Seeing, But Not Seeing

seeing not seeing

How often have you seen, but not seen? How often has somebody pointed out something to you that has been there all along, but which you have just never noticed?

Let me give you an example. Have you ever noticed the arrow in the Federal Express logo? It is supposed to indicate that this a company “on the move.”

I have no idea how many FedEx trucks, packages, commercials, etc, I’ve seen during my lifetime. I never “saw” the arrow in their logo until it was pointed out to me. Even then, I had some difficulty. For years, the significance of that part of the logo was lost on me. Until I really made it my mission to see it, it almost still was.

In case you are as “dense” as I am, let me help you. Here are a couple of versions of the logo. In the first one, the arrow is white.  In the second one, the arrow is highlighted in green.  (If you’re still having trouble, it is between the capital E and the x.)

Now that I’m aware that the arrow is there, it is difficult for me to not see it. In fact, I now look for it.

I’ve even become a sort of “arrow evangelist.” I’ve told others about my “discovery” and help them to “find” it.

It seems to me that I have the same responsibility in a much more important area of my life — and not just because I’m a preacher. I believe that, as a Christian, I have the responsibility to help people “see” something that is really important. In fact it is eternally important. It has been there all along, but many people have not really focused on it or fully appreciated it. I would hate for its significance to be lost on anybody.

I need to help people see, appreciate, and love “That Old Rugged Cross.” I’m not talking about a nice piece of jewelry or some religious icon. I have in mind that cruel instrument of death upon which our Lord died. I’m thinking of the price that had to be paid for my sins. The cross is not merely a part of a logo for some corporation. It is the very heart of what the gospel message is all about.

It is little wonder that the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write these words:

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (1 Cor. 2:1-2, ESV, emphasis added)

Whether or not I saw or appreciated the significance of an arrow on the side of a truck will not matter when I draw my last breath. Whether or not I put the cross into proper focus will matter throughout all eternity.

Have you seen the cross?

Has anybody pointed it out to you?

Have you pointed it out to anybody else?

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Friday’s Family Friendly Finds {July 18, 2014 edition}

Since we didn’t have a family links post last week, we are going to skip the usual introduction and get right to our roundup. We’ve got two weeks’ worth of material to share, so enjoy all the family links for your weekend reading!

Family Friendly Finds

Finds For Two Weeks

Family Meals: Why Eating Together as a Family is So Important {for the family}

Castle or Hassle? {Spiritual Java}

Why Christian Girls Post Seductive Selfies {Girl Defined}

The Secret to Lasting Love According to World’s Longest Married Couple {My Modern Met}

The Real Threat to Marriage {We are THAT Family}

The Greatest Challenge Facing Families {Life in the Kingdom}

Taking Interest in the Things that Interest Your Husband {Of the Hearth}

13 Digital Hacks to Make Tech Work Better for Your Family {Common Sense Media}

Bringing Up Children {The Morning Drive}

Our 14 Days in Review

Since we didn’t have a family links post last week, we are sharing our 5 most-viewed posts from the last 14 days. (Original publication dates in parentheses.)

#5: How’s Your Family Growing? (July 14, 2014)

#4: How Strong is the Hedge Around Your Marriage? (July 16, 2014)

#3: Choose (July 17, 2014)

#2: When Tragedy Strikes the Family (July 11, 2014)

#1: 6 “Small” Things that Erode Marital Trust (July 9, 2014)

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Choose

choose

The more I study the Bible, the more I am amazed at how plainly God repeatedly tries to get us to understand. Most people recognize the verse from Joshua 24:15: “Choose this day whom you will serve … But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” However, many do not realize that this is a theme repeated all throughout scripture. Even more do not realize why God so often calls on us to choose. Look at two specific passages that both call on us to choose, but also explain why.

In Deuteronomy 30, Moses is saying goodbye to the children of Israel. He has loved and led these people for over 40 years. He has been frustrated by them, and yet, when God would have destroyed them for disbelief and disobedience, Moses has intervened on their behalf with God. As Moses is leaving them, he is reminding them of choices he can no longer make for them.

