Saturday, February 13, 2010

A Family Legacy that Loves Life

Proverbs 13:
2. A man shall eat good by the fruit of his mouth: but the soul of the transgressors shall eat violence.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
We have all heard this idiom, but is it true? It is not true in the sense used in this proverb. Your words can make a mess out of your life – they can be the catalyst that causes the stones to fly – or they can be the means for good.

Look at this absolutely wonderful statement from Peter.
“For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it.” (1 Peter 3:10-11)
Look at the incentive that Peter sets before us, “love life and see good days.” Doesn’t everyone want that? Here’s how you get it.
“Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:8-9)
Now this fruit of our mouth is not just returning good for good, but also good for evil. Our response must always be good, no matter what we are receiving. Now our proverb indicates that those who transgress with their mouth got the opposite results. Why is this true? It is true because we live in a moral universe.
“For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil. And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?” (1 Peter 3:12-13)
This is the essence of faith – trusting God and believing his promises. “But wait,” you say, “I see lots of bad things happening to good people and the wicked doing very well for themselves. Where is God and his promises?” Peter addresses this objection and acknowledges that it can happen, but its not the rule.
“But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.” (1 Peter 3:14-16)
Peter even concludes his recognition of our occasional suffering with words of hope, “that they may be ashamed.” Our faithfulness is the means that the Holy Spirit uses to turn their hearts. And this is what it is all about. We also became ashamed when we realized that our evil caused another to suffer. It’s not too much to ask us to endure.
“For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing. For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:” (1 Peter 3:17-18)
And this is what a Family Legacy is all about – fulfillling our calling and inheriting a blessing.
“Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:9)

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Family Legacy’s Grace of Goodness

Proverbs 12:
2. A good man obtaineth favour of the LORD: but a man of wicked devices will he condemn.

The description good man immediately caught my eye and I was reminded of Jesus’ interaction with the Rich Young Ruler.
“And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” (Matthew 19:16-17)
I have heard more than one sermon on this text as an argument that we should call no one good. Also, I have been corrected by others (who have used this as a proof text) when I have called someone good. Has anyone else had this experience? But what do we do with this proverb? Is the good man commended here an impossibility? Does this contradict what Jesus was saying? I don’t think so. Look carefully at what Jesus is being asked, “what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” It becomes obvious that this young man is asking a question about merit. How can I earn eternal life? Jesus’ response sort of goes like this (paraphrasing):
“Since you framed your question in the context of merit, the answer is: everyone fails! You see, in terms of merit, only God qualifies. Now why was it that you called me good? By the way, since you think eternal life can be earned, how are you doing at keeping the commandments?”
The Rich Young Ruler was trying to establish his own righteousness apart from faith. This was a common problem of the Jews.
“For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” (Romans 10:3-4)
The Rich Young Ruler claims to have kept all the commandments from his youth, but he suspects that more is required. Jesus agrees that more is required and gives him one more commandment.
“The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.” (Matthew 19:20-21)
This commandment directed the young man to faith in Jesus – the one thing he lacked – and was very similar to this commandment.
“And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.” (1 John 3:23)
Now this directive from Jesus was not unique to this Rich Young Ruler. Jesus had made the same request of another (probably) rich man and he obeyed without question.
“And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him.” (Matthew 9:9)
Matthew was a tax collector, like Zacchaeus, and most likely was also rich.
“And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich.” (Luke 19:2)
Matthew left everything and followed Jesus immediately and it looks like all the other disciples did the same thing.

So, when the topic is merit, goodness is impossible among us fallen creatures. But in another context, the context of grace, goodness is possible.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:22-25)
What we are seeking to cultivate in a Family Legacy is the goodness that comes from grace, not from merit.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Role of Humility in a Family Legacy

Proverbs 11:
2. When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom.

The contrast here between pride and lowliness or humility is the difference between one who trusts in his own resources and one who trusts in God. This same theme is stated over and over again throughout the Scriptures using different illustrations. One example would be widows.
“Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day.” (1 Timothy 5:5)
This widow is identified in the context as someone who has no family – no one at all to care for her – and therefore must trust in God because she has absolutely no resources of her own. This is also why children are used to illustrate this.
“And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:2-4)
Some think that children are used as an example here because they are innocent or they are examples of faith. No, it’s because they are without any resources and dependent and must look to someone else to supply their needs and so exercise faith in another in this way, just like the widow. Now it becomes easier to see why Jesus spoke of the rich as he did.
“For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. And they that heard it said, Who then can be saved? And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” (Luke 18:25-27)
The rich tend to trust in and depend on their resources. They also are tempted to compromise their principles if their resources are jeopardized. It is a trap and they are vulnerable. But feeling self-sufficient is not a necessary condition of the rich. Abraham and Job both were very rich (Bill Gates kind of rich) and they are both held up to us in the Scriptures as examples of faith. On the other hand children and widows can be models of wickedness. The examples are intended to communicate this kind of attitude.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)
Being poor in spirit is an attitude of dependence on God. Both Abraham and Job were poor in spirit, even though they were rich. Those who are materially poor are destitute and therefore are presented as a visible illustration of that dependence.
“And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God.” (Luke 6:20)
These are synoptic texts and say the same thing – the attitude of dependence is that which is blessed, not the condition of poverty.

