Idolatry: A Family Heritage

There are certain memories indelibly etched into our minds – possibly of times with our family, historical events through which we lived, births, deaths, etc. In Jeremiah 17:1-2, the prophet says the people of Israel have thoughts of idols etched upon their hearts in this time. Back in chapter 7:17, God asks Jeremiah if he sees the idolatry in which God’s people are engaging. These sacrifices and offerings are a family occasion, and they form substantial memories. In Gideon’s time, that judge had to start in his own home, removing idolatry from Israel. Rachel, when leaving her home with Jacob, hides her family idols to take with her. II Kings 17:41 illustrates the idolatry entrenched in Israel’s culture by the time of the Assyrian captivity. The children and grandchildren do as their parents and grandparents.

Our Family Idols

Idolatry is a family heritage, and we all have idols we should be removing from our own lives, lest our children and grandchildren also follow after those same idols.

Social Acceptance

In Genesis 3, Eve and the serpent discuss the nature of God’s statutes within the garden. The serpent talks Eve into partaking of the forbidden fruit and then offering it to her husband. Both Adam and Eve succumb to simple peer pressure. I Samuel 15:24 records Saul acknowledging his transgression from God’s commands, compromising to please the masses. He gives in to the pressures surrounding him. Adam, Eve, and Saul all know, in these passages, what is right and what is wrong, but they have bowed down to the idol of social acceptance.

This pressure knows no age limits. We, as parents, do not want our children to stand out or be targeted, and we compromise our convictions and encourage them to compromise their own. Romans 12:2, however, encourages to avoid conformity and to be transformed into a spiritual being. I Corinthians 15:33 and Psalm 1:1-2 both admonish us to be wary of the influences we allow into our lives, and I Thessalonians 5:21 encourages to test the value of everything, abstaining from evil. We know what we should be doing, but we bow down to the idol of social acceptance.

Weak Marriages

In our culture, weak marriages are a given. We assume failure. Do our children see little hope in their own future relationships because of what they see in ours? Ephesians 5:25-28 reinforces the self-sacrificial love husbands should have for their wives. I Corinthians 13 explores this love more deeply – illustrating a love that prefers others over self, seeking the best in others, and shuns the selfishness that is the root of so many marital problems.

The end of I Peter 2 and the beginning of chapter 3 explore the concept of submission, upholding Christ as the ultimate example of submission. Peter uses Abraham’s wife Sarah as an example of this relationship. Remember, Sarah is a strong Bible woman, even insisting Ishmael should be expelled from her household. God sides with her in this matter, but her behavior remains selfless, and I Peter 3:7 goes on to remind husbands to value and honor wives as irreplaceable and precious. We would not be idolizing weak marriages if we could remove selfishness and pride from our family relationships.

Criticism

Proverbs 13:3, Proverbs 6:19, Proverbs 16:28 – these and more verses criticize critical mouths. I Peter 3:10 (quoting Psalm 34) admonishes us from keeping our moths from evil and deceit, instead seeking peace. Do our children see an idol of criticism in our homes? Do they see us complaining about our brethren and worship on the way home from worship? Do they see us complaining about authority, about secular issues, about our jobs, about our families? We need to tear down our idol of negativity and criticism to preserve our youths.

Indifference

Apathy is the greatest enemy the Lord’s people can face. Genesis 35:1-2 records Jacob preparing to travel to Bethel to praise Jehovah. He plans and prepares for this journey. We cannot drift along in indifference, hoping to simply run into God on the way. Likewise, Hebrews 10:24-25 admonishes us to plan to worship together, to build one another up, to anticipate the time together because it is important to us. The Lord’s Day does not sneak up on us; it is always the same day. The idol of indifference, though, allows other things to push God out of our lives.

