Genesis 26:22 | No More Time or Space

Getting married and having children is a very personal and individual choice. There is nothing wrong with having or not having kids or having only a couple vs a bunch. But there is a trend in society that would disagree with me and argues that having a large family or having any kids at all is wrong and immoral.

For the most part this trend is not a trend to have fewer children but it is a trend to not have any children at all. There are many reasons for this but my thought is that the underlying reason for not having children is because these young adults never grew up in the first place. They flock to the city and they want to have fun. Kids are inconvenient and expensive. Cities where all the fun happens are not kid friendly. Also, kids put a damper on trips around the world. How can one travel if there are kids to be cared for? Who wants that?

Of course, not having children would never be admitted to in such terms as I have described above and some reading this are offended at me for stating the choice in those terms. Therefore, we must have a better reason for not having children. The rationalization must be noble and moral sounding so as to provide cover for one’s own rebellion regarding not having children. When I was younger the reason to not have kids was that the world is evil and so it would be wrong to bring kids into a terrible society. This was a rare comment and few agreed. The current generations have a much more sophisticated line of thinking. Here it goes… The world is going to end due to climate change so it would be a terrible idea to bring kids into this world but it would also be immoral since these same kids would add to the death of the planet. If this rationalization sounds preposterous then take a second look at just how mainstream the idea has become as found here in the New York Times or the virtue signal given off by the royal couple Harry and Megan when they announced that they will self-limit to just two children for the climate’s sake.

22 And [Isaac] moved from there and dug another well, and they did not quarrel over it. So he called its name Rehoboth, saying, “For now the Lord has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.” Genesis 26:22 ESV

In the Bible we never see such an idea so let me start with Isaac. He had run into an issue. His household and flocks had been blessed by God so much that everyone around him was terrified at the wealth and power that he had accumulated. His neighbors were filling up his watering holes with dirt and were fighting with him over every spot he tried to dig a new well. So, Isaac kept moving until he reached a place that was not claimed by anyone else. He named this spot Rehoboth which means wide spaces and he gave God credit for the location and the blessings of the future growth into this Rehoboth. This is the biblical view of life. God wants for people to grow and expand filling the earth.

When God created Adam and Eve he gave them a command to multiply.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Genesis 1:28 ESV

When God released Noah from the Arc to walk on the earth after the flood God gave Noah the same command to multiply.

And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. Genesis 9:1 ESV

That command to multiply has not been rescinded and the earth, God’s amazing creation, is not yet at capacity. There are many blessings given by God around having children and growing families. I am not a person with a large family and I am not advocating if one does not have a large family that they have failed at something. However I also agree with the joke/saying “I never met anyone on their death bed that said they wished they had less children.”

Don’t you see that children are God’s best gift? the fruit of the womb his generous legacy? Like a warrior’s fistful of arrows are the children of a vigorous youth. Oh, how blessed are you parents, with your quivers full of children! Psalms 127:3-4 MSG

This is the order of things that God has put in place. He made us to multiply and only in our rebellion from him would we embrace an idea to kill babies in the womb or better yet to avoid having them at all. So let me come back to the argument at hand. Should we stop having children because the world going to end because of our presence?

First we can all agree that the world is going to end. This world is temporary. The earth will not last forever and it is in a state of decay. This is because God cursed creation as a result of sin. He did this in order to recreate and restore the heavens and the earth in perfect glory. Second God’s plans and his timing are unknown to us. Our contribution to the end of the planet is only impacted by prayer and waiting on God for his return. God is in control. People having babies or not having babies is not going to leave change God’s timeline.

11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. 2 Peter 3:11-13 ESV

Lesson #3: Submission to God in all Things

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God is in control, God is all powerful, God is creator of all things, God is all knowing, and God does not make mistakes. We are so independent and so self-involved that it is hard to see where we stand with God. We as Americans love our freedom and independence to the extent that it sometimes clouds our view of who we are in relation to God.

  1. Are you parenting skills and marriage relationship in control?
  2. Is your family life closed off to the outside world so that there is no space for God to work?

To help answer these questions on submission we will deep dive into Satan and if he submits to God. How could Satan be who he is if God did not allow it? We must all understand that we are here to serve and submit to God. Even Satan. While God does not tell Satan to be evil, God does permit and give Satan room to operate. Independent of Satan’s personal preference he serves God and submits to the rules God has put in place for him.  

