A Family for Others from Philippians 2

What does it look like to live as a family for others? As THE MAN for others, Jesus saved us rather than Himself at the cross and, “every time we reflect on the cross, Christ seems to be saying to us, ‘I am here for you. It is your sin I am bearing, your curse I am suffering, your debt I am paying, your death I am dying’” (John Stott). From the incarnation to the cross, from the cross to the grave, from the grave to the skies, Jesus is there for others. As we contemplate all that He has done for us, we begin to change in some major ways. We begin to live lives of radical humility, sacrificial service, and bold risk-taking.

First of all, becoming a family for others cures us of our spiritual cancer of pride to live a life of radical humility (Philippians 2:1-11). As C.S. Lewis says, “pride which has been the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began…Pride is a spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love…” Unchecked pride leads to one activity… grumbling and complaining (v.14). One way we cultivate this blessed gift of self-forgetfulness is by actively identifying evidences of God’s grace in the lives of others. Paul calls attention to God’s work in the lives of Timothy and Epaphroditus. Begin to observe how the Spirit reveals His fruit and His gifts in the lives of others around you and intentionally encourage and thank them for what you see the Lord doing. Consider this: What is one way that you will resolve to weaken pride and cultivate humility?

Secondly, becoming a family for others liberates us from complaining to sacrificially serve others for God’s glory (2:12-24). Like Timothy of old, we resolve to serve the interests of Jesus Christ in the lives of others (v.21). Reflect on this: What is one way that the Lord is calling you and your family to serve others for His glory?

Thirdly, becoming a family for others liberates us from the enchantment of security and galvanizes us to take risks in building Christ’s church (2:25-30). Here we examined the life of Epaphroditus who risked his life in serving Christ. We take risks when we sacrifice our own interests, comforts and resources to make much of Jesus Christ and prove that He is more precious to us than anything else. Ponder this: What is one risk that the Lord is asking you to take for His glory and the expansion of His kingdom?

Safety is a mirage. It didn’t exist for the Apostle Paul, Timothy or Epaproditus. It doesn’t exist for you. They had two choices: waste their lives or live with risk. Today we enjoy the privileges of the gospel because of the risks they took. Let us follow in their train for risk is right!

Three Family Faith Busters

Every Christian parent  desires to see their children embracing a vibrant faith in Jesus and serving well His kingdom purpose throughout their lives (3 John 4; Acts 13:36). To this end, our children’s ministry recently hosted a number of parents from both inside and outside our church to hear noted speaker and best-selling author, Vicki Courtney.

During our evening together, Vicki set forth three ways that Christian parents often struggle to pass the baton of faith to their children. She introduced her theme by sharing her concern about the alarming number of young people who are jettisoning the faith of their fathers and are leaving the church in alarming numbers. She quickly pointed out that this phenomenon is not a youth problem but a parent problem. She called the following three things “Family Faith Busters.” Here’s a quick recap.

1. The first family faith buster is failing to model for our kids that the Lord is our primary affection. Moses calls us in Deuteronomy 6:5 to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and strength.” The Hebrew word for ‘love’ means ‘to have affection for.’ How often do we model for our kids that something other that the Lord is our primary affection? At times, we value the approval of our kids more than the Lord’s. We have to confess that at times other things and people are more precious to us than the Lord. She proposed that parents start by honestly assessing: “What are your top three primary affections?”

How easy it is to push our kids in athletic competition and academic performance due to our own idols of approval and control. How often we allow cultural standards of beauty to define our kids rather than God’s Word (1 Samuel 16:7). She challenged us to identify those things that are more precious to us than Jesus and to bring them to Him just like Jesus urged the woman at the well.

