In Faith, Love, and Work

Thank you, Shane, for writing this past week. This article was supposed to go out yesterday (Friday), but some glitch happened. So…here it is. Have a great weekend! God bless.


Who are we if we are Christians? We are those whom Jesus has added to His body as a result of our obedience to His gospel…having understood who we are and the need of salvation we have, confessed Jesus as our Lord and Savior, asking forgiveness from our sins, being baptized (literal meaning is immersion) in water symbolizing the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, and becoming a new spiritual being no longer slave to sin but to righteousness endeavoring to serve God faithfully with a repentant heart. We are, as Christians, family and brethren. As such, we should choose to rely on each other (Ephesians 4:16), agree to work together (Acts 9:26-28), be responsible/accountable to one another (Romans 12:4-8), love one another (Romans 12:9-10). This list is not all inclusive but communicates the idea we are in this together, should work for one another, look out for one another, love one another, etc.

There is benefit in choosing to be part of Christ’s body and the lives of your brethren. Chiefly, choosing this fellowship reassures us that we are in fact not alone!

“…knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.”  (1 Peter 5:9; NKJV)

We are a community which is distinguished by faith, hope, and love. Paul recognizes this in his salutation to the Thessalonians, a body/family in Christ Jesus. “…remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor or love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ…” (1 Thessalonians 1:3; NKJV)

Each of these distinguishing marks of identity are outgoing…Faith – Towards GOD – Rests in the Past, Hope – Towards the Future – Looks to the Future, and Love – Toward Others – Works in the Present. Together they focus our lives and we find ourselves being drawn up towards GOD in faith, out towards others in love, and on towards His coming in hope!

Faith, hope and love sound like rather abstract qualities, but they have concrete, practical results.

Each is productive…when you sow there will be reaping! Faith works! Love labors! Hope endures!

“…how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” (1 THESS1:9-10; NKJV)

When you chose first and choose daily to be a disciple of Jesus, this is who you are. If you are sowing the seeds of spiritual blessings daily this is who you are. If you choose to die to self and live for Jesus…this is who you are. We make these choices for our Lord and Savior and for the brothers and sisters we serve with in our journey from earth to heaven. We are not alone. Hold the line! Choose victory today!

Sitting on the Porch

A favorite parable of Jesus for me can be found in Luke 15:11-32 telling the story of the lost son or what is often referred to as the prodigal son. There are many lessons to be learned in the parable but for today’s discussion lets focus on the teaching of God’s grace, mercy, love, forgiveness and restoration of hope for His children and the application as we work to better love and lead our children.

I have long thought about this parable and what has always struck me is how awesome it was to see the father running from the porch and going out to greet his returning son. His son had taken his inheritance, moved out of the house, gone to a faraway place and blown all that his father had given him on a lifestyle I am sure did not make his dad proud or happy. I imagine it was known to the father just how bad his son was behaving and I am sure it grieved him tremendously. There are a lot of emotions that might apply…anger, pain, embarrassment, regret, fear…I am sure there were some long nights for this dad. This dad could have just got bitter and wrote his son off…that would have been an understandable ending to this story (just consider the older brother’s position…a lesson for another day). Still, knowing how wicked the son had been and the grief he had caused, the father still gets up as he sees his son returning and runs to welcome him home. What we see are the foundational blessings of God being expressed to this wayward son who wants nothing more than to come home. What a great image and lesson.

As time has passed and my children are getting older, this parable is starting to take on a different shape for me. With teenagers now roaming my home, I have learned that “bigger kids=bigger problems”. Further, as they grow and begin to shape their own lives, we allow them more freedom and there become more times when they are away from us with their friends and you hope and trust they are making good decisions and respecting the boundaries you have taught and modeled in their lives. And guess what, they don’t! They make stupid decisions. They get themselves into situations you know they know are dangerous. The wonders of the teenage brain ceases to amaze me and quite frankly disappointment me.

So what do I do? What does this particular piece of God’s inspired word teach me? It has taught me the tremendous heart of the father in his getting up off the porch to run to his son. However, what I am learning now is that as remarkable as this act is, what is even harder and equally important as a father is to stay on the porch. Our children have to spread their wings and as they do they are not going to make the right choices every time and the older they get the more dangerous wrong choices become. No matter how much we want them to listen to every word we teach them, to trust us (and God) in shaping their hearts and minds, to learn from our mistakes so they don’t have to suffer as we have…no matter how much we want that they are going to have to figure some of it out themselves…and that can really hurt and cause some sleepless nights for dad.

