case of the Jews and the Gentiles, the tragedy for those who actually witnessed the miraculous take place before their very eyes, truly missed it.  Those closest to the wonders closed their eyes in willful blindness, but those standing by and hearing second hand were more zealous and faithful than they despite the many, many great advantages God had given them.

It seems that this entire passage is one with the intent to teach us the great importance of respect and care for good family relations and conversations among God’s people and leading by example in all those things related to such. When God calls leaders, he calls their families.  This is his chosen earthly example for proper daily living.  Therefore, let us live up to our calling as those to whom the world looks for answers.

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team

“What were we learning about yesterday?”

“Jews and Gentiles!”

“What about them?”

“The Jews didn’t want the Gentiles to be in God’s family.”

“Why?”

“Because they (the Jews) weren’t worshiping God.”

“Who were they worshiping?”

“Themselves.”

“What did God want?”

“Together!”

 For he himself is our peace,who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. ~Ephesians 2:14-16

Together.  With confidence like unto that of a certain seven year-old who proudly knows her Bible lesson, I am certain I heard God’s voice in hers.  Together.  God wants His people together.

From the beginning of creation, God declared that it is not good for man to be alone.  He proceeded to give Adam a wife, Abraham a son, Leah a husband, Naomi a daughter-in-law, and even Jesus a mommy.  God gives us each other.  “Together” is a gift.

What is “together” really, though?  Is it merely sitting beside one another while staring a sparkly, colorful rectangles?  Is it just doing the same activities at the same time?  Is it primarily being physically present? What is the “together” that makes the not goodness of being alone, good?

Let’s start with what it definitely is not.

The alone-ness that was “not good” is not rectified by attending the same social events, going to the same homes, schools and churches, sitting at the same tables, or talking about the same hobbies.  The togetherness that Christ died to bring about amounts to more than superficial physical proximity or bodily juxtaposition.

Togetherness in Christ means much, much more than that.  It means what it meant for Adam and Eve – a man and a woman who had no one except each other.  It means that when we are done talking about sports and schools, we talk about failure – both mine and yours. It means we encourage and that we know one other well enough to understand why and when each other needs it. It means we stay even when we disagree.  It means we learn how to communicate for the good of the other.  It means we are open to correction, quick to forgive, and that we know each other well enough and real enough that we know what we need to correct and actually experience the need to forgive.

Why else would the Jews have so despised the thought of including Gentiles into the fold of God?  Aside from the obvious pride, jealousy, and confusion they naturally had, the Jews knew something else.  They knew what inclusion really meant for them.  That is what Paul had to address.

It meant pig-eating people in their kosher cafes.  It meant a bona fide, painful break from the Jews who did not believe the gospel – Jews who were their closest family, friends, and neighbors.  It meant sacrificing their preferences for the good of people they had previously disliked and adamantly avoided.  It meant putting down the pride of being God’s apple and making room for a whole new bushel.  It meant standing up for a Gentile when an unbelieving Jew encouraged one to harass.  This was none other than the plight of the eldest child learning to welcome new siblings while at the same time being asked to pull away from his favorite best buddies.

It meant realizing that they were not the most important people in the world and never had been.  It meant laying down their prior to pre-incarnate Christ social groups and walking in humility among those he died to place in their lives.  It meant standing up for and doing good to those who were in the faith over and above their old comrades and favorite fellow men.

It meant sacrifice.  It meant humility.  It meant courage.

God-authenticated togetherness is not mere relational or physical proximity.  God-authenticated togetherness is the very work of the gospel.

It means realizing that we are not the most important people in the world and we never were.  It means laying down our pre-Christian social groups and walking in humility among those he died to place in front of us.  It means standing up for and doing good to those who are in the faith over and above our old comrades and favorite fellow men.

It means sacrifice.  It means humility.  It means courage.

Let us not settle for mere relational or physical proximity.  Let us do the work of the gospel through our willingness to invest in God-authenticated togetherness.

Together.  God wants His people together.

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family

2:49 a.m. – He sends a text that tells his wife he’s almost home and can’t wait to put his arms around her.  He’s been drag racing again.  Normally, she would be there cheer leading from the eardrum breaking bleachers, but the the race track is no comfortable place for a woman with child.

His friends may think that having a supernaturally fast street car, an even faster race car, and a bread-winning business to prove it is what makes him most respectable.  But we both know better now.

Don’t get me wrong, his gifting is found in gears and gadgets.  He has given his life and livelihood for building things to go.  Fast cars bring home the bacon – bacon, by the way, whose “better eat me and broadcast it if you’re a big man” blasphemy has created a sincere aversion for him.  No.  Tim has not bought in.  Bacon hasn’t the slightest thing to do with being a man.  Neither do beards or how much of it (bacon) you bring home.   Being a man, brothers, is found in something a little bit bigger and badder than that.

