One of the ways that my wife and I define success as parents is if our son grows up to follow Jesus. Each of us were given a heritage of faith. Like. A baton in a race, it’s been handed down from one generation to the next. I was in my twenties when I first recognized that godly heritage for what it is. I remember reaching out to my parents and grandparents to thank them for investing in my foundation of faith. I was taken to church every time the doors were opened whether I wanted to go or not. I was given the gift of a Christian school education as well where teachers poured into that foundation. Now, we are doing the same thing for our son. We explain to him why we believe what we believe and partner with family, friends, church and teachers to build a foundation of faith in him so that it doesn’t stop with us.
Throughout the first few books of the Bible, as God gives Moses and His people the Law and the Commandments, he reminds him that these are not just for them. God specifically asks them to teach them to their children. Deuteronomy 6:6-7 says, “Never forget these commands that I am giving you today. Teach them to your children. Repeat them when you are at home and when you are away, when you are resting and when you are working” (GNT). He didn’t just tell them to let them learn about them at church or school. It was the parents responsibility to daily pour into the children’s foundation of faith. It was up to them to talk about them all the time and to explain to their kids the great things God has done for them in their life and throughout history.
In one of my last conversations with my mom before she died, she recounted every time God answered her prayers from the time she was a little girl until that day. After what seemed like hours, she looked at me and said, “God has been faithful all my life. Whether He chooses to heal me or not, I have peace because I trust Him.” It was one of the most impactful conversations we ever had. As she was dying, she was continuing to pour into my foundation so that I would continue the family’s legacy of faith. It doesn’t matter if you’re a first generation Christian or fifth, our responsibility is to pass the baton of faith to the next generation. I once heard someone say that Christianity is only one generation from extinction. Don’t let it end with you. Give your kids the gift of a foundation of faith.
Watching the March Madness college basketball tournament reminds me of the days when I played basketball. There was always excitement on game day, and a bit of nervousness too. When we would play in the opponent’s gym, sometimes they would have a rowdy crowd. When you’re shooting free throws, and the crowd is doing everything they can to disrupt you to make you miss, you rely on muscle memory to make the shot. Muscle memory is developed in practice when the fundamentals are poured into you and repeated over and over. You do the same routine over and over so your brain isn’t distracted by the craziness on game day. So, when you’re standing there on that line, you remember what you’ve been taught and practiced and make the shot.
In 2 Timothy 3, Paul let’s Timothy know that crazy, difficult days are ahead. He said, “People will be selfish, greedy, boastful, and conceited; they will be insulting, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, and irreligious; they will be unkind, merciless, slanderers, violent, and fierce; they will hate the good; they will be treacherous, reckless, and swollen with pride; they will love pleasure rather than God; they will hold to the outward form of our religion, but reject its real power. Keep away from such people” (2 Timothy 3:2-5 GNT). That sounds an awful lot like world we are living in now. There are so many distractions around us, and so many things trying to divide the Church. There’s pressure to leave the fundamentals of Christianity because it is opposed to all these things listed, which have been normalized. With all of this going on, it would be easy for us to miss the shot right in front of us. That’s why Paul told us what to do during these times.
In verse 14, he wrote, “But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you” (NLT). We must hold onto the eternal truth of God’s Word. While the world is trying to move the boundary markers of truth, we must hold fast to what is real truth. The fundamentals of faith are what we must hold tightly too and implement into our lives. Romans 12:2 reminds us not to conform to the culture of the world, but to continuously renew our minds. How do we renew our mind? By putting the truth of God’s Word into it daily so we can combat what the world is throwing at us. We are not to change God’s Word to fit into our culture. Instead, we are to be changed by God’s Word so that we stand out in this culture in order to lead people to Christ. We have a great opportunity to remain faith to God’s fundamentals.
One of my favorite shows is Alone. They take ten people, put them in a hostile environment with ten items and have them survive until everyone taps out. It appeals to me for many reasons, but one of my favorite parts is when the contestants have been alone and hungry for about 30 days. There is a huge psychological battle every contestant faces as they document themselves on this journey. Some grow to hate the location, the hunger, the isolation and the constant struggle for food and water. Then there are others who are in a similar location a few miles away that get ahold of the negative thoughts and begin speaking positive words instead. In every case, the ones who continue to speak negatively tap out of the contest. The one who can continue to find positive things through the struggle is the one who wins.