Replacing the Idols

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 records Moses instructing the children of Israel to etch God’s words upon their hearts. His words should always be on their lips and before their eyes. Whatever the idols in our own lives, we can remove those and teach our children to know God. Throughout the Old Testament, we see the children of Israel turn to idols while never considering themselves having forsaken God. What do we need to remove from our lives to avoid those distractions from God? Let us resolve to focus on Him and make His word and His ways the heritage we leave for our children.

lesson by Tim Smelser

Who Will This Child Be?

June 21, 2009. Who Will This Child Be?
Repeatedly, God’s people in the Old Testament are admonished to teach their children and their grandchildren. Each newborn child brings new hopes and opportunities to the life of their parents, and we wonder, “Who will this child be?” In Luke 1, the priest Zechariah is expecting a son, and this child is born in verse 57. The tradition would have been to name the child after the father, but both Elizabeth and Zechariah insist his name will be John. After seeing the signs surrounding the birth of John, the people wonder, in verse 66, “Who will this child be?”
The Unguided Child
We wish for our children to be better than ourselves, and we should realize that our choices impact that outcome. What kind of children do we desire? How can we impact the direction they go as they mature? What spiritual goals do we have for our children. Proverbs 22:6 discusses the importance of working with our children early, laying a foundation for their life later. Solomon encourages to take a hands-on approach with our children, and Proverbs 29:15 warns that a child left untended will bring shame to his or her family. Also, chapter 22:15 encourages us to correct our children when they behave foolishly.
I Corinthians 15:33 warns about the people we spend time with, and the same warning applies to our children. We should be encouraging our children to surround themselves with good influences and spiritual friends. I Peter 3:3-4 calls on us to focus on inward beauty over outward beauty. What if we teach our children that fashion is more important than modesty or goodness? What if we teach them to prioritize the secular over the spiritual? Matthew 6:33 records Jesus teaching to seek God’s kingdom first, placing our worldly concerns in God’s hands.
At God’s bidding, the high priest Eli has to reprimand his sons for their sins in serving God and their example to the people. King Rehoboam governs foolishly because he ignores the advice of his father’s advisors and listens to his foolish friends. Salomé inflames Herod to sin because of her immodesty. Paul criticizes Demos for loving the things of this world. These individuals put the world before God, are uncontrolled, are immodest.
The Nurture and Admonition of the Lord
Proverbs 20:7 blesses the children of one who walks in integrity. Ephesians 6:4 calls on fathers to nurture and train their children in the ways of the Lord – not always what is most enjoyable, but what is needed. Deuteronomy 6:4 records Moses instructing the people to make God’s word a daily part of family life, and Luke 4:16, the gospel writer reveals the child Jesus had been customarily taken to worship by His family.
Proverbs 13:20 says wise companions bring wisdom, and III John verse 4 expresses John’s joy in seeing his spiritual children walking in truth. We take pride in much that our children do, but character is what we should be able to take the most pride in. Our families should also be prayerful, James 5:16 encouraging us to pray earnestly. Think of Samuel, Timothy, John and Jesus, David and Jonathan, Barnabas, and Paul – the examples they serve in the scriptures. These once had parents who brought them up and influenced who they would be.
Our choices have an impact in determining who our child will be. Our children have more than an earthly father and mother. They have a Father in Heaven who also looks down upon them. What relationship do you and I have with God? What do our children see in our walk as children of God? If we want out children to reflect godly qualities as they grow, we should first be reflecting these qualities in our own lives.

Repeatedly, God’s people in the Old Testament are admonished to teach their children and their grandchildren. Each newborn child brings new hopes and opportunities to the life of their parents, and we wonder, “Who will this child be?” In Luke 1, the priest Zechariah is expecting a son, and this child is born in verse 57. The tradition would have been to name the child after the father, but both Elizabeth and Zechariah insist his name will be John. After seeing the signs surrounding the birth of John, the people wonder, in verse 66, “Who will this child be?”