So we sit on the porch. What does that mean? Does that mean we wash our hands of the responsibility for our children? Does it mean we burry the fear and hurt and just write them off with a “they will get what they deserve” or “I told you not to…”? Does it mean that we resign ourselves to a position of abdication and just move on with whatever else is going on in our lives? Of course not.

What we do is remember we operate from a position of strength and draw upon the peace of God. We are confident in that God will not forsake us and He loves our children too. We have a voice in prayer and we take our worries and concerns for our children to Him and we trust He is working. We accept his grace, mercy, love, forgiveness, and hope and let it fill us up so that we are strengthened…both while sitting on the porch and so that we might get up and grab ahold of our children in the biggest bear hug out there when they come home and say “I am sorry”.

Even more, you don’t have to sit on the porch alone. There are brothers in Christ out there who will sit with you. We are a family. We all want each other to go to Heaven. We all, however, are not always going to take the easiest route. This is especially true of our children but our God is faithful and He will fight for them too…praise Him in that, be thankful, holdfast dad.

Can you be courageous and afraid at the same time?

Today, please read this section from Judges 6. God called Gideon to deliver the oppressed Israelites from the mighty and powerful Midianites. Gideon was a man of great faith, but he also needed to have reassurance from God on multiple occasions. He also showed great courage, but at the same time he was very afraid. Is that possible – to be afraid and courageous at the same time?

Gideon showed us by his example that he had fear, but his courage and faith carried him past that fear. God called Gideon to destroy his father’s idols…think about that. You are going after a man’s religion, and not just any man, you are directly confronting the idols of your father. This was necessary for Gideon to do if he was going to lead the people of Israel against the Midianites.

Read the following excerpt from Judges 6:

Then Gideon built an altar there to the LORD and called it, The LORD Is Peace. To this day it still stands at Ophrah, which belongs to the Abiezrites. That night the LORD said to him, “Take your father’s bull, and the second bull seven years old, and pull down the altar of Baal that your father has, and cut down the Asherah that is beside it and build an altar to the LORD your God on the top of the stronghold here, with stones laid in due order. Then take the second bull and offer it as a burnt offering with the wood of the Asherah that you shall cut down.” So Gideon took ten men of his servants and did as the LORD had told him. But because he was too afraid of his family and the men of the town to do it by day, he did it by night. When the men of the town rose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was broken down, and the Asherah beside it was cut down, and the second bull was offered on the altar that had been built. And they said to one another, “Who has done this thing?” And after they had searched and inquired, they said, “Gideon the son of Joash has done this thing.” Then the men of the town said to Joash, “Bring out your son, that he may die, for he has broken down the altar of Baal and cut down the Asherah beside it.” But Joash said to all who stood against him, “Will you contend for Baal? Or will you save him? Whoever contends for him shall be put to death by morning. If he is a god, let him contend for himself, because his altar has been broken down.” Therefore on that day Gideon was called Jerubbaal, that is to say, “Let Baal contend against him,” because he broke down his altar.
(Judges 6:24-32)

Men, please meditate upon this today. We have all kinds of fears, but that does not mean we lack faith or courage. It is what we do in the face of our fears that shows our faith and courage. Take a page today out of the life of Gideon. Face the fears; confront them in faith. Remember God is with you supporting you just like He was with Gideon.

The house of him who had his sandal removed

“If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the widow of the dead man shall not be married to a stranger outside the family; her husband’s brother shall go in to her, take her as his wife, and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her. And it shall be that the firstborn son which she bears will succeed to the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out of Israel. But if the man does not want to take his brother’s wife, then let his brother’s wife go up to the gate to the elders, and say, ‘My husband’s brother refuses to raise up a name to his brother in Israel; he will not perform the duty of my husband’s brother.’ Then the elders of his city shall call him and speak to him. But if he stands firm and says, ‘I do not want to take her,’ then his brother’s wife shall come to him in the presence of the elders, remove his sandal from his foot, spit in his face, and answer and say, ‘So shall it be done to the man who will not build up his brother’s house.’ And his name shall be called in Israel, ‘The house of him who had his sandal removed.’
(Deuteronomy 25:5-10)

If a man died childless, then his family line was certain to die out. God made provision in the Law of Moses for the nearest relative to marry the childless widow and raise up a child in the name of the dead husband.

This was part of God’s provision and mercy upon families. God wanted the people of Israel to be able to maintain their family line. He also ensured through the Law that each family would have a piece of property on which to perpetually raise their family and provide food and income for their families.

Another provision of this law shows how important this was to God. If a man would not perform his duty to redeem his family and raise up a son in the name of his dead brother (relative), then he was to be publicly disgraced and humiliated. You can see in the above passage in Deuteronomy how that occurred. The widow, in the public square, would take off this man’s sandal and spit in his face.