I’m not sure there’s another person in the Bible besides Jesus who suffered more than Paul. He was imprisoned multiple times in jails that were dark, nasty and had no humanitarian standards for prisoners. He was shipwrecked, beaten to a pulp many times, dragged out of cities, lied about, stoned, robbed, left for dead and abandoned. The things he went through, many of us couldn’t survive. However, Paul kept preaching the Gospel, writing letters and encouraging others through it all. My favorite story is when he was in a dungeon of a prison, bleeding and hungry, and he starts singing praises to God for all to hear. No matter how bad things were, he found a way to praise and refocus his attention on God instead of his circumstances.
David was a lot like him too. In Psalm 34:1-2 David penned, “I will praise the Lord at all times. I will constantly speak his praises. I will boast only in the Lord; let all who are helpless take heart” (NLT). He didn’t say, “I want to praise the Lord at all times.” He was saying, “I will,” as in he’s not going to give his mind the choice to do anything else. Do you have have an “I will praise the Lord at all times” attitude? You need to decide that attitude ahead of your circumstances, but even if you’re in the middle of hard times now, you can choose it. Praising God doesn’t change your circumstances, it changes you in the middle of them. It strengthens you and puts your focus on the One who is greater than what you’re facing. If you haven’t chosen to praise the Lord at all times, do it today and put it into practice. He deserves to be praised in the good times and the bad.
I’ve been reading a lot of news on the stock market lately. There was the rise and fall of Game Stop stock where a group of people decided to invest in it to drive the price up in order to stick it to some Wall Street people. Bitcoin has surged after taking a nose dive a couple of years ago. Investors have been on a wild ride lately. Some keep predicting that this is a bubble and it will pop at some point. Others who have never invested are jumping in trying to get rich quick by taking advantage of buying a low stock in hopes that it will have explosive growth. Others are in it for the long haul knowing their investments will increase slowly and steadily over time. The one constant is that if you don’t invest, you won’t have the opportunity to grow your money in that system.
Sometimes we get wrapped up in this world’s economy trying to make our lives better that we forget God has an economy too. We all have the opportunity to invest in it as well. In Matthew 6:19-21, Jesus said, “Don’t keep hoarding for yourselves earthly treasures that can be stolen by thieves. Material wealth eventually rusts, decays, and loses its value. Instead, stockpile heavenly treasures for yourselves that cannot be stolen and will never rust, decay, or lose their value. For your heart will always pursue what you esteem as your treasure” (TPT). It doesn’t say don’t seek or make money. It says don’t hoard it or store it up. You can invest those treasures in the heavenly economy by putting them to use for Kingdom purposes.
1 Timothy 6:18-19 says, “Remind the wealthy to be rich in remarkable works of extravagant generosity, willing to share with others. These spiritual investments will provide a beautiful foundation for their lives and secure for them a great future, as they lay their hands upon the meaning of true life.” Giving is a spiritual investment in the heavenly economy. I realize this verse is talking to the rich, but each of us have the opportunity to invest in heavenly treasures. God’s principle of giving works whether you invest a little or a lot. When you give, it will be given unto you. Giving is simply showing God that you don’t value the earthly economy over the heavenly one. It’s a way to show Him you can be faithful over a little so He can trust you with a lot. There are lots of ways to give and invest in His economy. This life is a vapor, but heaven will be for eternity. Invest wisely.
Several years ago I was traveling for work. I had been working in this town back to back for a few weeks when I remembered that one of my friends said he would often visit different churches on Wednesday nights when he traveled. I had heard a pastor on the radio and decided to visit his church that Wednesday. I pulled into the parking lot and parked in the visitor space. For some reason, I was a bit nervous, but I got out of the car and started following where people were headed. I chickened out at the doors. I stood there for about ten minutes watching people walk past, but none greeted me. After no one else was coming, I slipped into the empty lobby and looked into the sanctuary. Everyone was seated at round tables of eight. As I debated whether to go in, more people opened the doors and went in without acknowledging me. After a few minutes, I got back in my car and went to my hotel.
If you know me, this doesn’t sound like me at all. I’ve never met a stranger, but that night I felt invisible and unwelcome. For 15-20 minutes people walked past me, saw me and ignored me. It was clear to my mind that they weren’t ready to receive me or any other visitors. It bothers me when people aren’t acknowledged or welcome at a church. If there is anywhere in the world where anyone should feel comfortable, it’s at church. Anyone who attends church is a representative of God and who He is. When people feel invisible to us, they feel invisible to God. When they feel unwelcomed by us, they feel unwelcomed by God. How many people walk in and out of our church each week feeling unwelcomed, unloved and invisible? It’s not just the usher’s and greeter’s responsibility. It’s all of ours.
