The Legacy We Leave

How joyful are those who fear the Lord and delight in obeying his commands. Their children will be successful everywhere;  an entire generation of godly people will be blessed.” – Psalms 112:1-2.

What kind of legacy will you and your spouse leave? Will it be lasting? Will it be imperishable and eternal? Or will you leave behind only tangible items—buildings, money, and/or possessions? The apostle Paul instructed Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:2 to “…teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others.”  What are we passing on to the next generation? How does God want married couples to invest the time they have been given.   

In the day-to-day grind of life, we all have the potential of getting caught up in life’s hectic details and demands and can easily lose sight of whether we are leaving a Godly legacy to our children. Leaving a Godly legacy is our purpose as parents. 

In Exodus 20:6, God tells Moses: “But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands.” What we do matters because it can affect generations. When we as parents really understand that the things we do today affect the way our children remember their childhoods and mold who they are and how they see life – that’s when we get serious about making changes that create a Godly legacy.

A Godly legacy begins when we are intentional parents who create a home that honors God. Children thrive best in an atmosphere of genuine love and giving. As we have talked about all week, you will reap what you sow.  If you want your children to be truthful, then you need to be truthful. If you want them to serve others, let them see you serving. If you want them to have an authentic relationship with Jesus, show them what that looks like in your life. 

Giving and receiving is a fundamental part of life itself, so it applies to relationships. If we wish to receive, we must first give to others. The more we give, the more we will receive.

In order to reap the benefits of giving and receiving, you must enjoy the act of giving. Giving to your spouse and other relationships will build a lasting legacy.

Think and pray about it. We hope you will make it a goal to live your legacy as a spouse who constantly gave to a marriage without any expectation of return from your spouse. That way, you will leave behind a legacy of a godly marriage.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Is there someone who has inspired you through their legacy? How did they impact your life? 
  2. What is the legacy you inherited from your parents? How would you like to either pass it on or change it for the next generation?
  3. Gaining a vision and a direction in life will yield significance to your mate’s life as well. Agree or disagree and why?
  4. What are the top two or three steps we can take to build Godly relationships?

Watering Your Heart Soil

“Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seeds. As he scattered them across his field, some seeds fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate them. Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. But the plants soon wilted under the hot sun, and since they didn’t have deep roots, they died. Other seeds fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants. Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted! Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”- Matthew 13:3-9.

I am one of those people who have a black thumb. I say this because even with the best of intentions and effort, plants do not last long under my care. But I do know you need good soil, good seed and a skilled, and more importantly, attentive farmer/gardener. If you don’t have those things, you can’t expect to have a healthy crop. 

That is the message Jesus gives us in the parable of the sower found in Matthew 13.

In the parable of the sower, Jesus compared the condition of our hearts to soil types. The hard path represents the heart hardened to God’s Word. The rocky soil represents a shallow heart unable to withstand trouble or persecution. The soil choked with weeds represents a heart distracted by worries and prosperity. And the fertile soil represents a heart that produces a fruitful life. How can you take care of your heart soil today?

Both soil and hearts need plowing to allow seed to settle deep enough to grow and to create paths for roots. Sometimes God plows our lives with trials and tough times that the soil – our life – can turn upside down. The Bible clearly teaches that God loves those who are His children, and He “works all things together for good” for us (Romans 8:28). So that must mean that the trials and tribulations He allows in our lives are part of the working together of all things for good. Therefore, for the believer, all trials and tribulations must have a divine purpose. That purpose is to help us grow more and more into the image of His Son.

Soil and hearts also need proper fertilizing. For plants, the proper balance of water and nutrients leads to the greatest growth and highest yield. Likewise, our hearts need a constant and balanced diet of prayer and Bible study, fellowship and worship. Then we can yield the fruit of service and giving, ministry and outreach.

Our goal should be for the garden of your heart to be so healthy that it can grow more fruit.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How would you describe the “soil” of your heart and soul at this time in your life?
  2. What might help break up hard soil? Get rid of rocks? Pull up weeds?
  3. What are the weeds that prevent growth and fruitfulness in a person’s life?
  4. What can you do this week to fertilize the soil of your hearts? 