The Unguided Child

We wish for our children to be better than ourselves, and we should realize that our choices impact that outcome. What kind of children do we desire? How can we impact the direction they go as they mature? What spiritual goals do we have for our children. Proverbs 22:6 discusses the importance of working with our children early, laying a foundation for their life later. Solomon encourages to take a hands-on approach with our children, and Proverbs 29:15 warns that a child left untended will bring shame to his or her family. Also, chapter 22:15 encourages us to correct our children when they behave foolishly.

I Corinthians 15:33 warns about the people we spend time with, and the same warning applies to our children. We should be encouraging our children to surround themselves with good influences and spiritual friends. I Peter 3:3-4 calls on us to focus on inward beauty over outward beauty. What if we teach our children that fashion is more important than modesty or goodness? What if we teach them to prioritize the secular over the spiritual? Matthew 6:33 records Jesus teaching to seek God’s kingdom first, placing our worldly concerns in God’s hands.

At God’s bidding, the high priest Eli has to reprimand his sons for their sins in serving God and their example to the people. King Rehoboam governs foolishly because he ignores the advice of his father’s advisers and listens to his foolish friends. Salomé inflames Herod to sin because of her immodesty. Paul criticizes Demos for loving the things of this world. These individuals put the world before God, are uncontrolled, are immodest.

The Nurture and Admonition of the Lord

Proverbs 20:7 blesses the children of one who walks in integrity. Ephesians 6:4 calls on fathers to nurture and train their children in the ways of the Lord – not always what is most enjoyable, but what is needed. Deuteronomy 6:4 records Moses instructing the people to make God’s word a daily part of family life, and Luke 4:16, the gospel writer reveals the child Jesus had been customarily taken to worship by His family.

Proverbs 13:20 says wise companions bring wisdom, and III John verse 4 expresses John’s joy in seeing his spiritual children walking in truth. We take pride in much that our children do, but character is what we should be able to take the most pride in. Our families should also be prayerful, James 5:16 encouraging us to pray earnestly. Think of Samuel, Timothy, John and Jesus, David and Jonathan, Barnabas, and Paul – the examples they serve in the scriptures. These once had parents who brought them up and influenced who they would be.

Our choices have an impact in determining who our child will be. Our children have more than an earthly father and mother. They have a Father in Heaven who also looks down upon them. What relationship do you and I have with God? What do our children see in our walk as children of God? If we want out children to reflect godly qualities as they grow, we should first be reflecting these qualities in our own lives.

lesson by Tim Smelser

Mentors of a Spiritual Heritage

What do you value? What means the most to you? It may be something that has sentimental or familial value. This object may not be worth much financially, but its value to you is personal. Perhaps it is something that came form your parents or grandparents. It might be something from a child. Its value is its heritage.

In Exodus 10:2, God tells his people to make a heritage of what He has done for them. Exodus 13:8 repeats these instructions. He tell His people to pass the events of the Exodus from generation to generation. Deuteronomy 6:6-7 tells the Israelites to teach the traditions to God to their children. What His people were to value most was to be His word.

Two women concerned with the spiritual heritage of their children were Lois and Eunice – mother and grandmother to Timothy. We now little of these women. Timothy’s mother was married to an unbeliever, but we know that Timothy’s mother taught him God’s word, and his grandmother worked with him as well. Many churches were affected by Timothy because of the work done by his mother and grandmother. They brought up a child. who would be valued by Paul according to verses like Philippians 2:19.

Timothy’s Spiritual Role Models

The qualities we see in Timothy are not accidental. His life was deeply impacted by the women who purposed to set him in the Lord’s footsteps.

  • They were examples of godliness. II Timothy 1:5 records the example Lois and Eunice set for Timothy. They practiced what they taught. Growing up, Timothy would have seen the type of adult he should become in the example of his mother and grandmother.
  • They taught in the face of difficulties. Their teaching influenced Timothy according to II Timothy 3:15. They showed Timothy how to live, and they reinforced those principles in their teaching. He was taught from God’s word despite the faith (or lack therefor) of his father who would have looked down upon many Jewish traditions as barbaric. They also taught Timothy despite their inability to take him to synagogue because he was uncircumcised.
  • They obeyed the gospel. Lois and Eunice originally taught Timothy from the sacred Jewish texts, but they respond to Paul’s message of Acts 16. They changed when change was called for based on inspired teachings. In this, they set an example to Timothy for him to follow in Christ’s teachings.