2. The second family faith buster is failing to acknowledge and embrace our role as the primary disciplers of our kids. Our consumer-oriented society coupled with our nagging sense of inadequacy cause parents to drop back and punt the spiritual nurture and equipping of our children to the children’s director, youth minister, and/or Christian school. Vicki urged parents not to look at discipling your kids as a classroom exercise, but asked us to anticipate and ask the Lord for discernment to seize those teachable moments when we are “walking along the way” (Deuteronomy 6:7). She challenged us to work on balancing being a protector without being a provoker. She parsed this out with two key scriptures (Colossians 3:21, Ephesians 6:4). Finally, she urged us to pray for our kid’s peer group. 1 Corinthians 15:33 cautions that “bad company corrupts good morals.” She proposed advising our kids to have weekday friends and weekend friends. We want our kids to serve as salt and light in the world, but they also need strong Christian friends to will encourage their pursuit of Christ and His will. This simple strategy serves as a way for our kids to foster friendships with fellow believers in our church family who can sharpen them spiritually (Proverbs 27:17). This way our church becomes our primary community, as it should be.

3. The third family faith buster is focusing on behavior modification rather than heart examination and transformation. Most of us parents settle too quickly for a morally restrained heart rather than pray and work for a supernaturally transformed heart. Her contention is that many Christian kids are being urged to obey apart from repentance and faith in Christ, which means they are rendering sub-Christian obedience. How often we use guilt and shame to secure our kid’s obedience rather than shepherding their hearts and ours with the gospel of grace.

All parents are tempted to settle for outward conformity. In recounting his own anguish with a prodigal daughter, Jack Miller wrote: “No one grows into grace through a Christianized environment. No one gets to God by moral self-improvement. [Our kids] only get to God by being transplanted from their natural soil into the life of Christ by a personal faith in Him” (Come Back Barbara, p. 30). We are all prone to unconsciously forget this foundational truth.

One of the ways that Vicki reminds her kids of this foundational truth is that when they leave home for school or an athletic event or just hanging out with friends, she reminds them to “RTC” – Remember the Cross. This is not just something for our kids to remember, but also a reminder we need ourselves as we confess our particular failings as parents, but also experience the pardoning grace of God revealed in that cross that motivates us anew to center our lives only on Christ, to embrace our parental calling as the primary disciplers of our kids, and to knead the gospel of grace into the hearts of our children and not settle for outward conformity. Let us rise up and “tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done” (Psalm 78:4).

Dad: The Family Shepherd from Psalm 78

Psalm 78 offers a simple guideline for all of us moms and dads in nurturing in our children a love for the Lord.

I.  Model the truths of God’s Word (Believe and model the gospel.)

  1. An Old Testament Model for Contemporary Moms and Dads
  2. David shepherded and guided the people of God (Psalm 78:72) HOW?
  • According to the integrity of his heart. תֹּם
  • Webster’s tells us integrity means “an unimpaired condition.” It means to be sound. The Hebrew word for integrity, tom, also means to be complete or solid.So he shepherded them according to the integrity [tom] of his heart,
    And guided them with his skillful hands. (Psalm 78:72)

    “Integrity is completeness or soundness. You have integrity if you complete a job even when no one is looking. You have integrity if you keep your word even when no one checks up on you. You have integrity if you keep your promises. Integrity means the absence of duplicity and is the opposite of hypocrisy. If you are a person of integrity, you will do what you say. What you declare, you will do your best to be. Integrity also includes financial accountability, personal reliability, and private purity. A person with integrity does not manipulate others. He or she is not prone to arrogance or self-praise. Integrity even invites constructive and necessary criticism because it applauds accountability. It’s sound. It’s solid. It’s complete.” (Chuck Swindoll)

  • With wisdom (skillful hands).

II. Transfer the truths of God’s Word (Communicate the gospel – Psalm 78:1-8) What specifically are we to intentionally share with our kids?

The praises of the Lord (v.4).

His strength (v.4)

His wondrous works (v.4, 12-72)

  • God’s deliverance from bondage – the exodus (12-16).
  • God’s provision of refreshing water from the rock and bread from heaven – manna in the wilderness (17-29).
  • God’s leading and protection of His people (43-53).

His word (the Law) (v.5) – He is faithful to fulfill His covenant promise

Who has the primary responsibility to transfer these things? DADS

  • (Deuteronomy 6:6-9 — These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.)

And to whom are we to transfer them?