The man who would not take his role to care for his relatives would forever live with that stigma. His name would forever be ruined and his reputation sullied. That’s how important this was to God. In fact, one of Judah’s sons was struck dead by God because he refused to fulfill this obligation (Genesis 38).

God takes providing for our families and next of kin as serious business, doesn’t He?

But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
(1 Timothy 5:8)

Certainly, God doesn’t want us to do this as a grudging obligation, but to do so with joy. It should be a privilege and an honor to fulfill this role. We should consider ourselves blessed to be able to take care of those closest to us. The apostle Paul demonstrated this attitude as a spiritual father, and he “most gladly spent” to provide for the needs of his relatives in the faith, and that is the attitude we all must have in our hearts (2 Cor. 12:14-15; Ecclesiastes 5:18-20).

Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab

Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab, Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse. Jesse was the father of David the king. David was the father of Solomon by Bathsheba who had been the wife of Uriah (Matthew 1:5-6).

In the book of Ruth, the Jews are instructed as to where David came from (Ruth 4:17-22), but for the Christian, we see where Jesus came from. Matthew 1 is the family line of Jesus Christ. When you read through that list and see all those names, don’t get lost thinking it is just a boring list of dead people. There are stories behind those names. Many of those people are written about in the Old Testament.

Matthew 1:1-17 is an amazing picture of God’s grace that culminates in Jesus Christ. Murder, adultery, arrogance, materialism, lying, betrayal, idolatry, harlotry, etc., are all found in that list of names. That’s Jesus’ family. That’s our family. That’s us. Just like those men and women, we need the grace and mercy of God.

Look at the above verse in Matthew 1:5-6. We have been looking at lot lately into the book of Ruth. Boaz was a godly man, a kindhearted man, a generous man, and a man who clearly understood the grace of God. He knew God would bless Ruth because she had come “under the wings of God for refuge” (Ruth 2:12).

Who was Boaz’ mother? Rahab the harlot! Rahab was another outsider, a Gentile, a prostitute from Jericho (a city condemned by God for destruction). She and her relatives were rescued from destruction and saved by God because she believed, repented and came under the wings of God for refuge. The New Testament refers to her more than once because of her obedient faith (Hebrews 11:31; James 2:25).

It is interesting to me that in the book of Ruth, it only says that Salmon was the father of Boaz. But in Matthew 1, the Holy Spirit tells us who Salmon married. Who was the mother who nurtured and raised this little boy Boaz? A former harlot in a wicked Gentile city.

I don’t believe we need a greater testimony to the grace of God than that, and this is what I want to leave you with today. Fathers, let us be nurtured like Boaz was in the grace of God and come under the shelter of His wings for refuge. Let us always be grateful for the grace, longsuffering and mercy of God which He poured out upon us abundantly in Jesus Christ. Jesus was the great, great, great, great…..grandson of a harlot. May we like Boaz and Jesus show this grace to others, especially to our children.

Have You Seen God?

Have you seen God? John was very plain in saying, “No one has seen God at any time.” Do you know what God looks like? Many have undergone the futile task of trying to imagine what God looks like. All kinds of paintings and sculptures have been done through the centuries, and those artistic works reflect the imagination of the artist. They do not reflect reality, because no one could even come close to describing the features of God. God is a Spirit (John 4:24). We see in Scripture that He has hands, eyes, and arms, but we also see God described as having wings. It is all figurative and descriptive.

We go back simply to the words of John, “No one has seen God at any time.” But then again, I ask the question, “Have you seen God?” I can with all certainty and conviction say most positively, “Yes!” I have seen God, face to face, because His image and heart is being reflected and lived out in His people.

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit (1 John 4:11-13).

“If we love one another, God abides in us.” Did you see that? God is seen in His people. Christ is reflected in His body. I often preach and discuss the concept of “putting skin on” these Bible concepts. I didn’t come up with that, God did. Notice how John begins his gospel account in chapter 1,

And the Word became flesh (put skin on) and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).

No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him (John 1:18).

See that phrase again? “No one has seen God at any time.” But Jesus put skin on, He became flesh and we saw God in the flesh. When you see Jesus in Matthew through John, you see God face to face. But Jesus doesn’t stop there. Not only do we see God in the face of Jesus, we now see God in the face of the people who walk with Him. Jesus develops His heart and His love within His people and then we reflect the face and nature of God in our lives. We become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

Have you seen God? Well, if you like me have experienced the love of God lived out among His people then you can shout from the mountaintops with all confidence that you have seen God.