Sow The Seeds of Giving

“For the word of the Lord holds true, and we can trust everything he does.” – Psalm 33:4.

When Luke 6:38 is talked about, it is most often in the context of money. But it’s a mistake, in my opinion, to think that Jesus is only talking about money in this verse. I believe He is revealing a principle that applies to every area of our lives.

For the purpose of context, it helps to back up and read verses 36 and 37: “You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate. “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” Then, in verse 38, Jesus says, “Give, and it will be given to you.” Yes, the verse does apply to money, but it also applies to forgiveness, mercy, understanding, and patience. Jesus is simply talking about the broad principle of giving. Whatever you give is going to be given back to you in “good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over.”

The terms “good measure,” “pressed down,” “shaken together,” and “running over” don’t make a lot of sense the first time you hear them. But they make perfect sense to the people Jesus was talking to in Biblical times.   

According to instructions in the Old Testament, farmers in Israel were to leave the grain in the corners of their fields for the poor. So, each year at harvest time, the poor people worked in the corners collecting the grain in order to feed themselves and their families. The poor people most likely walked some distance to get to the field. They needed to maximize what they brought back to feed their families. They would press it down to create more room, shake it to remove any air and then pour more grain into the basket until it began to spill over the sides. It is one thing to receive a basket of free grain. It is a far better thing to receive a good-measure, pressed-down, shaken-together, and using every inch of space in the basket of free grain.

Jesus used these terms because He wanted to communicate that whatever you give, you’re going to get a lot more of the same in return. If we are critical of others, then it’s likely we will receive criticism. But if we treat others graciously, generously, and compassionately, these qualities will come back to us in full measure.  Jesus used these terms because He wanted to communicate that whatever you give, whatever the “it” is, you’re going to get a lot more of the same in return.

James 3:2 lays out the human condition as clearly and as succinctly as anyone can: “Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.” Think about the impact of the words “all” and “many.” Some negative is inevitable in most relationships. No one of us is “on our game” every day. The spiritual challenge is to give even when your spouse or other person in the relationship is having a bad day.  Because when we give, we get more back in return.

Discussion Questions

  1. What does give and it will be given you mean to you?
  2. What are some of the things you can give in a relationship?
  3. How can we improve our give versus get ratio this week?

Reap What You Sow

“Do not withhold good from those who deserve it when it’s in your power to help them.” – Proverbs 3:27.

Research indicates that most Americans say that family and personal accomplishments and possessions lead their list of what determines success, rather than faith and spiritual wholeness. Historically, like today, people would rather get than to give. The Bible has a different perspective. 

Luke 6:38 says, “Give, and it will be given to you.” The basic principle that Jesus is teaching is that if you want to change what you are getting then we must begin by giving what you want to receive whether that is love, time, energy, commitment, teaching, intercessory prayer support and whatever else we want to get. This is a Biblically based promise, “…you will always harvest what you plant.” (Galatians 6:7) And 2 Corinthians 9: 6 adds, “Remember this–a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop.”

It is not easy to put yourself out there by always giving while not expecting anything in return. However, Jesus assures us that whatever we give, will be returned to us in greater measure. Be assured that with the measure you give will be the measure that you will receive. If you give much then you will receive much from the hand of God in a way and in the time frame that He deems proper. He who sows generously, will also reap generously. That covers all areas of life so we should not hesitate to give because we have a complete underwriting guarantee.

In relationships we should consider giving the gifts of the spirit such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self control in every situation. (Galatians 5:22-23) These fruits contain the essential nutrients that can build up, and enable relationships to thrive. The fruits of the spirit never spoil or grow stale. So give of yourself, it will make a difference. Give even when you don’t feel like it because your relationships are worth it.  Give because God will give in return.