5 And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, 6 and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. 7 If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Luke 4:5-7 ESV

 Satan when he tempted Jesus shows Jesus all the glory that the world has to offer. The power of army’s and kingdoms all for Jesus to direct. What is interesting to note is that Satan tells Jesus that authority in these kingdoms has been delivered to him. When Satan says the kingdoms of the world have been delivered up to him he uses a word that one might describe as when a judge has delivered a prisoner over to an evil prison warden. Jesus used the same word to describe how he would be “delivered” to the Gentiles for them to put him to death. 

32 For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. Luke 18:32 ESV 

The Gentiles were given charge over Jesus and were allowed by God to crucify Jesus. God permitted this crime on His son. In the same way the worldly kingdoms have been given over to Satan. Satan is not free to destroy at will. God has placed boundaries on his authority.  

9 Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? 10 Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” 12 And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord. Job 1:9-12 ESV 

At the beginning of the book of Job Satan comes before the throne of God and challenges God in regard to Job. He claims that Job serves God only because God has blessed him. What is most interesting in this exchange is that Satan tells God to stretch out his hand to crush Job and that Job will curse God because of it. In response God gives Satan permission to do just as Satan suggested, but God places rules on what Satan can do. God does not bring evil to Job, but he does permit Satan to commit evil acts.

 So now let us turn this back to ourselves, our marriage, and our place with God. Are we dependent or independent? Do we see how powerful and in control God is of everything that is happening in this world and in our lives? Paul in Romans describes humankind as slaves. Slaves of Sin or Slaves of God. Have you ever thought of yourself this way as a slave? Slaves still have free will to choose how they will react to the situation however they are not free to opt out of slavery. I have freedom to jump from a cliff but I do not have the freedom to choose to fly to safety because I am bound by the rules of gravity. 

20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:20-23 ESV 

Slavery was more common in the past so if Paul were writing to our context today he might choose to say we are either servants to our sins and earthly desires or we are servants of God and his eternal desires for us. Are we here to seek our own ambition or do we see ourselves as servants to God? If you seek your own ambition and cast no concern for God and his role in your life then you are a slave and serve sin. 

  1. What are your ambitions and goals? Are these in line with what God wants for you?
  2. What are you ambitions for your children? Will those ambitions bring glory to you alone or also God?
  3. Does your spouse have a part of your ambitions and goals? Is your spouse on board with that vision?

 

Lesson #2: Conflict in the Home

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Have you ever been angry or upset because of the action of others? Is anger a SIN? We sometimes have the idea that anger is not called for and so we do not talk about it or we hide it away from our family. Of course we can also live with our anger so out in the open that it causes conflict in the home. Anger is not a bad thing in and of itself. God is described as “slow to anger” (Exodus 34:6, Psalm 86:15). The key here is being slow and justified when allowing anger to be realized. God’s righteous anger is not selfish or a quick tempered lashing out. His anger bears up patiently waiting for us His creation to repent and call on His great mercy.

How do you deal with the anger and conflict that comes to any marriage and family? Do you practice the cold shoulder? Do you yell, scream, and throw stuff? Or do you plot unpleasant difficulties for the target of the anger? Whatever our anger and whatever the source God wants for us to face it head on and reconcile that trouble.

23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Matthew 5:23-24 ESV

What God does not want is for anger to dwell in our hearts because it will eat us up and become bitterness. This bitterness is where the sin dwells and our enemy is more than happy to destroy a marriage with bitterness. He wants for us to get it out in the open and work through it.

15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; Hebrews 12:15 ESV

There is another anger that many of us would not want to recognize or admit and that is anger toward God himself. Are you or have you been angry with God? If you said yes then you have much company. God sometimes asks from us and burdens us with requests and situations that make us upset. Jeremiah a prophet of God was given the task to tell the people that they would be conquered by Babylon and exiled away from their homeland. Jeremiah was beaten and put in stocks because of the bad news he kept delivering. This was a shoot the messenger kind of situation and he was very upset with God.