This attitude of dependence is essential for the success of your Family Legacy. Did you notice how often this attitude is connected with the Kingdom of God? Linking your Family Legacy to the certain success of the God’s Kingdom will require the cultivation of this attitude of dependence.
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A Family Legacy Through Sacrificial Service

Proverbs 10:
2. Treasures of wickedness profit nothing: but righteousness delivereth from death.

One highly regarded commentator, who will remain unnamed, says about this proverb:
“The most substantial earthly treasures profit nothing.”
And then he gives these two proof texts.
“Labour not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom. Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven.” (Proverbs 23:4-5)
“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:” (Matthew 6:19)
Now, of course, the proof texts he gives are absolutely true, but do they support the conclusion he draws? I don’t think so. We have already noticed this can be said about the advantages of wisdom.
“Riches and honour are with me; yea, durable riches and righteousness” (Proverbs 8:18)
Now I would have thought that all legitimate blessings flowing from wisdom could be considered profitable. Or what about this?
“The blessing of the LORD, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it.” (Proverbs 10:22)
These verses could be multiplied over and over in both the Old and the New Testament. Can you see how this commentator’s statement actually slanders God? If riches are not profitable, then when God gives them to us they are also valueless. There is no reason for us to thank God for them, because they really are worth nothing – if we were to follow this commentator’s reasoning.

Thankfully there are other ways to interpret this proverb. The contrast being emphasized is between wickedness and righteous. Wickedness is so vain and empty that no amount of money added to it can make its value measure up to righteousness. Conclusion: never sacrifice your integrity and righteousness for money. It’s not worth it.

But what about this commentator’s proof texts? They are both saying the same thing – where are your priorities? If your priority and focus is to be rich, then you are inviting all kinds of temptations and snares. But if your priority is the kingdom of God and his glory through wise sacrificial service to others, then – BINGO! . . .
“The blessing of the LORD, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it.” (Proverbs 10:22)
Sacrificial service to others in the service of God and his kingdom is the stuff of which a lasting Family Legacy is made.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Family Legacy Blessings Through Faithfulness

Proverbs 9:
3. She hath sent forth her maidens: she crieth upon the highest places of the city,
4. Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither: as for him that wanteth understanding, she saith to him,
5. Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled.
6. Forsake the foolish, and live; and go in the way of understanding.

Yesterday in chapter 8 we noticed that Wisdom cries out in the public forum. How does she do that? First, she calls out in the creation.
“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.” (Psalm 19:1-3)
Wisdom speaks in a language that everyone understands, and she speaks so clearly that no one has an excuse for not understanding.
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:18-20)
But Wisdom also speaks to everyone through the law because the “work of the law,” the conscience, is written on everyone’s heart.
“For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)” (Romans 2:14-15)
How do we know this is true? – Because we observe that people approve what is right and condemn what is wrong – at least in the actions of others. But how do people respond when they themselves do the things that they condemn others for doing? When that happens their conscience shouts to them the goodness of God. How does it do that?
“And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?” (Romans 2:3-4)
An historical example of these principles in operation is when the prophet Nathan confronted King David about his sin with Bathsheba.
“And the LORD sent Nathan unto David. And he came unto him, and said unto him, There were two men in one city; the one rich, and the other poor. The rich man had exceeding many flocks and herds: But the poor man had nothing, save one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and nourished up: and it grew up together with him, and with his children; it did eat of his own meat, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a daughter. And there came a traveller unto the rich man, and he spared to take of his own flock and of his own herd, to dress for the wayfaring man that was come unto him; but took the poor man's lamb, and dressed it for the man that was come to him. And David's anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As the LORD liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die: And he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity. And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man.” (2 Samuel 12:1-7a)
Notice how Nathan did not teach David any moral principle he didn’t already know. All he did was present a situation that David was ready to quickly condemn and then revealed that he was talking about him. David’s later repentance is recorded in Psalm 51 and it is obvious in that Psalm that it is God’s goodness toward David that brought that repentance.