Psalm 100:5 in The Passion Translation says, “For Yahweh is always good and ready to receive you. He’s so loving that it will amaze you— so kind that it will astound you!” If God is ready to receive us, we should be ready to receive others. There are people who come to church with the fear that if they go inside, the walls are going to cave in because of the life they live. The truth is, the Church was built to rescue them. It’s God’s kindness that leads people to repentance, and each week, we have the opportunity to show that kindness to people who attend our churches. It may not feel comfortable to you to show that kindness, or to show them we’re ready to receive them, but as people who bear His name, it’s each of our responsibility to do it. Do something different this Sunday. Look for someone who feels out of place and nervous, say hello and welcome them in. Your kindness could make an eternal difference. You are God’s welcome committee.
Not long ago, I took my son and his friend for a walk. When we got to the front of our neighborhood, I asked them if they’d like to climb down the 20 foot drop off to go down to the river bed. Their eyes got wide with excitement and definitely wanted to. When we got to the bottom, they began scouring the ground for rocks. One of them found a red rock and exclaimed, “I found a ruby!” Another one held up a black rock and yelled back, “I found obsidian!” They would also pick up other rocks and ask what kind of gems they were. Even though there weren’t any real gems down there, they were searching hard for them, turning over each rock and examining them. They wanted to find something of value badly and it was difficult to pull them away from that area.
I’ve been reading the Bible chronologically this year. Today will be my last reading in the first five books of the Bible. There’s a lot more about the Law in those books than there are stories, but over and over again, God says that these words bring life. He wanted them, and us, to bind them on our heart, our arms and our forehead. He wanted us to treasure His Word so that we would obey it. In Deuteronomy 30:19, God said, “I am now giving you the choice between life and death, between God’s blessing and God’s curse, and I call heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Choose life” (GNT). The choice was to obey or disobey His Word. He wants us to value and cherish what He says. If we value it, we will search through it, seek to understand it and obey it.
Davis was someone who valued God’s Word. He treasured it and thought of it as such. In Psalm 19:10 he wrote, “The rarest treasures of life are found in his truth. That’s why God’s Word is prized like others prize the finest gold” (TPT). You and are need to not only treasure God’s Word, but to search through it like we’re on a treasure hunt. Dig through it daily, hold it up, examine it and ask questions about it. What may seem ordinary or old fashioned to many, actually contains hidden treasures, real truth and ultimately life. If we treat His Word as ordinary, it will lose its value in our lives and we’ll begin to see it as just a good book instead of God’s treasure given to us. When you read the Bible, don’t just read it to check off a Christian duty box. Search through it as if you’re searching for treasure and you will find the rarest of gems and life along the way.
When you read the creation account in Genesis, it’s easy to think that God created everything with just His voice. “Let there be light. Let there be water. Let the land sprout with vegetation. Let the waters swarm with fish.” But in chapter two we find two things He made by hand. God formed man from the dust of the ground and He planted a garden where He then placed the man. I think it’s significant that out of all creation, He made these with His hands instead of with His voice. They were both made from the ground, but both had to be cultivated. Man needed the breath of God in him, and the garden needed Him to dig up soil so He could plant trees that bore good fruit.
If you’ve ever planted a garden, you know that the hard work begins with cultivating the soil. You have to break it up and churn it so that it is prepared for planting. Our lives are full of uncultivated soil that God wants to plant things in, but we must first be willing to till it. Many times we ask God for more, but we haven’t given Him the uncultivated parts of our lives. We tend to segregate our life into two parts: the part we let God into and the part we want to keep for ourselves. When the later part becomes unmanageable, we cry out to Him in desperation for help, but then promptly kick Him back out once the problem is under control. In reality, we should be seeking His blessings for every part of our lives and giving Him control of everything.
Hosea10:12 says, “Break up your uncultivated ground, For it is time to seek and search diligently for the LORD [and to long for His blessing]” (AMP). What parts of your life are uncultivated right now? If you’re wanting more of what God has in store for you, you’re going to have to clear away the weeds and break up the ground to prepare it for seeds of blessings. Seeds must have fertile soil to germinate in if they’re going to produce good fruit. God wants to have His fingerprints all over your life, but you’re the one who is going to have to give Him access. The Garden of Eden doesn’t just have to exist in Genesis. It can be cultivated in your life when you’re willing to break new ground.
Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.