Focus in on Verses 15-19:

See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you today, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live.

God, through Moses, lays out the choices and asks the people to choose Him. Why? For their own good!

Now look to the New Testament, in Romans 8. Most of this great chapter shows the distinct difference between those who have chosen to live life in the Spirit with God and those who live according to the flesh. Perhaps the most stark difference is found in Verse 13: “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” Again, why do we choose God? He offers life! He offers joy (Acts 13:52)! He offers peace that passes all understanding (Phil. 4:6-7)!

So, by all means, choose. But while you are choosing, remember the blessings to be found in choosing God and His ways. If you understand that, there really is no other choice that makes sense.

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How Strong is the Hedge Around Your Marriage?

how strong is the hedge

It took a special tank.

After the Normandy invasion of World War II, the Allied army–and particularly the Americans–got bogged down. One reason that had nothing to do with Hitler or the Germans was the landscape.

If you’ve seen a stereotypical movie about Europe, you have probably watched a scene where someone tried to work their way through ridiculously-huge hedgerows. If it was a comedy movie, they probably made it through, but were cut up and scraped.

When I think of hedges, being American, I think of little short bushes in front of my porch. But that’s not what the Allied army faced after D-Day. They faced those almost-stereotypical sized hedges. Literally, few tanks could make it through.

So, the Rhino Tank was created. It was a tank outfitted with special “tusks” that could cut through these huge and intimidating features of the landscape.

I suppose, since he wrote a book with the title, it was Jerry B. Jenkins, who came up with the idea of putting “hedges” around our marriage. His book outlines various hedges that every man needs to have around his relationship with his wife in order to truly protect the sanctity and innocence of their relationship.

But I wonder: which kind of hedge are you building?

Is the hedge you are building around your marriage the little dinky shrubs like I have in front of my porch? I can take a small pair of trimmers and cut them virtually to the ground. With a few minutes and a shovel, I can remove them completely. They may be hedges, but they aren’t much protection.

Instead, we need to build the tank-resisting hedges! Any and every precaution that can be made to protect your marriage should be taken. There is no move that is too small. There is no expense that is too great. There is no effort that isn’t worth making.

After all, Satan is not going to come after your marriage with a small pair of trimmers. He’s going to be driving a tank, trying to destroy your home from any angle he can. Build a hedge he cannot penetrate, then cover that hedge with prayer.

How strong is the hedge around your marriage?

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3 Quick Announcements

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While we try to deliver quality content to you each day, every so often we need to take a post to simply share some updates and announcements. Today, we want to share three quick announcements with you that we think will be of interest.

1. Removal of Ads

When our site relaunched about 6 weeks ago, you may have noticed that, on the right-hand sidebar there were a couple of advertising boxes. These help us offset the costs of our site, but very little.

So, sometime today, we are removing them.

We are doing that for two reasons. First, they are distracting. While we tried to keep the boxes fairly small, they are still ads, and we don’t like the way they look. So, to make the site look a little cleaner, down they go.

Also, we are taking them down because they make very little money. There are still ways you can support the site, though. Simply visit our store. If you shop on Amazon at all, click through our site to Amazon and we will earn a small percentage of what you spend there, and it won’t cost you anything extra. It doesn’t even have to be any of our books or products! You just shop on Amazon the way you always do, and it helps our site.

2. Return of iPreach

For about 5 years, I helped co-host a podcast for preachers called iPreach. The program, cohosted by Dale Jenkins, was a big success, with about 400-500 listeners to each program. When deciding to focus more on this site, though, I left iPreach, and prayed Dale would keep it going.

He has, and the program is now back up and running. Dale and his brother, Jeff Jenkins, are cohosting now, and are off to a great start! I’m glad to see the podcast back, and plan to listen to each episode they produce. If you are interested in hearing their work, go here.