7 O Lord, you have deceived me, and I was deceived; you are stronger than I, and you have prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all the day; everyone mocks me. 8 For whenever I speak, I cry out, I shout, “Violence and destruction!” For the word of the Lord has become for me a reproach and derision all day long. 9 If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot. Jeremiah 20:7-9 ESV

Job an Old Testament patriarch held more reason to be angry at God than anyone. God had allowed his wealth, workers, and children to be removed in violent occurrences. Job himself was plagued physically with boils all over his body. Job had an expectation to be angry but he has an amazing perspective on the situation.

9 Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” 10 But he said to her… “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. Job 2:9-10 ESV

“It is well with my soul” is one of the greatest hymns ever written. The author, Horatio Spafford, was a business man who had lost much of his wealth and so he sent his family back to London from America. His family of four daughters and a wife were in a boat that sank on the trip. Only his wife survived the tragedy. He knew the ship sank but did not know if his family survived. His wife sent him a telegraph “survived alone”. I personally can’t imagine the grief and possible anger I might have against God in such a situation. Horatio’s response to the tragedy was to write “Whatever my lot thou has taught me to say it is well it is well with my soul”. This man is an example not unlike Job who holds out a perspective that is eternal and gives Glory to God in all things.

As with our spouse and so it is with God we must keep an eternal perspective. We must love one another and bear up with each other in love just as God has loved us. Do not be upset with God when you see others who seem to have a better life or circumstances. We have what we need from God.

The Lord of hosts has sworn: “As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand, Isaiah 14:24 ESV

Review with the small group the take home worksheet and discuss the questions together. Here are the small group discussion questions and a link to the take home worksheet…

  1. Are there any “open loops” that need to be resolved with your spouse or with God?
  2. Have you kept a safe distance from God because of a “no” or circumstance you do not like?
  3. Do you need to check-in with your spouse to lovingly confront any open issues?
  4. Do you need to apologize for a recent or long standing conflict?

Click here for a PDF copy of the take home worksheet

Lesson #1: Spiritual Transparency in the Home

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Lesson #1 is the first step in a discipleship program. This program about the need to minister to the entire family and is part of a longer term conversation that all families should maintain on marriage, family, and child discipleship. What this lesson is not is a self-help series that simply contains basic cause and effect solutions to the routine conflict that all of us face each day as we work at our marriages and families. This is a discipleship program and should be executed inside of a small group to have a conversation with Christians who want to go deeper into their relationship with Christ and their families.

The goal of this program would be to draw closer to a spouse through Christ. The goal of this program would be to know that as parents we are discipling our children into a love for Christ that will set them on a path to serve Him for His glory. I pray and hope we all will hear from the Holy Spirit and take away meaningful upgrades to our knowledge of Him and how that impacts our relationship with family.

The first lesson will start with “Transparency” and focusing on our relationship with Christ in a corporate way with our spouse and children.

Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment. Proverbs 18:1 ESV

Satan seeks to isolate. By cutting us off from each other inside the family and in turn from the church he has a better chance of speaking lies into our heart. In this isolation he also has a better chance of encouraging us to continue in our sins that will lead to death. One of the major lies that many families accept and many churches accept is that we should remain quiet in the public square, that our faith is personal, and that we pray only in the closest. The only acceptable conversations for public would be sports, politics, our children’s activities, and where we are headed on our next vacation, but almost never does our conversation go to Christ and his work in our family.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8 ESV

Compare Satan who is shown as a Lion prowling for someone to consume looking for an opportunity to cut some unfortunate soul off from the group to Christ who is shown as a Shepherd seeking the one to bring back to the 99. God intended us to be in community within a group, not isolated and alone.

But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. Hebrews 3:13 ESV

Our testimony of what God is doing is encouragement to others and it is a lie from Satan that we keep our religion and relationship with Christ to ourselves. We need to be intentional about our dialog with others and intentional about bringing Christ into the conversation with our family. I love this introduction from Paul to the Romans.

For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. Romans 1:11-12 ESV

Do you long to see your spouse talk about what Christ is speaking into his/her life? Do you long to know what God is talking to your family about? Speak about these things with your spouse so that you may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. What an awesome spiritual gift that we might be missing in our lives.

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. Ephesians 6:25-28 ESV

Paul seems to be asking Husbands to be like Christ by washing the marriage in the word of God so that both who are one flesh would be holy. Now husband and wife should follow Paul’s example. We need to prioritize the eternal of God over the temporary of self. In order to prioritize the eternal things of God we need to create a dialog between husband, wife, and children that is a comfortable natural outflow of our family’s cadence.