All this giving without expecting anything in return is counter cultural to be sure. But you will not regret trusting God. You will not regret obeying Him. God keeps His promises – He is absolutely trustworthy. He loves us much more and far better than we love ourselves, and He will “return to us “a good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.” 

Discussion Question:

  1. What does “give” mean to you in the area of relationships?
  2. God promises to return in kind what you give. How have you seen that in your life? In the life of others?
  3. How can the fruits of the spirit be used to help make your relationships thrive?
  4. What can we do to be better givers in our relationships this week? 

God’s Return On Investment

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.“ – Luke 6:38

Relationships can be compared to starting a career or entering college. It is relatively easy to begin, but it is almost guaranteed to be a challenge to stay with for the long-term and make it a success. There is a lot of thought on whether the ends justify the means and is the risk worth the reward. And probably most importantly, am I getting a return on my investment, or in other words, am I getting more out of this marriage/relationship than I am putting into it. 

People often view relationships, especially marriage as a 50/50 proposition where each partner should be willing to come half the way to compromise and make things work? While that makes sense on the surface, it is not what the Bible says is necessary to make a relationship work. Throughout the Bible we’re told to “go the extra mile,” “serve one another,” “die to self,” and “submit to one another” … We are to “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” There is no 50/50 equation involved in any of those statements.

Plus the whole 50/50 thing takes too much monitoring and way too much measurement. It is impossible to determine if your spouse has met you halfway. Because neither of you can agree on where halfway is, each is left to scrutinize the other’s performance from a biased, often selfish perspective. How do you determine who faces the most pressure, or who had the worst day, or who needs encouragement more? A husband would give affection to his wife only when he felt she had earned it. A wife could be concerned about a husband’s weaknesses. The Biblical way is to give, serve and love the other person without keeping score and waiting for the other person to do something in order to get something in return. In other words, the 100/100 percent plan.

The 100/100 Plan goes like this: “I will do what I can to love you without demanding an equal amount in return.” If you concentrate on giving rather than receiving you will have a relationship that is ” pressed down, shaken together and running over.”  

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does the 50/50 rule mean to you? What if you went to 75/25, would that work?   
  2. Is the Biblical standard of giving without receiving practical?
  3. In the area of relationships, what do you stand to get when you give?
  4. What can we do this week to live the 100/100 percent plan? 

Putting Out The Welcome Mat

“Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are.” – 1 Peter 5:8-9.

If you are a Christian long enough, you will hear people say that they don’t go to church anymore, usually coupled with the reasons why; they were offended, ignored, view the church as money hungry, they see the church as out-of-touch with the times or hypocritical. While those reasons have taken a life of their own, the reality is people have had bad experiences because the church is far from perfect. 

The devil wants people to have bad experiences at church. 1 Peter 5: 8–9 tells us the devil is an enemy, which is plural. It means that not only do we have a personal enemy who hates us but one who ultimately wants to oppose the work of God in every church. He will harass, seek to bring division, seek to offend people, do all in his power to keep people from learning about the saving grace and love of Jesus Christ. 

Many people think Christians should be perfect. Nobody is perfect in any church and that should surprise no one because Jesus started the church with imperfect people. But imperfect people can do some incredible things when coupled with God’s incredible grace. That God would use all us imperfect people is pretty amazing when you think about it. Ephesians 3: 10-11 says, “God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display his wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was his eternal plan, which he carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord.” The idea that God would use you and me is pretty amazing. He has unlimited options. He could have spoken to the world directly, but instead chose to use imperfect people to make the impossible possible in so many people’s lives.

I want to be clear that we don’t get everything right every time. But I do believe that part of the reason God’s allowing us to have the influence we have in the Florida Panhandle is that is everybody is welcome, nobody is perfect and anything is possible. The best way to defeat the devil is by telling and living the greatest story of the world: the story of redemption and hope in Christ. It’s the heartbeat of the Gospel and I believe it needs to be the heartbeat of the church as we work to save those far from the heart of God.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Have you ever been at a meal or an event where you feel noticeably out of place? What was the experience like? Do you think people coming to church for the first time can have that type of experience?
  2. How does the devil work to undermine the church?
  3. What can you do on Sunday to ensure everybody is welcomed?