LOFpodcast

3. Ready for the Podcast?

Speaking of podcasts, we are now just about 3 weeks away from the launch of A Legacy of Faith’s podcast! Leah and I are continuing to work on the “front end” of things, and we should start recording episodes this week, to start being released in August. The first program should be released on Thursday, August 7, and you’ll be able to find it on iTunes soon thereafter. If you would like more information, as well as a list of what we have planned for our first 10 episodes, visit this page.

———————–

So, there you have it. Three quick announcements. Tomorrow, we’ll get back to our regular posts. Thanks for all your support of A Legacy of Faith!

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How’s Your Family Growing

hows your family growing

Recently, a couple of things happened that were not actually related. In my sometimes unusual way of thinking, there might have been a connection.

My wife and I hosted our “second annual Cousins Camp.” All of the grandkids were at our house.  It was a little — no, make that a LOT — loud for a few days. Thankfully, we had some “counselors” to work with us — our daughter and our daughter-in-law.

Cousins Camp is the brainchild of my wife. It is an attempt on our part to help develop and nurture the sense of family that is so important to us. It is also an opportunity for us to see how the grandkids are growing.

Boy, are they ever growing!  We now have a grandson who is almost as tall as I am. He’s thirteen!

While the “counselors” and “campers” were packing up and getting ready to go home, I did a little of what I call “visiting the visitors.” I do not have a perfect record on this, but I do have a goal. My philosophy is that, when somebody takes time out of their schedule to visit where I preach, I need to try to find the time to take out of my schedule to visit them. Again, I’ve failed to do this more often than I would like to admit, but it is a goal and I do succeed sometimes.

During one of those visits, a lady was talking to me about the fact that, after years of marriage, she and her husband are now divorced. The words she used are seared into my brain. I wanted to cry when she said, “We just grew apart.”

As the conversation continued, she told me how her ex-husband had been with her during a recent hospital stay, how she will still fix a meal for him once in a while, and how they are still good friends.  In spite of all of this, they are no longer married because they just grew apart.

How about you and your spouse and/or children? Are the children growing physically, socially, and intellectually? Is the business and/or your career growing? How about that retirement account? Is it growing like you want it to?

While nothing is inherently wrong with any of those things, I pray you’ll take the time to ask one other question (maybe two). Is the relationship with that person you dreamed of spending the rest of your life with growing closer and more meaningful or more distant as the years go by? How about those children you brought into the world? In which direction are those relationships going?

It is my prayer that I will never again hear anybody say, “We just grew apart.” I pray that all of us, including me, will make whatever investment it takes to grow closer to the ones whom we love.

After all, I don’t want anybody looking back on his or her life (including me) and say what this dear lady said: “Maybe we should have tried harder.”

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When Tragedy Strikes the Family

tragedy strikes family

Tragedy struck our church family a few weeks ago.  It was a tragedy of the worst kind.  Lives were lost and bodies were damaged which will take months to heal.  Emotionally the damage was severe to everyone involved.  You see a tragic car accident turned a vacation trip for a mother, grandmother, and daughters into a nightmare from which it will take years to recover.  Our church family lost one of its vital members.

When a tragedy like this strikes a family our hearts hurt to see them going through such hard times.  When a physical family is close to one another, as this one was, and one or more are taken from this life, it is as though a major part of that family is missing.  In the case of this tragedy it was the heart of the family – the mother and grandmother.

When you truly love the members of your congregation, the loss of anyone is difficult – especially when it involves death and pain and suffering.  But as I sit here a few weeks after the accident I’m struck with the thought that tragedy strikes our families every day in many congregations.  Oh, it doesn’t cause physical death like we suffered, but it may cause spiritual death.

Tragedy strikes when Christians refuse to put God first in their lives (Matt. 6:33)  When any activity of the world is more important that the work of the church, or study of God’s word, or fellowshipping with other Christians, or praying, tragedy strikes.

Tragedy strikes when husbands and wives don’t communicate with one another and slowly grow apart until a glance at another person turns into a full-fledged affair.  Homes are destroyed and children are left with a broken home and an unstable life.