Creating Our Own Spiritual Heritage

How do we create a spiritual heritage like the one passed on by Lois and Eunice? There are some families that can trace their faith back for generations, but, even if we do not have such a history, we can start it now. We can pass our faith on to our children and grandchildren. Our spiritual influence is not limited to our children, but, like Lois, we can positively affect our grandchildren’s relationships with God. In fact, some lessons are better received from our grandparents than our parents.

We need to determine the heritage we want to pass on. Even if we have no children or grandchildren, we can become spiritual mentors as Paul was to Timothy. Paul had no children or grandchildren recoded in scripture, but he was a father-figure to Timothy, providing guidance that Timothy’s own father did not. Show someone you care about them, reach out and make another feel their importance. We can help someone grow up to be like Timothy – a Christian valued by others and carrying on a spiritual heritage as valuable as any other heirloom close to his or her heart.

lesson by Tim Smelser

What Hagar Taught

For some reason, I’m picking up on things this time through Genesis that I have glossed over before. It’s interesting how familiar text can sometimes gain new life. Anyway, in Genesis 21, Isaac is born, and we see his weaning feast eight verses later. Then comes verse nine:

And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, scoffing.

The idea here is that Ishmael is laughing hatefully at Isaac. Perhaps he sees this child replacing him as heir to the household as ridiculous. Perhaps he is jealous and acting out defensively. Perhaps he is merely being a bully. Whatever the reasons, there is only on place he could have learned such animosity in Abraham’s household – his own mother.

It’s easy to see where such hard feelings would arise in Hagar with a cursory glance over the preceding chapters. However, during her life as a mother, she passed her hatred for Sarah on to her own child, liewise demonstrating it toward Sarah’s child.

As examples to our children and others around us, we have to be careful what values we’re passing on. Hatred should not be a family value, but for Hagar it was. What misplaced values are we passing on to our own children?

Standing In the Gap

Early in their history, Israel wanted a king, a decision that eventually left to a divided kingdom and a great deal of unfaithfulness. During the reign of the final king if Judah, in Jeremiah 4:14 and 24 the people are described as lacking understanding, as foolish children, Also, in chapter 5:1-5, God gives Jeremiah a mission to look for anyone who is living justly, and Jeremiah is disappointed in his search time and again. Additionally, in Ezekiel 22:26-28 (after the captivity has begun), the problem has not improved. Rulers and spiritual leaders are leading the people into lies. Again, God recaps Jeremiah’s unsuccessful search. No one was willing to stand in the spiritual gap in Jerusalem’s wall.

In a city’s physical defenses, a gap in the wall was a serious gap in security. It was a place easily penetrated by enemies, and God uses is as an analogy for the spiritual defenses of His people. None were willing to spiritually defend God’s word. Today, we are under assault by temptations and worldly influences, and now God relies on us to bolster our spiritual defenses – to stand in the gap and create a barrier between ourselves and our foe.

Who Will Fill the Gap?

God is looking for the willing in Titus 2:1-8, those who are willing to exercise self-control and teach others likewise. Age is irrelevant. Both the young and the elderly can serve God and defend the spirituality of His church. Both the young and the old can demonstrate wisdom, and both can be learned from, whether the focus and clarity of youth or the experience and perspective of age.

He is also looking for husbands and wives to stand in the gap in Ephesians 5:23-33. He is looking for this relationship to be as it should be, and he reminds husbands in particular to take care of their wives as carefully as they take care of themselves. I Peter 3:1-5 describes spiritually strong women who serve as an example to their husbands, and verse seven describes both husband and wife as joint-heirs of God’s promises. Husbands and wives should honor one another – spiritually strengthening one another.

