Families

FAMILIES

by Wayne S. Walker

     "God sets the solitary in families; He brings out those who are bound into prosperity, but the rebellious dwell in a dry land" (Psalm 68:6).  God ordained three basic institutions for the good of mankind on earth: the family, the civil government, and the church (some would add a fourth: private enterprise or business).   The scriptures teach that God intends the family to be the basic unit of society, without which neither the government nor the church can fully accomplish its purpose.  This is clear from the very beginning.  A man is to leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife (Genesis 2:24).  It is within this context of God’s creation of both male and female that He said, "Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it" (Genesis 1:26-28).

     Therefore, the scriptures have a lot to say about family relationships.  Parents are to teach their children about God and His words (Deuteronomy 6:4-7).  As the head of his family, each father is told, "Do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4).  We live in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.  The family is to be a haven where each member can retreat to find solace, where the needs of husband and wife can be met, and where the children can be led to remember their Creator.  One of the reasons for the general breakdown of morality in our country today is the dysfunctionality that has arisen in so many homes.  Fathers are not leading, wives are not nurturing, and children are not being taught to obey.

     Of course, this situation is not necessarily unique to our day.  There have been times in the past when homes were strong, and there have been times when they were weak.  Perhaps the homes of the people of Israel were not what they should have been when the time drew near for the Messiah to come, because when John the Baptist came to prepare the way for the Lord, it was prophesied that "he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse" (Malachi 4:5-6).  Today, we need preaching and teaching that will once again turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers.

     Sometimes, situations occur completely beyond a person’s control in which his physical family may be nonexistent or not fulfil its purpose properly.  The Lord has made provision for this.  If one does not have brothers or sisters or father or mother in this life, Jesus promised that he can "receive a hundredfold now in this time–houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands" (Mark 10:29-30).  Where can such a family be found?  "For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is name" (Ephesians 3:14-15).  The church is God’s family in heaven and earth who is named after Christ.  Let us do everything that we can to make our physical families on earth what God would have them to be.  But let us also be thankful that we can be part of God’s spiritual family, the church.  Many people who have faced various troubles on earth have found comfort and help in this wonderful spiritual family.

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Praising God

PRAISING GOD

By Wayne S. Walker

     "Let the peoples praise You, O God; let all the peoples praise You" (Psalm 67:3).  Because God is our Creator who made the entire universe, He is worthy of all mankind’s praise.  Also, because He is our Savior who sent His only-begotten Son to die for our sins that we might have redemption, those who are Christians especially should want to praise Him.  "Then a voice came from the throne, saying, ‘Praise our God, all you His servants and those who fear Him, both small and great!’" (Revelation 19:5).  What are some of the ways that we can praise Him?


     We should praise Him in our prayers.  "Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name" (Hebrews 13:15).  Too often in our prayers–I have heard it in public prayers and I assume that it may be true in private prayers as well–we give a cursory "Thank You for all the blessings, both physical and spiritual," and then we launch into the "Give us this, give us that, give us something else; please do this, do that, and do something else; help us with this, with that, and with something else," etc.  Certainly, prayer is a time when we can, according to Philippians 4:6, let our requests be made known to God, but the verse also says, "with thanksgiving."  When we pray, let us not forget to spend some time in thanksgiving and praise.

     We should praise God in our songs.  "Saying, ‘I will declare Your name to My brethren; in the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You’" (Hebrews 2:12).  Yes, while we sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, we are "teaching and admonishing one another," as we read in Colossians 3:16, but it is also important to remember that we are, or at least ought to be, singing with grace in our hearts to the Lord.  A steady diet of songs in worship which are about us, our wants, our desires, and our aspirations, even when expressed in spiritual terms, can take away from our singing praise to God.  Far too many of our modern hymnbooks have shifted away from the older hymns that actually praise God to newer songs which are ironically called "praise and worship songs" but which are in truth more subjective than objective.  "Praise the Lord, ye heavens adore Him."