Whom Shall I Fear

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” – John 10:10

Psalm 27:1 says, “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” Ask many Christians whom should you fear and the answer may be the devil, especially after reading 1 Peter 5:8 that says “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.”   

Knowing about Satan and understanding his will and works is important, but as Christians we must begin by remembering that Jesus is Sovereign over all things and that includes Satan. “Then the devil, who had deceived them, was thrown into the fiery lake of burning sulfur, joining the beast and the false prophet. There they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” (Revelation 10:10) We have no reason to fear Satan, but we have every reason to be aware of him and his evil intent and works.

The devil is real, and nothing irritates him more than people waking up from the limbo he has crafted to keep us from being a light for Jesus. The devil wants to get his hands into every good thing in your life. He wants to create doubts. He wants to create offense and the disapproval of people you really love. He wants friends betraying you or you betraying them, he wants your kids to have behavior problems in school, and he is always sending out-of-the-blue temptations that had never previously been issues. He wants you to fight with your spouse, or at least have regular disagreements, with the priority of splintering marital unity. He wants us at odds with each other.

We should not under estimate the devil. We need to be aware that he has evil designs on our lives. He hates us. It is then that we remember John 10:1 which says, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”  We need to remember that God is bigger. God will win. Remember that the “one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4) With Christ, we will defeat the devil in our daily encounters. “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13). And we need to remember that God is with us today and forever; even if we can’t see Him, He is there.

So whom shall we fear?

Discussion Questions

  1. What are the greatest sources of fear in your life?
  2. What is your normal pattern for responding to these fears?
  3. How can God help you overcome your fears?
  4. What can we do this week to seek the Lord in a time of fear?

The Devil Is In The Details

“For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.” – John 8:44.

The devil is always looking to do harm to those who are followers of Jesus. The question is this: how much harm does he really have to do when it comes to relationships. That is because marriage and other relationships can be pretty messy. In spite of our best intentions, we make mistakes. We hurt one another. We make bad assumptions, we miscommunicate, we manipulate and we are often offended. When we make a mess out of relationships, Satan has a front row seat watching all of it unfold. He is happy to be an observer when things are bad, but quickly becomes more than an observer when things are going well. The devil does not want us to experience what God intended for us in relationships.

We should never underestimate the enemy and his tactics. When married, it is easy to start focusing on the ways your spouse is letting you down or you are falling short. God has put husband and wife together and the devil wants to pull you apart. First Peter 5:8 states it vividly: “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.”   

One of the devil’s top strategies to rob you of your joy and peace is to trap you into becoming offended. And it is not a matter of if the devil will be looking for ways to get you to set off his offense trap, it’s a matter of when. No one can offend us quicker than our spouse or someone we have a close relationship with. The devil knows that all too well and will try to use it to offend you or your spouse.   

What every Christian needs to realize is that they always have a choice in becoming offended or not. We make the choice whether we take Satan’s “offense bait.” The point being made is that no one forces us to become offended. We make that choice all by ourselves. As Christians, we can master the ability to not get offended and not take everything as offensive. The less we are offended, the more difficult it will be for Satan to use that strategy against us.

Start by praying that you will not be offended and pray for the one who offends you. Prayer is one of the best ways to move from anger to peace and to give the offense to the Lord.   

Discussion Question:

  1. What and how does the devil steal, kill, and destroy in your life?
  2. How can we accurately identify common lies of the devil in our lives?
  3. Does the devil use offense as his major tool? Why or why not?
  4. What can we do this week to be less offended? “

A Guide To Self Offense

“throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.” – Ephesians 4: 22-24. 

Let’s be totally honest for a few seconds. We’ve all got some narcissistic tendencies. No one’s exempt. That being said, I don’t want to offend anybody by suggesting that all people are self-absorbed. What I am suggesting is that having hurt feelings and being easily offended is almost always a result of being too preoccupied with “self”: “He didn’t like my idea.” “She was too blunt for my liking.” “They totally ignored me.” “He didn’t thank me.” “My wife doesn’t appreciate all I do.” “My husband takes me for granted.” Being offended is often produced by self concerns.