Parents are additional spiritual defenders. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 describes the familiarity God wants families to have with His word. Parents should be continually looking for teachable moments with their children. Ephesians 6:4 describes the nurture and admonition Christian children should be raised in, and this is a lifelong responsibility. Our home life should be as focused on the Lord as when we are at church. Spiritual instruction is not the sole responsibility of pastors, preachers, or Bible class teachers. Knowledge of God begins at home.

In this vein, God is looking for teachers. In Acts 18:24-26, a couple examples are present of willing teachers. Apollos is an eager and enthusiastic teacher whose knowledge is imperfect, and Aquila and Priscella were willing to help him understand better. We should all be as willing to help each other out and to receive such knowledge as gladly as Apollo. Both parties involved demonstrate attitudes we should be willing to emulate in our lives as teachers and as learners of God’s word. II Timothy 2:2 describes a process of teaching and re-teaching, spreading the word from person to person.

In our willingness, we should we willing to serve Him and serve each other. Galatians 6:1-2 describes an attitude of willingness to help each other, of bearing each other’s burdens. For a congregation to be successful, everyone needs to help everyone. James 5:16 encourages us to also help each other out with our temptations and our faults. We need to share with each other in order to be able to help each other, but this requires an attitude of openness and acceptance among ourselves so none of our brothers and sisters feel impeded from this relationship.

Conclusion

We need to examine our own lives before God, and we need to help each other defend from the outward influences dragging us away from God. We cannot reach Heaven on our won. However, we can make it if we work together, if we are the people we should be, and if we help each other out. We can stand in those gaps our brothers and sisters have, helping each other reach the goal.

lesson by Kris Casebolt

Godly Fathers

Nothing in our lives can be more rewarding and more terrifying than being a parent. Psalm 107:13 speaks of the comparable compassion a physical father has and the compassion our spiritual Father has. Hebrews additionally draws a comparison between earthly fathers and God. The relationship fathers have with their children is to mirror and will affect the relationship their children will develop with their heavenly Father.

Today’s society places little value on the father and healthy fatherhood, and many men do not take their roles as fathers seriously. The majority of men in prison are individuals who are, by all intents, fatherless. Lack of male authority can lead to chaos. However, to be a successful father, one must be the father God intends him to be.

Fathers As They Should Be

Fathers are Spiritual Leaders. In I Timothy 3:4 speaks of spiritual leaders that rule their houses well. Ephesians 6:4 warns against provocation and instructs to raise children in God’s word. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 again emphasizes the role of God’s word in bringing up children, and Proverbs 4:1-4 speaks to the experience and wisdom a father can pass on to his children. If I am to be a godly father, then I am a spiritual leader.

Fathers Establish Proper Priorities. In Matthew 6:33, Jesus clearly says seeking God comes before all else. With the establishment of authorities, the father must teach and uphold those priorities, avoiding inconsistencies.

Fathers Demonstrate Discernment. I Thessalonians 5:21-22 are very short verses that challenge us all to test all things. Fathers must be able to do this for children and teach them discernment. This applies to the entertainment chosen, clothes worn, websites visited, as well as friends chosen.

Fathers Study God’s Word. II Timothy 2:15 instructs to be diligent in learning God’s word. What do children see in their father’s relationship with God’s word? Do they see someone who respects and seeks to understand? Do they see someone who only knows where his Bible is on Sunday? If we want children who are students of God’s word, fathers should first be that student.

Fathers Are Prayerful. In Luke 11:1, Jesus is approached by His disciples, asking Him to teach them prayer. Why did they do this? First, they saw Him pray and wished to emulate what they observed. If a father speaks to his Father as he should, his children will see this and also wish to talk to God as they should.

Application

A good father will demonstrate love and model love for his children when he is the man God wants him to be. Fathers, we know what is best for our children, and we can look for guidance in God’s word. Rejecting our responsibilities as parents fails our children and fails our God. We can raise godly children, but, in doing so, we must be parents who are ourselves godly and spiritual.

lesson by Tim Smelser