When The Time Comes to Divide the Family Estate

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Matthew Henry

“When Providence has removed your parents by death,
the best methods ought to be taken,
not only for preventing quarrels among the children
(which often happens over the dividing of the estate),
but for the preserving of love
so that unity may continue even when that center of unity is taken away.”
– Matthew Henry, Presbyterian pastor and commentator extraordinaire

The only way for believing families to heed this pastoral counsel is by resolving to trust in God’s sovereign hand. How easy it is to fall prey to a greedy, grasping tendency we all have when we are left to ourselves. An alternate path is to rest and trust in God’s sovereignty – He is the blessed controller of all things and, if He is in control, we don’t have to be. If we have a life-giving relationship with the Lord of heaven and earth, do we really need more of this material world and all of its stuff?

In Genesis 50, Joseph reminds himself of God’s sovereignty as he reflects on the evil done to him by his brothers. The center of their family has been taken away. Their father Jacob has died and all of his sons and their families, except Joseph, are in peril due to a great famine in the land. It would be tempting for Joseph to exact revenge at this time. However, he does the opposite.

Read this short account and marvel at the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit in Joseph’s life. The same can happen for you:

15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.” 16 So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died: 17 ‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.”’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. 18 His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” 19 But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. 21 So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.

The Majesty of a Forgiving Father

Psalm 130:4 sets forth one of the greatest discoveries that we can ever make:
“With you (the LORD) there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.”
According to John Stott, this verse “contains a beautiful balance
because its first part brings assurance to the despairing,
while its second part sounds a warning to the presumptuous.”

How easy it is to abuse God’s grace when we lose sight
of what it cost our Lord to rescue us.
Instead, knowing how forgiven we are
should move us to to fear and stand in awe of the Lord
so that we live more and more in a way that honors and exalts Him.

The Cross is not simply a lovely example of sacrificial love.
Throwing your life away needlessly is not admirable — it is wrong.
Jesus’ death was only a good example if it was more than an example,
if it was something absolutely necessary to rescue us. And it was.
Why did Jesus have to die in order to forgive us?
There was a debt to be paid — God himself paid it.
There was a penalty to be born — God himself bore it.
Forgiveness is always a form of costly suffering.

– Timothy Keller, The Reason for God

The majesty of God’s forgiveness is lost entirely
when we lose what has to be forgiven.
What has to be forgiven is not just what we do but who we are,
not just our sinning but our sinfulness,
not just our choices
but what we have chosen in place of God. . . .
When we miss the biblical teaching,
we also miss the nature of God’s grace
in all its height and depth.
In biblical faith it is God’s grace through Christ
that does for us what we cannot do for ourselves.”

– David F. Wells, The Courage to be Protestant

The voice that spells forgiveness will say:
‘You may go: you have been let off the penalty which your sin deserves.’
But the verdict which means acceptance [justification] will say:
‘You may come; you who are welcome to all my love and my presence.’

– Sir Marcus Loane, quoted by John Stott, The Message of Romans

Grace, she takes the blame. She covers the shame, removes the stain.
Grace makes beauty out of ugly things!

– Bono

What a mercy that our Heavenly Father does not leave His wandering child
to the hardening tendency and effect of his backslidings;
but, sooner or later, His Spirit, by the word,
or through some afflictive discipline of love,
recalls the wanderer to His feet, with the confession and the prayer-
“O Lord, pardon my iniquity; for it is great.”
“Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed.”

– Octavius Winslow

And now, when the question returns with personal force,
“Should God mark my iniquities, how can I stand?”
Let faith, resting upon the divine word, answer,
“Jesus is my Substitute: Jesus stood in my place: Jesus bore my sins:
Jesus did all, suffered all, and paid all in my stead, and here I rest.”

– John Owen

The forgiveness of God that delivers from the depths of despair,
guilt, and anxiety is not an end in itself
but it makes it possible for us to fulfill the chief goal of our lives:
To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

– Patrick Miller

Don’t fool and fancy yourself that you must pay your own debt of sin.
George Bernard Shaw  once wrote:
“Forgiveness is a beggar’s refuge… we must pay our debts.”
It is true: The debt of sin must be paid
and that forgiveness is indeed a beggar’s refuge.
However, we will sing King Jesus’ praise throughout eternity
because has paid the debt of sin of beggars like us.