Tragedy strikes when wives refuse to follow God’s directives concerning their roles as wife, mother, and homemaker and begin complaining about being the slave in the home.  Such behavior turns the welcoming home into a place of torture.

Tragedy strikes when money and possessions become the gods in the home.  Battles are fought over amounts earned.  Possessions become the status symbol to the friends.  Children are shown “love” by the amount of “things” they are given and the name brand clothes they wear.

Tragedy strikes when discipline is ignored.  When God’s directive for parents to teach their children how to be servants for Him and how to treat others in this world is never explained or exemplified.

The list could go on, but I think you get my point.  It is tragic when we don’t follow God’s plan for our lives.   Our hearts are still aching for the family who suffered such a tragic loss. But our hearts ache everyday when we see families who have a lack of love for God and His word.

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Set Your Priorities : Balancing Work and Home as a

“In your relationships with one another,
have the same mindset as Christ Jesus…”

Philippians 2:5 (NIV)

set priorities

The heart-tugging story has gone viral. A young child wants to know his parent’s hourly wage. The parent is offended thinking that the child is presumptuous to ask and might be using the information to compare his parent’s level of success to that of a classmate’s parent. You know where this is going: the young child simply wanted to how much money was needed in to buy an hour of his parent’s precious time.

My question is this: why does this pull at our heart strings so strongly? Could it be that within this anonymous story we see grains of truth that make us uncomfortable?

There is the obvious. Have we made our children feel as though they have to buy our time? Are we so busy doing other things that they are reduced to battling to be a priority? And what about that hidden concern that our “level of success,” based solely on an hourly wage, won’t measure up and that if it doesn’t we will embarrass our child … or ourselves.

As people seeking to be pleasing to God while balancing work and home, we must make sure that we have our priorities in line with what God would have them to be. He does not judge success by comparing our salaries. He doesn’t log volunteer hours for good community events. As husbands and fathers, we must remember that it was to us that Paul wrote (inspired by the Holy Spirit) “…bring [children] up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

As wives and mothers, we need to carefully examine the words found in Titus 2 to find the priorities God has set for us: teaching, loving husbands and children, living Godly lives. This does not mean that we cannot have other outlets of energy, including a career, but if we allow our priorities to reverse, we can be sure that stories like the one told here or lived out in our daily lives will bring guilt and not glory to God, which is the very reason we were created (Isaiah 43:7).

“Lord, as I seek to balance my career and my family, please help me do so with your priorities in mind. Help me keep You first and all else will follow.  Through Christ, Amen”

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6 “Small” Things that Erode Marital Trust

erosion

Trust is the taproot of marriage. A marriage that is thriving is one that is built upon godly commitment. While every husband and every wife will make mistakes, when those mistakes cause distrust to build, the marriage is slowly eroding.

Sadly, there are some who think they can keep from doing the “big” stuff that would break marital trust (have an affair, for example), but they fail to see the “small” things that are slowly eroding the trust in their marriage. Many even do some of these things intentionally, just to have their “own life” on the side. (Which, by the way, goes against the very fabric of marriage.)

What are some of these things? Here are 6 things that some may think are small, but that can be eroding the very taproot of your marital trust.

1. Withholding Information. I wanted to lead with this because it may be the most common, and most difficult to break. Each person in a relationship is going to be privy to information that could (literally) be difficult for the spouse. Often, we withhold that information, but we let that temptation grow. It becomes easier and easier to withhold what we think are minor details. All along, though, we are eroding open and full communication, which a marriage simply must have to thrive.

2. Pornography. An affair is trust breaking, but pornography is trust eroding. When (not if) a struggle with pornography is discovered, a spouse’s ability to trust will be thwarted. And it will not just be a struggle in the bedroom. The hidden life and covered tracks will be enough to show that communication has been broken at a deep level in the marriage.

