Archive for September, 2008

September 21st, 2008 – Family Fortune and Finances

Sunday, September 14th, 2008

Family Business Study Guide
Matthew 16:26-27

Family inheritance

Matthew chapter 16 contains several critical topics related to discipleship. At the start of the chapter, Jesus challenges the need for a sign then he uses yeast as a symbol that characterizes the religious leaders of that day. Next, Peter confesses the truth about Jesus, “You are the Christ…” Lastly, when we reach the portion of scripture for today’s lesson Jesus has predicted his death and resurrection and rebuked Peter. Whew!

Jesus’ condensed version of discipleship follows in verses 24 and 25. Most might think that making the most of one’s life through activity and trying to measure up to God’s standard of holiness would be enough. However, Jesus reminds us of the downward spiral to greatness, deny self, and then he asks, “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?” This could be a rhetorical question but it should make people think about the pursuits of their lives. Many spend a lot of energy trying to get to the next level of whatever; digits in a salary, next executive tier, more square footage in a house… People in that day considered riches to be a sign of God’s blessing. Remember Jesus’ comments in Matthew 19:24, 25; Mark 10:25, 26; Luke 18:25, 26; the disciples were shocked at this! Working to gain the whole world (or what we think of as our world) costs more than it is worth. Yet, we often miss that obvious point.

Read the story in 2 Kings 5:20-27 Gehazi runs after Naaman for a “payment” he thought he was entitled to but what he ends up with is more than a set of new clothes… If we go after what we thought we wanted we may end up with more than we could imagine.

These verses are also about value. Jesus talks about what “good” and the “forfeit of a soul.”

Have you ever tried to teach a child about value? You try to explain that 1 quarter is worth more than 8 pennies but they still hold onto the pennies.

Where does value come from and how do you teach it most effectively?
The family plays a large role in communicating value and values, sometimes they are even taught by default. A wise person has asked, “If love is spelled T-I-M-E but dad lives like time is MONEY then what do the children learn?”

What characterizes a family…when spouses, parents and children are consumed with stuff and thinking about getting more stuff?
What are the effects of a consumer mindset on these relationships?
How does one teach/live/model what Jesus is talking about?

There are great losses in family life if money and the pursuit of the rat race trophy require all of an adult’s attention. A commentator remarked how all of the possessions in the world are worthless to a dying man…

Consider these scriptures:

  • John 3:30
  • 2 Corinthians 5:15 how do we live for someone who died for us?
  • Luke 12:15 man’s life doesn’t consist in possessions

How does it all add up?
Can you really gain the whole world? The question may be more about enjoyment and contentment than anything. It is like a child on Christmas moving from present to present and looking for more right after she unwraps the last one. There on the floor in her wake is everything from her list but she still wants something else. What if we found enjoyment with what we already have? A lyric from a song sung by Point of Grace states, “Have what you want, but want what you have.”

These scriptures speak to contentment:
Philippians 4:11; Ecclesiastes 5:19

When you realize the gift/s of God and value it, life changes. Adults and parents with such a view of life motivate the heart of children and teenagers. The joy and contentment in the smile of such individuals becomes contagious. So that what is handed down as an inheritance is more than a number and a reputation.

Read Genesis 5 …and “so and so” became the father of “so and so”… possibly the most boring chapter in the Bible. But Gary Thomas in Sacred Parenting wonders if the point of these verses is to tell us that what will be remembered and what really lasts beyond us is our offspring more than our titles and stuff?

Don’t miss that our soul can be affected by our earthly pursuits. Jesus mentions how one can “forfeit your soul.” A wise person once said, “Let me see you bank account and your daily schedule and I can tell you what you think is important.” So can your children. They almost have a sixth sense for integrity. I read this the other day, “Children are unpredictable. You never know what inconsistency they’re going to catch you in next.” They learn so much from parents.

Children can be quite good at judging lots of different things but Jesus is the ultimate judge. As Jesus begins to talk about rewarding people for what they have done he is the judge we should be mindful of when he comes again. He uses a term that may not be too clear to us, Son of Man. This title is one of Jesus’ favorites for himself (he used it 69 times in the Matthew, Mark and Luke and 13 in John). To the Jewish hearer they would have quickly thought of OT books like Ezekiel, Daniel and some messianic prophecy in the Psalms. In Ezekiel, God addresses the prophet as Son of Man so Jesus could be referring to his role as speaker of God’s word and himself as the Word. Definitely it would highlight him as messiah referring to Psalm 8:4 and 80:17. However, it is the use in Daniel 7:13 that many believe Jesus had in mind. When Jesus uses that title he defines his mission instead the political and popular overtones of titles like Son of David, King and others.

When Jesus returns there will be a reward according to what each person has done. Clearly there is a return of sorts on the eternal treasures we have been a part of by our actions. One of those areas in a family with eternal influence is that of parents and the effect of their lives on their children. It is hard to underestimate the role of parents.
Read Acts 16, it contains an example of this influence. Notice verse 33, that is impact!

Profit won’t last near as long or bear as much fruit as the impact of a true Christ follower in a family. Jesus’ picture of his return reminds us of the business at hand. We should be faithful to our families no matter our work or position; spouse, parent or child. If we will cultivate a heart that values the eternal and understands true treasure we’ll have something to look forward to with joy with Jesus comes in his Father’s glory.