  • Our children (v.5)
  • The generation to come (v.6)
  • Children yet to be born (v.6)

 What is our purpose in doing this?

  1. That our children might be equipped to disciple their children (Arise and tell… (v.6).
  2. That they might develop the capacity to trust God (v.7). In what/whom are they to put their confidence? Question: By your lifestyle and choices, in what other things might your children put their confidence?  Education, money, material possessions, or appearance?

  3. That they might make worship of God their ultimate priority. The Israelites aroused God’s jealousy with their graven images (78:58).
  4. That they might not be like their forefathers (v.8).
  5. That they may not forget His works (v.7) What was the major problem with the people of Israel? And what’s our biggest problem?

Spiritual Amnesia:  They and we have a short memory (Deut.4:9).

What are some of the characteristics that we and our children are called to  avoid or set aside?

  •  Stubbornness and rebelliousness (v.8a)
  •  Lack of attention to heart issues (v.8b)
  •  Lack of faithfulness in keeping covenant with God (v.8c)

When it is in your power to do it!

Proverbs 3:27 – “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.”

Leaders in Christ’s church are usually working to apply the gospel of grace in all manner of conflicts. It could be a struggling marriage. Or, it could be a conflict due to a divergence in preferred worship styles, or a difference in ministry philosophy or a personality conflict or a strained relationship.

In our efforts to resolve these issues, leaders normally have to focus on what’s not going well and how to solve the problem or resolve the conflict. This is an important process. However, I have seen this process at times cause me to develop a critical spirit and to become easily discouraged and cynical. Also, it can blind me to all the good things that God is doing in and among us.

How quick we are to charge others with wrongdoing and blame them for failing us! How often do we truly look out of ourselves to encourage others? According to our verse above, a question we must keep before us is this: What are the good words to speak and the good deeds to do that God is calling us to say and do today? This doesn’t mean that we don’t at times rebuke and admonish others. However, the key in our admonishing, rebuking and teaching is to make sure that the Word of Christ, not our own words, are richly dwelling in our hearts and minds (See Colossians 3:16).

It is in our hands to do others in our families, work places, and churches great good or great evil. At times, we have to draw line in the sand and answer the question: Which will it be for me?

Proverbs 3:27 encourages me to become more intentional about the following: When God puts it upon my heart to share an encouraging word and do a kind deed for someone, I should heed this prompting of His Holy Spirit promptly, deliberately, and without question.

This should happen with our focus upon Jesus who endured the curse of death, judgment and separation from the Father that we deserved. He did not refuse to do us the ultimate good of restoring us to God and extending to us forgiveness, peace, acceptance, and true communion with His Father.

Actively reflecting on this fills our hearts and minds with thankfulness and joy, but it should also humble us to become more intentional in actively doing good to others since He continues to do us immense good.

The Value of a Heaven-Inspired, Praying Mother

This coming weekend we celebrate Mother’s Day. It is fitting that we pray to our faithful God that He might turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers” (Malachi 4:6). This coming weekend is an opportunity for us to take time out to honor our mothers. Some of our mothers are deserving of honor and some are not, but still we can honor their position in our lives and pray for God’s mercy upon them.

I want to encourages our moms. Our culture tends to undervalue the ministry of motherhood. I’ve watched many moms question themselves and wonder if what they are doing as mothers is really making a difference in the lives of their children. Below is a wonderful encouragement to moms and moms to be from Jean Fleming from her book entitled A Mother’s Heart.

  • There is no nobler career than that of motherhood at its best.  There are no possibilities greater, and in no other sphere does failure bring more serious penalties.  With what diligence then should she prepare herself for such a task.  If the mechanic who is to work with ‘things’ must study at technical school, if the doctor into whose skilled hands will be entrusted human lives, must go through medical school… how much more should the mother who is fashioning the souls of the men and women of tomorrow, learn at the highest of all schools and from the Master-Sculptor Himself, Almighty God.  To attempt this task, unprepared and untrained is tragic, and its results affect generations to come.  On the other hand there is no higher height to which humanity can attain than that occupied by a converted, heaven-inspired, praying mother.