How can this possibly have any thing to do with building a Family Legacy? Consider this. Wisdom is offering to the simple a bountiful and sumptuous table filled with good things as analogous to getting the good life and understanding. There is no threatening in this context. Sometimes in our attempt to bring up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord we choose the path of provoking them to wrath out of a fear of being permissive, i.e., “The floggings will continue until the attitude improves.” Wisdom’s approach, at least in this context, is to encourage with the promise of blessings through faithfulness.

Monday, February 8, 2010

A Do-It-Yourself Family Legacy – Not!

Proverbs 8:
1. Doth not wisdom cry? and understanding put forth her voice?
2. She standeth in the top of high places, by the way in the places of the paths.
3. She crieth at the gates, at the entry of the city, at the coming in at the doors.
4. Unto you, O men, I call; and my voice is to the sons of man.

This is an interesting personification of Wisdom. What is the proverb trying to say by it? I think it is this – Wisdom is not hard to find. It is very public. It can be found everywhere and in everything. This description of Wisdom is very similar to how Moses describes the Law.
“For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it. See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil;” (Deuteronomy 30:11-15)
Now the similarity is not that Moses is personifying the Law. He is not. The similarity is that like Wisdom the Law is near us. Moses is describing people who speak something like this: “I love the Law so much I would climb the highest mountain or travel around the world to get it.” This person thinks that the proverb we read on February 2nd . . .
“If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures;” (Proverbs 2:4)
. . . means that he must perform some kind of heroic “I’ll do it myself” work to gain Wisdom. But it doesn’t mean that at all. It means that we must deny ourselves and submit in faith to God. The entire creation shouts this to us every day just like Wisdom does in our proverb. Then why don’t we do it? – Because of our nature. We are like Pogo said in 1971 (in a different context).
"We have met the enemy and he is us"
When God presents to us his creation, or Wisdom, or the Law, or even the Gospel, our sinful response often is, “Thanks God, but I will do it myself,” or, “Thanks for the tip, God, I can take it from here.” Wrong response. It’s not that the response doesn’t require us to do something, it does. But the required response is faith and faithfulness, not, “I’ll do it myself.” This is the context of Paul’ statement of the Gospel when he quotes the above Deuteronomy text.
“But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;” (Romans 10:6-8)
See the Deuteronomy text really is talking about faith, and to remove all doubt Paul goes on to write this familiar text.
"That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.” (Romans 10:9-11)
So after all this meandering what does this proverb have to do with building a Family Legacy? Simply this. Wisdom, which is so essential for building a Family Legacy is right there shouting at you and calling to you, just like the creation, the law and the Gospel. And it is not calling you to heroic-do-it-your-selfism, but to a faithful embrace of, submission to and obedience to Jesus Christ in his Word.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Family Legacy’s Protective Wisdom

Proverbs 7:
4. Say unto wisdom, Thou art my sister; and call understanding thy kinswoman:
5. That they may keep thee from the strange woman, from the stranger which flattereth with her words.

In these two verses we have the contrast of two kinds of women. The first is a close relative like ones own sister. This woman, because she is of ones own kind and kindred, appeals to our kindness and natural affection. We protect her person and her honor. We value her presence and promote her wellbeing. It is interesting that wisdom is not here compared to ones wife. Why is that? Most likely it is because the person being exhorted and cautioned is not married, but single. He can’t relate to the affections associated with marriage in his own experience, but he does have relatives that he cherishes.

The second woman is just the opposite. He doesn’t really know her. She is a stranger to him but for some reason she has taken an interest in him. She speaks to him. She flatters him. She makes him feel important and increases his sense of self worth, if for no other reason that she notices him. What would his sister or other close relative say if she observed what was happening? She would become indignant and alarmed and warn him against the designs of such a woman. She sees what is going on and the danger to which he seems to be oblivious. How would he respond to his sister/kinswoman’s counsel? This proverb means nothing to the person who does not value and honor his sister. To such, to compare his sister with wisdom would cause him to say, “Huh?” This proverb assumes a natural affection and bond within the family. But there is something else going on here. While it is necessary it is not sufficient to hate and avoid evil, because our fallen nature is prone to feel an attraction even to those things that we hate.
“For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.” (Romans 7:15-20)
If we don’t recognize this battle within us, and our own vulnerabilities, then we are self-deceived. What is necessary is for us to also desire and value that which is good, hence the comparison with ones own sister. This is where a robust Family Legacy that is committed to the Kingdom of God comes in. Your family looks out for your wellbeing and watches your back and you know it and value it and you do the same for them.