 Here is a day in the (new) life of a recovering bacon braggart’s wife…

8 a. m.  – He gets up early on Sunday morning after his 3:30 a. m. return from drag racing to go over the Bible lesson he’s about to teach the children at church.  He takes the dogs out, brushes little girls’ hair, and eats a breakfast void of bacon.

9:30 a.m. – He turns the car around when his wife remembers something she forgot.  He laughs instead of yelling.  Upon returning, he gets out and kindly get the said item for her.

10 a. m. – He teaches Sunday school, complete with funny faces, friend-making foolishness, and all the same fervor he has when fueling up his fast cars.

1 p. m. – He buys lunch for extended family.  He takes them to the river to picnic and play.  He picks his wife a wildflower.  He buys his daughter a heavily overpriced elk skin purse, his other daughters a wooden trinket and his wife a handmade flower for her hair.  He teaches them about nature and geography with enthusiasm.  He sneaks away and buys them ice cream.  He baits their fishing poles with slimy worms they can’t bear to touch repeatedly.  When the pregnant wife wants to wade in the water, he holds both her hands and leads her carefully.  He carries everything back to the truck.  He always drives.

7 p. m. – He sits down on the couch and watches a kids movie.  He rubs his wife’s feet and doses off unintentionally.

10 p. m. – He tells the kids a story, prays with them, and puts them to bed.  He lays down with a sore back.  He talks with his wife for a while and then prays with her about the trials of the upcoming week.  He remembers those in need, in pain, in leadership, in darkness.  He thanks God repeatedly.  He asks the Lord to bless his wife and children.  He plans to get up early for a walk with his wife before working all day on a holiday.

He wins.  Not with his race cars or his worldly wealth.  He knows that can be taken away.  He wins the hearts of those around him because he has put away self-indulgence.  He has refused the lies of worldly gain and it has been revealed to him what is worthwhile.

The measure of a man is never about his net worth, his appetite, his appearance, or his material possessions.  The measure of a man is most evidenced by his love for God demonstrated by his love for others.

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. ~John 15:13

Big beard wearers, bacon eaters, big car builders, take note of Mr. Rodeheaver.  He has taken note of Christ.

~Mrs. Rodeheaver

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unity

As a mom of three girls, it is a rare day when no sibling unrest occurs.  Despite the conflicts, usually they play without needing my assistance for some time.  They often figure out how to reconcile their differences alone.  Yesterday, however, was not one of those days.

Somewhere between dragging them to the phlebotomist with me and grabbing school supplies, two girls were fighting.  One was being selfish, the other self-righteous.  One was crying, one pouting.  It occurred to me after much repeated correction (this went on for some time)  that once the issue was over and the cosmic balance of our home had been restored, I had not made it a point to sit down with either of them and just talk about what had happened.  Between the busyness of the day and the struggle to call an effective cease-fire, by the time it was over I think we all just wanted to forget about it.

I feel like I forgot to be a parent.  Comfort and convenience have a way of producing selective memory.  Maybe we will revisit World War 3 today…

Anyway, Paul does not seem to have this problem with churches.  Paul never forgets to parent God’s church.  First, he instructs and corrects.  Correction is almost always followed up by exhortation.

In the closing of Colossians, Paul’s final address stresses the importance of inclusion and unity.  He mentions ten specific people, including himself, as well as an entire church body.  He urges the people in the Colossian church to “welcome” and accept them.  Consider his words.

“Tychius...is a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord.  I have sent him

Onesimus, our faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you

Aristarchus my fellow prisoner…

Mark, the cousin of Barnabus…welcome him…

Jesus who is called Justus.  These are the only men of the circumcision among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God and they have been a comfort to me…

Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Jesus Christ…for I bear him witness...

Luke the beloved physician greets you as does Demas…

Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house

…I, Paul…remember my chains.”

Why does Paul name these people?  What is the point?

Doubtless, this is a father managing his children.  He is saying, “Hey guys, I’m not there but here comes your brothers and sisters.  Here’s how they’ve served me, you, and the Lord faithfully.  These people are part of God’s kingdom.  Welcome them.  Accept them.  Treat them as your own.  Consider their sacrifices for the gospel and include them as your own when they come to you.  It couldn’t be more clear what Paul is saying here.

Why would Paul close his letter this way?  What reason would he have to tell them these things and name these individuals?

Paul spent his efforts on this letter making sure the Colossians knew who not to listen to.  Perhaps he does not want them to get conveniently confused.

Tychius was a fellow minister.  Onesimus had been a poor slave who’d been converted from a particularly wicked lifestyle.  Mark had been at odds with Paul previously.  Epaphrus prayed fervently for these people.  Jesus, now called Justus had changed his very name out of respect for the Redeemer.  Luke was a doctor.  Nympha was a woman who held church in her home.  Archippus was of the of the ministers in Colosse with them.  Paul himself was a prisoner for the gospel and an overseer of the churches.