So who will be seen in our lives today? Will people see God through us? Do they hear God when we talk? Are we reflecting the image and glory of God in our relationships?

May God be seen in us today.

For the Saving of His Household Part 2

Last Wednesday, we considered that Noah built an ark for the saving of his household. He preached to everyone, but he first saved his own household. Today, let’s consider what we can build for the saving of our households.

What Noah built…What We Can Build

Noah built a life around following God. This may sound overly simplistic, but Noah couldn’t lead his family and save them without first being a servant of God. Let’s go back to a few passages about Noah and see what we can learn as husbands and fathers.

But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD. These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God (Genesis 6:8-9).

In the midst of a wicked world where all thoughts were wicked and violence filled the earth, Noah was different. He didn’t try to fit in and go with the grain of the culture. Imagine how weird Noah must have looked in that world.

  • Noah found “favor” or “grace” in God’s eyes. His mindset was about pleasing God and having God’s approval. A father who is living for the world’s approval and accolades cannot save his household, can he? I can think of many times where my focus was on making others happy, and I lost focus on having God’s approval first.
  • He was righteous. The one law he sought to follow above all others was God’s law. “Noah did this, he did all that God commanded him” (Genesis 6:22).
  • Noah was blameless in his time. Not flawless, sinless perfection, but blameless. He walked in integrity.
  • He walked with God. The Lord asked a beautiful question in the book of Amos, “Can two walk together unless they are agreed?” (Amos 3:3). If we as fathers are to lead our families, then in which direction are we walking? Great leaders have a direction and a purpose; we as fathers must set a course to walk God’s pathway (Jeremiah 6:16; Proverbs 4:25-27).

 A House built on faith

By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith (Hebrews 11:7).

Read Hebrews 11:7 and think about it as a father. Consider a home that has the mindset of Noah.

  • A house built on faith. We trust God. His word is right. The promises of God are steadfast and true. We start first with assuming that God and His word have the absolute truth.
  • Homes that take God’s warnings seriously. Noah took God’s warnings seriously, and so should we. If God gives warnings about sexual immorality, what we put into our mind, alcohol, etc., then we should pay attention. When God warns that Judgment Day is coming and Jesus is returning, fathers should take that in the same way Noah did with the impending flood (see 2 Peter 3).
  • Families that are moved with godly fear/reverence. Noah built an ark because he was “moved with godly fear.” He had a deep reverence for God and he lived accordingly. Is God respected and reverenced in our homes? How do we talk about God and His word? Do we cherish and value worshipping God? What we value will most likely become what our children value.
  • Houses that walk by faith in the unseen and eternal. Noah hadn’t seen a flood, nor ever built an ark, but his faith was his vision. When the world is focused on the temporary and fleshly pursuits, our mindset as men of God is on the spiritual and the eternal. We still have to go to work, pay the bills, and fix the gutters, but our spiritual vision is what guides us even in the mundane work. When our children become overly focused on their outward appearance, we help guide them to what God really cherishes. As our sons and daughters make plans for colleges and careers, we direct them to how their choices impact their spiritual life and growth.

Wow, there’s a lot we can learn from a few verses about Noah, isn’t there?

For the Saving of His Household

By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith (Hebrews 11:7).

What can dads learn today from the example of Noah? For this morning we will consider that Noah built an ark “for the saving of his household.”

Would you consider Noah a failure? He was called by Peter a “preacher of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5). Over a century of building and preaching, but all that he saved was his household. What a waste of time, right? Wrong.

One thing that concerns me is the mentality that a soul saved from the community is more meaningful than when our children choose to become Christians. I’ve gotten the impression over years from some that “in-family” conversions don’t count as much. It is the same thinking that connects evangelism to everywhere but the home. If we are going to spread the good news of Jesus Christ anywhere, shouldn’t we first look to our own household?

That’s what Cornelius, Lydia and the Philippian jailor all did, they brought their households to Jesus (Acts 10 & 16). Elders demonstrate that they can shepherd souls by how they have managed their own households (1 Timothy 3:5). God said through Malachi that He designed godly marriages because He “seeks godly offspring” (Malachi 2:15).

Think of the generational impact and effect on the community when we raise godly children! They are going to influence many more people than we can ever imagine. This is the idea from the following passage in the Psalms about the blessing of children in a godly home. They are like arrows in a warrior’s quiver.

Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate (Psalms 127:3-5).

Noah built that ark “for the saving of his household.” That’s what it says. Sure, Noah preached to others, but he started with saving his family.

Next week, we will dive into this more. We will focus on this question:

What can we build and prepare for the saving of our household?