Proclaiming the Gospel to Ourselves in Corporate Worship

One of our main purposes of gathering corporately for worship is to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. We aspire to do this throughout our whole worship service by cultivating in all who gather three things:

  • A dawning realization of the greatness of your God,
  • A growing awareness of your own sinfulness
  • But also a fresh and continual discovery of the pardoning grace of God revealed in the cross of Jesus Christ (This last phrase is adapted from Jack Miller and his book Outgrowing the Ingrown Church.)

This is why we regularly confess our sins corporately and personally to the Lord. After our time of personal confession, we hear one of our pastors speak to us God’s assurance of pardon from the Scriptures. How can we be so bold to assure people of God’s forgiveness? God’s Word contains countless promises where He assures His people of His forgiveness.

One of the high moments of our worship service occurs when we hear right after the assurance of pardon: “…if your faith is in Jesus Christ this morning, then I assure you, based on the sure promise of the Word, that your sins are forgiven….”

Oh what a blessing to know that you are completely forgiven, totally accepted and profoundly loved by our Lord! Why not reflect on the wonderful and assuring promise of the prophet Micah: “Who is a God like You, who pardons iniquity… who delights in mercy… You will subdue our iniquities; and cast all our sins into the depths of the sea (Micah 7:18-19)?

In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership

At least once a year, I read the booklet by Henri Nouwen entitled In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership. He uses two key passages to unpack the nature of Christian leadership: Matthew 4:1-11 and John 21:15-21.

In this book he discusses three temptations which all leaders face.

Temptation 1: The Temptation to be relevant (to turn stones into bread) —more properly put—the temptation to be liked for our competencies.  Jesus’ temptation was to turn stones into bread to prove something—we are tempted to put our competencies on display for others to see and be admired.  How often we all are tempted to do or say things in order to be liked.

The gospel cure for this idol of people pleasing  is to be rooted in the Love of Christ so that you experience the security of His love when the temptation comes to live for the approval of others.  How important it is for us to spend time with our Savior—not because we need to teach a class or prepare to preach a sermon but for no other reason than we NEED HIM!

The Discipline/Gospel Practice Needed:
The antidote to counter this temptation is: Contemplative Prayer.
The purpose here is to keep us from being pulled from one urgent issue to another and from becoming strangers to our own and God’s heart. (pp.28-29).

Here’s a challenging nugget from Chapter One:

Christian leaders cannot simply be persons who have well-informed opinions about the burning issues of our time.  Their leadership must be rooted in the permanent, intimate relationship with the incarnate Word, Jesus, and they need to find there the source for their words, advice, and guidance.  Through the discipline of contemplative prayer, Christian leaders have to learn to listen again and again to the voice of love and to find there the wisdom and courage to address whatever issue presents itself to them.  Dealing with burning issues without being rooted in a deep personal relationship with God easily leads to divisiveness because, before we know it, our sense of self is caught up in our opinion about a given subject.  But when we are securely rooted in personal intimacy with the source of life, it will be possible to remain flexible without being relativistic, convinced without being rigid, willing to confront without being offensive, gentle and forgiving without being soft, and true witnesses without being manipulative (pp.31-32).

Temptation 2: The Temptation to be Spectacular—Jesus was invited to throw himself from the temple and let the angels come and rescue you.  In the same way, we too are tempted to be GREAT! We can rely exclusively on the arm of flesh – our gifts, abilities, know-how, etc. But God in his mercy places us into a community. It’s a community where conflict, disappointment occur, but we must deliberately open our hearts and lives to others— to allow our fellow ministers, fellow leaders, and friends to help us so that we don’t isolate ourselves thinking that we must do it alone.

Don’t be surprised when you experience this two-fold blessing: Where two or more are gathered, the living Christ is there with His empowering, comforting presence… but where two or more are gathered, conflict soon happens. What is the antidote to this need of ours to be great and feel important?

The Discipline/Gospel Practice Needed: The antidote to counter this temptation is confession and forgiveness. This is the currency of the gospel in our relationships.  This discipline keeps our ministries and lives communal and mutual.

People desperately need this modeled—for many have never seen someone truly apologize and forgive from the heart.

Nouwen: “I have found over and over again how hard it is to be truly faithful to Jesus when I am alone.”