3. Separate Finances. While I do think each spouse should have some money he or she can just spend and enjoy, there is no way a marriage can be healthy is he has “his accounts and bills” and she has “her accounts and bills.” As Dave Ramsey often states, “When you get married, you change pronouns.” It is now our money and our bills. While you both may be honest, having separate accounts leaves the door open to distrust and a lack of communication about shared values and goals.

4. Wandering Eyes. You may think, “Wait a minute. Didn’t he already talk about pornography?” I did, but what about when you are walking through the mall or downtown and your eyes take in the figure of every member of the opposite sex that walks by? Too many (and, let’s be honest, it’s usually us men) think there’s no harm in just looking, but a spouse will be harmed by wondering if you are doing more than just taking some “harmless” glance. And, by the way, don’t be surprised when your eyes wander toward magazines, computer screens, and maybe beyond.

5. Private Online Presence. Does your spouse know your Facebook password? What about your Twitter handle (every Twitter account)? Does he or she have open access to the people you have been chatting with? If not, why not? We can get so caught up on our cyber-world that we close out our spouse. Even if we are doing nothing harmful, there is a lack of trust there that is not just perceived. It is real.

6. “White” Lies. This is the most obvious, but still needs to be said. Often, to “protect” our spouse, we make up a little lie, a cover-up, a small fib. When the truth comes out, we just treat it almost as funny, and yank out the excuse that we were just trying to protect them. Instead, we harm them, because they begin to wonder what “bigger” truths we have hidden or just changed.

Honest. Trusting. Open.

Those words need to describe every aspect of the life of a husband and wife. It may force us to be a bit vulnerable before a fellow human being, but he or she is the person you made the choice to be vulnerable before, and to trust with your whole life.

Don’t erode that…not even in a small way. Instead, build it up every day.

What are some other “small” things that too often erode a marriage? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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Where the Grass is Greener

grass is greener

“…You cover the Lord’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because He no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. But you say, “Why does He not?” Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Did He not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth.” (Malachi 2:13b-15).

If you have been married for any length of time, you have had moments of unhappiness. Remember, your vows predicted it: in SICKNESS and in health, for richer or POORER, for better and for WORSE. Every marriage is going to be a struggle. Sometimes when the struggles are prolonged people begin to think about getting out.

Across the fence they see pasture; that is, greener grass. They see a friend or co-worker of the opposite sex who listens to them. They see this person in all their good moments. They don’t see their bad attitudes. They don’t have to live with their poor choices. They don’t see them when they are unattractive. They only see them in the sunshine.

If it is not another person that people see, perhaps it is the peacefulness of the field. No more fighting. No more rejection. No more animosity. Married folks begin to think that having no spouse would be better than a spouse they have learned to loathe. They think the peaceful field is easy. They don’t see the forest just beyond the field that they must pass through later. They forget how much they need and will need someone to hold their hand.

If you are married, I want you to know that the grass is not greener on the other side of the fence. You made a commitment before God and many witnesses that God wants you to keep. Your co-worker or close friend is not your spouse. Though different, they have just as many problems and weaknesses, probably more. If you hop the fence you will find the ground muddier than you thought it would be.

The grass is actually greener on your side. If it is not, it is because you have not cultivated it as you should. Think about it. You can only work the ground on your side. You are only allowed to plant on your own property. You have no business taking what rightfully belongs to someone else. God is blessing you on your side, and you ought to show Him some respect and appreciation. Proverbs 5:15 commands, “Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well.” God will help you to grow what you have sown. He can change the soil. He can do what you think is impossible in your field if you let Him.

Paul wrote in Ephesians 5 that married couples are one flesh, and that they should nourish and cherish their relationship. This means submission to one another in the fear of God. This means learning to be unselfish. This means making sacrifices like Christ made for the church. This means the washing of water by the Word.

If we will search deep within ourselves and look at our spouse again in the love of our vows, we will remember where our happiness has its brightest hope. We will see where the grass is truly greener. We will keep our commitment before God and these witnesses. We will rejoice with the wife of our youth (Proverbs 5:18).

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul…” ~ (Psalm 23:1-3a)

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