Here are the small group discussion questions and a link to the take home worksheet…

  1. Do you talk with your spouse about the spiritual and eternal burdens that you wrestle with God over?
  2. Do you ask your spouse to pray for you for the core struggles and the things that defeat you each day?
  3. If we asked your spouse would they know what you are currently reading or thinking about in regard to God? Is your relationship with Christ before the family or is it nonexistent to them?
  4. Do you keep a front up not sharing the burdens together because someone in the family must be the strong one?

Click here for a PDF copy of the take home worksheet

 

 

The Family Life of Jesus

Jesus was once a child and the Bible communicates two fundamental truths about his childhood that we as children and parents would do well to carry out in our own families.

First as parents it is our job to raise our children in a home where God is a priority. For Joseph and Mary it is clear that they raised up Jesus in a family that put priority on the religious requirements of their day and time. As first born in their family they dedicated Jesus to God according to the Law that is required for them as Israelites. While this is just one example of a religious ceremony it is assumed that this lifestyle is part of who they are as a family. I expect that they also spent time as a family talking about God, and living a life that God would want from them.

And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” Luke 2:22-24 ESV

Second as children it is important that we honor our parents and submit to their authority when we are young. When Jesus was twelve his parents took him to Jerusalem for Passover and then started to return home from the festival without him. Once they realized that he was missing they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. When they found him he was in the Temple learning and amazing others with his knowledge. Yet even in this Jesus kept in mind God’s command to obey parents and submit to the order that God ordained. Jesus returned home to continue to fullfill his role as a child even if he might have been ready to be out on his own. The result is that Jesus in childhood continues to gain wisdom and favor with those in the community. Children that obey parents and respectfully listen to adults are a joy and benefit to the community at large.

And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man. Luke 2:51-52 ESV

What are some additional things we can take away from the family that Jesus grew up in? I am sure based on what we know about this family that they would have taken the Law of Moses seriously. When I think of the Law of Moses I think of the 10 commandments. There are two types of commands in the 10 commandments. Commands 1-4 are commands that deal with the relationship between man and God like not using God’s name as a profanity or a curse. The second set of commands 5-10 are commands that deal with the relationship between man and man. Do not steal, or kill are famous examples. However the first command in the set that deals with our relationship with others is this…

Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. Exodus 20:12 ESV

God starts with a command of asking us to Honor our parents and give them respect deserved or not. God also gives a promise with this command that if we do this our days in the land we are living might be long. None of the other commands related to our relationship with other people comes with a promise like this. The family unit, the relationship within the family and the children honoring their parents is foundational to peace and longevity in your life.

Proverbs has wisdom about how to live an earthly life that honors God and those around you. In this wisdom it is common to find advice from adult to child about how to approach life.

Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck. My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. Proverbs 1:8-10 ESV

There is also wisdom that talks about the foolishness and haste of youth who think they know better than adults that have lived a few more seasons. God’s wisdom and knowledge is here for those that will pause to listen, but youth that did not respect and honor their parents will grow up to be adults that will not respect or honor God their creator. I think about my own youthfulness and my desire to get out in the world to make a name for myself. I was so foolish and let me just put it this way… the me of now thinks the me of 20 years ago was an idiot. Don’t blame God or parents for the stupid things you did in your youth.

Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way. When a man’s folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the Lord. Proverbs 19:2-3 ESV

So children pause, look, and submit to authorities in your life. There will be a time for you to make your own way. Lord willing you will have learn something valuable from those who have gone before you. Parents, you have a great responsibility and stewardship in the children that God has blessed you with. Here is one final thing that the parents of Jesus would have had on their mind as they raised Jesus and his brothers and sisters…

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 ESV

Parents, are you talking about God as a family at home? Are you talking about God in the car when traveling? Are you talking about God in the morning before rushing off for the day? Moses said to teach them diligently. Are you diligent about the things of God in your family? Moses said to write the words of God on the walls of your house. Do you decorate your home with scripture? In my home office over my desk is a framed picture that has the words of Joshua 24:15 “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord”. Have you made Jesus a central focus of your life and family?