Offense seems to be an obligation. A natural response to someone else. When we see things that we do not like, we feel we have no choice but to become upset. And express it adamantly. Being constantly offended can do significant harm to relationships. The solution is to change the central focus of our lives off ourselves and onto others. It’s hard to become offended if you are valuing others better than yourself.   

As Christians, it is not about the person offending us, it is about how we choose to respond. When Jesus calls us to love our enemies, we might wonder what that really means in practice. Surely, we’re not going to get all warm and fuzzy when we think about those who have hurt or offended us. But that is exactly the kind of robust, challenging love envisioned by Jesus, a love that is more about action than about feelings.  Making this choice to love and not be offended, however, is difficult. Here are a few ways to help you change how you respond.

Ask yourself these questions: What would happen if you didn’t allow yourself to go there? What if you stopped and said – “Why am I getting mad about this…does this really warrant getting offended?”  What would have happened if I didn’t allow myself to be offended? What if we sit back and consider the fact that being offended does not mean it is offensive. While that is the goal, it is easier said than done to be sure.

Small issues can grow larger when we are perpetually offended. Offense has a subtle way of creeping into each relationship we have in life. One or the other person gets upset or gets in a funk, that can spiral into resentment and bitterness. 

I’ve said it before. Loving our enemies is not easy. Nor is it easy to not be offended. But this is the way of Jesus.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How do you change your focus from yourself to others? Would that help you be less offended? Why or why not?
  2. Have you ever prayed or forgiven someone who was speaking poorly of you? How did it feel? What happened inside of you when you did this?
  3. Have you ever prayed for those who hurt you? Are there people in your life right now who are seeking to harm you, for whom you need to pray?
  4. What keeps you from not being offended? 

Are You Offended?

“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.“ – Proverbs 12:15. 

What if we sat down with a friend or relative and asked them one question. But, before you posed the question you make one stipulation. You want them to be completely honest with you. With that said, you ask them, ”do I offend you in any way?” Then you brace yourself for what you may hear next. The friend pauses, reflecting on the question for a few seconds. And then the answer: “Well, since you asked, let me think: I would have to say your appearance, politics, bad habits, and your idea of what constitutes good music have all offended me at one time or another.”

You are surprised the list is not even longer. It doesn’t take a lot to offend people. Americans have cornered the offended market. It has become our default setting. And what’s more we are multi taskers, typically balancing more than one offense at any given time. Being offended is an all skate because just about everybody will discover a provocation somewhere and be offended, and that includes our relationships. 

Some of you could give examples of where it would be easy to be offended. Some people have had real harm done to them. There is a time to express being hurt or troubled by something. But if we get offended by every little thing, how will we ever interact with others, much less reach the world? If anyone had reason to be offended, it’s Jesus. 

We serve a God who chose to come in the lowliest form and share meals with the very people society rejected. Rather than being offended by their lives, he chose to love people as they were—broken, imperfect and in need of the Father’s unconditional love. 

Our goal is to stop being so easily offended. A Christian who is not offended is a person who wants grace for him or herself and wants to extend that grace to others. That means we are always focused on reconciliation. Now that does not mean that nothing should bother us, convict us to action, or require confrontation? Of course not. But our goal in any situation is seeking to find avenues of reconciliation. To bring peace, healing, and compassion to the world around us. Our job is simple: Love God and love others.

Many of us spend our lives trying to make progress in this area. Choosing to not be offended will make our life better. Giving up our perceived right to hold an offense will make us happier and healthier and ultimately improve our relationships.  

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you think it is possible to work so hard at relationships that you can prevent offending others? 
  2. How do you deal with the tension created when you offend others.
  3. Should we forgive those who hurt or offend us?
  4. What can we do this week to be less easily offended?