Other scriptures for study: Psalm 49:5-9; Job 41:11; Proverbs 11:29; Luke 16:11

September 14th, 2008 – Family Spats

Sunday, September 7th, 2008

Family Business Study Guide
Isaiah 32:18; Matthew 5:9

In the context of chapter 32 in Isaiah, Jerusalem had been attacked or was about to experience an attack by Sennacherib, king of Assyria. Plans were probably being made to rebuild or to stockpile necessities. Worry about the future and continued safety must have dominated their thoughts. Peace may have been the furthest thing from their consciousness but God describes His desire for his chosen people to “live in peaceful dwelling places…”

The Hebrew word for peace is a familiar one, “shalom.” It can mean the lack of conflict, the completeness of one’s welfare and it can even mean experiencing life without worry. The traditional Hebrew greeting included a question like “How is your peace?” much like we say, “How are you doing?” Asking that question put a daily emphasis on peace.

A “secure home” is a refuge from the pressures of life. If the home is just another battleground, then security and rest cannot be found. Think about the homes of an early Israelite. Often their homes were tents while they wandered in the wilderness. How do you make a tent secure? You start with a solid foundation.

Read 1 Corinthians 3:10-13; Ephesians 2:19-22; which of these words and phrases describe what is important for a secure home?

Once they settled in cities they built walls to protect their cities and dwellings. The walls served as boundaries and protection from enemies.

What kind of boundaries do you have?
What “enemies” do those boundaries protect you from?

The last phrase in Isaiah 32:18 describes a place of rest. Rest can be defined as physically settling down. In Genesis, God created the Sabbath as a ceasing from work. Another type of rest is described by Jesus in his call to discipleship as “easy” and “rest for your souls,” Matthew 11:28, 29.

Rest is critical for ongoing peace. Often we describe someone who is being touchy we say they are “tired and cranky.” Be careful that busyness, stress and worry don’t rob you of your rest and the ability to be at peace in your home.

What steps can you take to plan for rest even when you are awake?
Read Acts 3:19 in relation to repentance and rest…

The home is one of those environments that affect all others. That impact can be positive or negative depending on our reactions. Without getting too deep into the “nature or nurture” arguments one realizes that we definitely learn things from our families; one example, how one handles conflict. Think about it, whatever type of home you grew up in you watched your mom or dad handle many conflicts, (18+ years or more). It doesn’t seem to matter what the conflict was about as much as how one dealt with those involved: spouse, neighbors, friends, employers or some other acquaintances. Having that history locked into your mind you respond to conflict in some similar ways. God has a plan for handling inevitable conflict in a way that builds a home instead of destroying it. God can redeem whatever style you’ve learned or inherited!

Several researchers believe that one of the keys of a healthy marriage and family is the way that spouses handle conflict. Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott say it this way, “Once you know how to fight fair, conflict is often the price we pay to a deeper level of intimacy.” While conflict is inevitable it doesn’t have to be destructive. Maybe you have had a “fight” over where to squeeze the tooth paste tube or about how to fold t-shirts or socks. Usually the socks are not the issue but when an attack turns to someone’s character the potential harm escalates. Counselors find that when contempt characterizes most conversations the relationship is in jeopardy. So, how does one fight fair? Here are a few ideas:

  • Identify the real cause:
    What causes the conflict? Remember James 1:20
  • Watch out for emotions:
    Read Ephesians 4:26 related to anger. When might anger be an acceptable response?

Differing communication styles and personalities should be understood by those involved. Sometimes the way something is said creates a worse conflict…

  • Remember God loves you both:
  • Read 1 John 4:7-12

Read the “love” chapter again, 1 Corinthians 13, and remind yourself what God’s word says about love. How would you describe the connection between love and peace?

In Galatians 5:16-26 Paul talks about the motives and fruit of different natures. Peace is mentioned here as a “fruit.” Something the Spirit could/should be producing in Christ-follower…read the rest of the passage for context.
What should be different about Christ-follower’s homes in light of these verses?

One part of the strategy in conflict resolution is to pursue peace by acknowledging peace as part of the goal. If the goal is to prove you are right then peace probably won’t just happen. But if peace makes up the atmosphere of the home, then issues can be worked out in a way that promotes another goal, togetherness and intimacy.

Notice one other definition of peace…completeness. That could be considered the quite different from today’s scattered, over-extended family. Daily, so many “opportunities” confuse our schedules. In that environment fighting and conflict become the mode of operation during the only available family time. Finding a rhythm to your schedules in the family setting is critical.

How much time together did/does your family seem to have?
How much conflict in your life results from scheduling?
Have you built in any time for rest?

Peace and rest go together when there is genuine concern for each family member. If a relationship experiences conflict and there is no resolution, rest will not come. Sometimes there is an uneasiness when conflict isn’t fully dealt with. If one is only concerned about their own comfort then selfishness

rules. If one is concerned about peace at all costs then a “false” peace is manufactured.

When peace just isn’t being considered maybe you can find a way to be a “peacemaker” talked about in Matthew 5:9

You will be blessed and your status will be reinforced as a child of God. A peacemaker constructs peace out of tense circumstances both interpersonally and between God and man; part of our mission. Peace-making is not about being a doormat for family and friends to stomp on when conflict occurs. It is about preventing or stopping unnecessary hurt and finding agreement.

Read Ephesians 6:11-18 what are some things you find interesting about peace in this passage?
…in the midst of battle, peace was a possibility they should be prepared for. What about leaving footprints of peace wherever you go?

Some other passages for more study
Genesis 37 notice verse 18; talk about family conflict! God used it and redeemed it, Genesis 50:20.
2 Kings 23:25; 2 Chronicles 34:1-3 the story of Josiah who did not follow in the habits of his father or grandfather, he broke the cycle! Check out the stories of Amon and Manasseh in the preceding chapters.
Proverbs 19:13
Matthew 6:25-34
Ephesians 6:4