Surely the temptation was to exclude certain types of people from the church.  Little wonder why Paul does this end of letter name dropping.  These mentioned are very different types of people.  There is no doubt Paul mentions them by name so that the Colossians make no mistake.

These are your people, church.  These – the pastors as well as the paupers.  Those from the wrong side of the tracks just the same as the doctors.  The women as well as the men.  The ones who have had differences with me and you as well as the chum buddies who’ve been serving alongside you.

Welcome them.  They are all beloved.  They are all your brothers.  They are all faithful.  They are all of you.  Greet them.  Hear them.  Include them.  Welcome them.

Remember me.

~Love, Dad

“The meanest circumstance of life, and the greatest wickedness of former life, make no difference in the spiritual relation among sincere Christians: they partake of the same privileges, and are entitled to the same regards.”  ~Matthew Henry

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sheep

“Mommy, does God have a family?”

“Yes.  We are His family.”

“We are?”
“Yeah, remember?  He is our Father in heaven.  We are His children.”

My six year old looks puzzled for a moment and then resumes playing with her toys.  I think about the scripture verse next in line in my study.

“Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.”

The main task for children is always to obey.  I suppose the hardest time for children to obey is when they are most busy or when they do not understand.  How willing children are to obey at the moment of command – not the moment of understanding – is the true test of obedience.

It is a daily test with my children as well as with myself and my Father God.  It almost always starts with a simple one word command, “Child, come.”

“Come here, child.”

I’m sure you know what the response often is from my children when I call without further explanation.

“Why, Mom?”  “What do you want, Mom?”  “I’m doing something, Mom.”  Followed by a slow, “I’m coming…” and subsequent short term memory amnesia.

Somehow, when Daddy says, “Come.” a child quickly appears in front of him, no questions asked save, “Yes, Daddy?”

I have to say my oldest is, and always has been, most compliant.  She even answers with a respectful, “Yes Mommy”  almost every time I give her an instruction.  Maturity breeds obedience.  She has learned that disobedience does not end well for her.

Never am I more frustrated than when I call one of my children because I have exciting news or a gift for them and they fail to come.

Oh, that I would learn to quickly appear before my Father every time I hear his calling.  No excuses.  No inquires.  No stalling.  No willful amnesia.  Just a “Yes, Daddy?”  How well my day would go if I would just obey like a mature child rather than an immature rebel.  God, help me.

These are Paul’s instructions for children.  Obedience is pleasing to the Lord because obeying earthly parents without delay or excuse trains children to obey God without delay or excuse.  Failing to teach them to obey us as parents puts them at a great disadvantage in both their physical and spiritual life.  I often remind my kids of their duty to obey by asking them in the midst of their disobedience, “What is your #1 job?”  They know it is to obey mom and dad because obeying us is obeying God.

The good news is that our Father is not an unjust power hungry control freak.  His commands for obedience are rooted in our greatest good.  He is gracious and loving toward his children because we are the apples of his eye.  There is always a great and exciting gift waiting for those who obey heartily – the abiding presence of God himself.

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After Paul spends two paragraphs digressing in an effort to make sure the necessity of
God’s grace in him and for the Ephesians is understood, he comes back to reinforce the reason he is laboring so hard for the gospel and for them.

Unity was the reason.  One kingdom body formed from two people groups who happen to comprise the entire human race – Jews and Gentiles. (Ephesians 2:17-22)

For this, not only was Paul willingly imprisoned and persecuted, but he was also earnestly praying on his knees for the men and women he formerly hated enough to kill.  He asked that they’d be strengthened through the Holy Spirit, in faith, in love, in knowledge, and with the fullness of God.

Note how he describes the one he is praying to:

“…the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named…”

Paul is focusing on the concept of family.  Why?

Families were God’s idea.  Paul says he “named” each one indicating his headship authority over them.  Beginning with Adam and Eve and culminating at the end of all things with the international family of believers –  a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages (Revelation 7:9) – God is the Father.  God is the FatherGod is the Father.

Therefore, Jews and Gentiles do not have the right to exclude each other based on their earthly fathers.  God did a new thing in Christ.  He made room for every dead sinner his Father gave to him and he told us all to live in peace together.  The Ephesians needed to understand that they were indeed God’s children.  The Jews needed to understand that no matter how pristine their ancestry line traced, only those who had God as their Father were his children.  And the same wisdom is needed for us today.

Unbelievers who come to Christ apart from a Christian family and clean upbringing need to understand that they are indeed God’s children just as much as anyone else who is in the faith.  Likewise, those who are steeped in religion and church culture from the time they exit the womb need to understand that their earthly line grants them neither automatic nor superior citizenship in God’s kingdom.  God is the Father of his true children and he adopts all those who are his.  We are being built into his kingdom equally together.  Therefore, let us strengthen one another regardless of how diverse our earthly backgrounds are.  Let us remember that God is our father and that he can do far more abundantly than all we ask or think.  Let us pray for the family of God.  He will get all the glory.

“to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

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