I, for one, will be forever grateful for a mom and grandmothers who ceased not to pray for me and love me when I was at times very difficult to love.

Grace to Fulfill Our Parental Calling #4

  • Parents worthy of honor pass on to their children a legacy of the faithfulness of God in their family’s life and pilgrimage.

Example of Joshua and his memorial stones.  Joshua 4:7 declares God’s intent in having Joshua make this memorial:  “So these stones shall become a memorial to the sons of Israel forever.”

We must make known to our children our family’s history – “the details of (our) experience in the midst of all that had happened and all that God has done for (us)” (Edith Schaeffer, p.107).

Edith Schaeffer underscores that, if this type of Deuteronomy 6 communication takes place (vv.4-7; 10-12), love and respect will follow very naturally in the parent-child relationship. (Along the way – not just sitting in your house.)

  • Parents worthy of honor place their older children into some lawful calling whereby they may serve the purpose of God in their generation (Example of King David and serving the purpose of God in his generation —  Acts 13:36)

Wisdom from the past regarding this practice: Thomas Watson explains:  “It is good to consult the natural genius and inclination of a child… To let a child be out of a calling, is to expose him to temptation.  Philip Melanchthon says, Otium balneum diaboli [Idleness is the devils’s pleasure resort].  A child out of a calling is like fallow ground; and what can you expect should grow up but weeds of disobedience” (Watson, p.135).

Present crisis.

Contemporary Practice:  In the past, the largest denomination in the United States saw over 90% of its students leave the church during their first two years of attending  university.  Of course, many of these students return to the faith later in life, but what incredible damage is done to the souls of young people who have lots of financial resources and free time without any sense of a divine calling from God about their life’s work.  Think also of the many lost opportunities for making an eternal impact on others for Christ that have been lost by these young people who are aimless and without purpose in life.

Contemporary Perspective:  We must work to overcome the false dichotomy of  sacred vs. secular. For we believe that all of life is sacred and that all callings are sacred and important and help us fulfill the creation mandate.

Imitating the Mormons: The Mormons are head and shoulders above the evangelical church in this area by requiring their young people to have a two-year missionary stint before going off to college.

Important Note:  I do not believe we can legislate this type of activity, but parents need to rise up in this area by studying their children, their talents, bents, spiritual gifts, and desires, and be proactive in giving them guidance in terms of pursuing God’s calling on their lives.  This study has prompted me to become more proactive in this area of parenting my own children.

  • What are the benefits of becoming a parent worthy of honor.

Rest for your soul and the favor of your Father.  Jeremiah 6:16.  You minimize feelings of guilt, remorse, and regret about what you failed to do.

It enhances the quality of life of our families and our nation. “The quality of a person’s life in every nation and every age is connected with the way individuals respond to parents and then to all who are in authority” (Walter Kaiser Jr., Toward Old Testament Ethics, 158).

Honorable parents, teaching their children God’s grace and God’s truth, and in return being honored by their children, would mean close-knit families, biblically-defined family roles, a warm, loving, and mutually supportive family and home environment where children could grow up secure, being nurtured and taught the things of Christ.

It serves as an antidote for all that disintegrates families and nations. Since the family is the very building block of civilization, the cornerstone of society, obedience to this commandment launches an offensive against a monstrous amount of sin and evil in our culture such as:  Divorce, domestic violence, juvenile delinquency, teenage drug abuse, venereal disease, illegitimacy, and runaways.

It provides an example for the next generation to follow.  Therefore, your family heritage is strengthened.

By God’s grace, it will enable you to have a wonderful friendship with your children when they become adults.  There is a tendency in our culture to reverse this order.  The only way for you to enjoy a friendship with your adult children is to serve well as their parents now.

Let us all heed Socrates’ call to take care how we nurture and train our children because one day we “must relinquish all” to them.  May the generations that come behind us find that we have been faithful to God in fulfilling our parental calling “to raise our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”

Let us then, move forward in the power of His Spirit taking God at His Word that He is “the faithful God, who keeps his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands” (Deuteronomy 7:9).