Thirdly, and lastly—the temptation to be Powerful and the need to resist our urge for control! The devil offered Jesus the keys of the kingdom if only he would bow down and worship him.  Why is this temptation to be powerful so irresistible? Nouwen posits that power offers an easy substitute for doing the hard work of truly loving others.  We find it easier to be God than to love God, easier to control people than to love people.  Jesus asks us, “Do you love me”  and we respond, “Can we sit at your right hand?”  The challenge for Christian leaders is to love the people that the Lord brings across our ministry path and to allow them to know and love you as you work together to make much of Christ and His kingdom.

The Discipline/Gospel Practice: The antidote to counter this temptation to power is theological reflection. This will allow us to begin to understand where we are being led (John 21).

When You Are Misunderstood

The Reconciliation of Joseph and his Brothers, Peter CorneliusIt is the characteristic of our Adamic residue to find it difficult to believe in the nobility of others. Joseph’s brothers measured Joseph by themselves. In our suspicions of other people we often reveal ourselves and our own hearts.

There is scarcely anything more trying and searching in life than the experience of being misunderstood, with motives misconstrued and intentions distorted… When our good is evil spoken of, our best intentions misinterpreted, our loving actions suspected and even reviled, then is the opportunity for showing the true spirit of Christ and proving the reality of our profession.                                        – W.H. Griffith-Thomas, Commentary on Genesis

Father, forgive us for the times that we have righted the wrongs committed against us. Forgive us for the times that we have repaid evil with evil and not evil with good.

Thank you that there is One who into earth’s bitter waters of sin, injustice, hatred, and revenge poured a crimson flood to make them sweet.  Never was any man more unjustly sinned against.  The world Jesus loved drove nails into His hands and feet.  Yet He prayed to you, “Father, forgive them.”  Remind us Lord that we your servants are not above You, our Lord.  Help us this day to experience your forgiveness as we repent of our sin. Then, empower us to forgive others the same way that you have forgiven us for our good and Your glory, AMEN.

Reflections on Repentance

The believer in Christ is a ‘lifelong’ repenter. He begins with repentance, and ends with repentance. Repentance is a change of mind regarding sin and God, an inward turning from sin to God. Repentance is hating what you once loved, and loving what you once hated, exchanging irresistible sin for an irresistible Christ.                                                         — Jim Elliff

Repentance is not what we do in order to earn forgiveness. It is what we do because we have been forgiven. It is an expression of gratitude rather than an effort to earn forgiveness.
— Paul Kooistra

True repentance is always accompanied by sorrow… The man who knows that his sin is
forgiven does not cease to mourn for it. No, brothers, his mourning becomes deeper as his
knowledge of his guilt becomes greater. His hatred of sin grows in proportion, as he
understands that love of Christ by which his sin is put away.
— Charles Spurgeon

Godly sorrow springs from a view of a suffering Savior, and manifests itself by . . .
hatred of sin, groaning over our backslidings, grief of soul for being so often entangled by our lusts and passions, and is accompanied by . . . softness, meltings of heart, flowings of love to the Redeemer, indignation against ourselves, and earnest desires never to sin more.
— J. C. Philpot

 

If Your Marriage is Struggling…

Here are three challenging and encouraging Scriptures to reflect upon and to pray through! At Second, we believe that the gospel creates a new community where love and acceptance rule every relationship (John 13:34-35). Also, we believe that only the gospel effectively mobilizes us to resolve our conflict with others (Matthew 5:23-24; 18:15-20).

If your marriage is struggling, I would encourage you to meditate on the three Scriptures below and pray mainly for the Lord to change you so that your life reflects their message. Rather than nagging your spouse, why not use these as a grid to pray for them and ask the Lord to work in them what is pleasing to Him.

Philippians 2: The Message:  1 If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care—then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that: a crucifixion.

Ephesians 4:31-32 – Let all bitterness (bitter resentment) and wrath (fierce indignation that boils up and soon subsides again) and anger (agitation of the soul, impulse, desire, any violent emotion, but especially anger) and clamor (verbal brawling) and slander (speech injurious to another’s good name) be put away from you, along with all malice (a vicious disposition of hate, ill-will, desire to injure, wickedness that is not ashamed to break laws). 32 Be kind (chrestos – vulnerability out of a deep security) to one another, tender-hearted (having strong bowels… 🙂 that’s the literal translation in Greek.), forgiving each other (give grace, cancel a debt), just as God in Christ also has forgiven you (canceled your debt of sin through his death on the cross).

Colossians 3:12-14 – So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint (quarrel) against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. 14 Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.