     We should praise God in our lives.  "Being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God" (Philippians 1:11).  While God wants us to praise Him in prayer and song, it will do no good to express praise to Him in prayer and sing praise to Him in hymns while making no attempt to order our lives according to His word.  That is a form of hypocrisy.  Of course, we all make mistakes, even the most devout Christians, but there is a difference between one who is sincerely trying to live for the Lord and one who merely makes a pretense.  The one who is sincerely trying to live for the Lord is demonstrating a faith that praises God in his deeds.  "That the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:7).

God’s Awesome Works

GOD’S AWESOME WORKS

by Wayne S. Walker

     "Come and see the works of God; He is awesome in His doing toward the sons of men" (Psalm 66:5).  Today, young people say that anything which strikes their fancy is "awesome."  I do not think that I ever heard that term used when I was growing up.  Instead of the word "awesome" in Psalm 66:5, the old King James Version has "terrible."  I did hear that term a lot when I was young.  My grandmother would describe anything bad or undesirable as being "terrible" (pronounced “turribull”).  The word "terrible" means "causing terror."  The word "awesome" means causing awe.  We use "terror" to mean fear or dread, but 1611 it basically meant the same thing as "awe," that is, deep reverence or respect.  The Psalmist says that the reason why God is awesome is because of His works which He has done toward the sons of men.

     We can see the works of God in creation.  "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."  For centuries men have been fascinated with the precise movements of the heavenly bodies such as the sun, moon, and stars.  God is the one who set them in place.  "God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands" (Acts 17:24).  All the beautiful things that we see on this earth (right now it is spring, so the flowers are blooming and the trees are coming out in leaf) are the result of God’s creation.  Also we can see the works of God in history, including how He chose the seed of Abraham, brought them into the land of Canaan, punished them for their sin, but spared a remnant through whom the Messiah came.  "Remember the former things of old, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand’" (Isaiah 46:9-10).

     In addition, each child of God can see the works of God in his own life.  "I have been young, and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendants begging bread" (Psalm 37:25).  While we recognize that God does not spare His people from all pain and suffering, yet all who follow the Lord can surely identify many times in their lives when they personally experienced the truthfulness of Peter’s statement, "For He cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7b).  Most of all, we can see the works of God in providing redemption through Christ.  "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).  Hence, as we contemplate all the works of God, we are constrained to agree with the Psalmist, that "He is awesome in His doing toward the sons of men."

The Righteous Will Trust in God

THE RIGHTEOUS WILL TRUST IN GOD

by Wayne S. Walker

     "The righteous shall be glad in the LORD, and trust in Him.  And all the upright in heart shall glory" (Psalm 64:10).  The heading of this Psalm reads, "To the Chief Musician.  A Psalm of David."  We conclude from this statement that the author is David, but it does not tell us under what circumstances the Psalm was written.  However, the subject of the Psalm is quite clear, as the summary in the New King James Version says.  "Oppressed by the Wicked but Rejoicing in the LORD."   Obviously, this is a meditation by David regarding some time when he was being oppressed by his enemies. 

     "Hear my voice, O God, in my meditation; preserve my life from fear of the enemy.  Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked, from the rebellion of the workers of iniquity" (verses 1-2).  All Christians have enemies of some kind or another.  Of course, there is one great foe who seeks to destroy our souls.  "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour" (1 Peter 5:8).  However, the devil does not act alone.  He uses human agents.  Paul, saying that "Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of life," calls these agents "his ministers" who "also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness" (1 Corinthians 11:14-15).

     Such agents may teach error to deceive people into rejecting God’s word.  They may oppose our stand for truth.  They may try to entice us into sin.  They may openly promote ungodly behavior.  As such, they become "enemies of the cross of Christ" (Philippians 3:18).  What is the response of the righteous?  They should trust in the Lord.  Yes, we must fight against our enemies (Ephesians 6:10).  However, we do not stoop to using carnal weapons but spiritual weapons that will persuade people’s hearts (2 Corinthians 10:4-5, Titus 2:9).  Also, we must make sure that our attitude is right (2 Timothy 2:23-26).

     Indeed, the Christian’s entire life should be characterized by trusting in God.  We may face various kinds of illnesses.  Our bodies will grow older.  We shall probably experience the death of loved ones.  Our children may disappoint us.  We could lose our jobs.  Friends might turn against us.  These are all oppressions that the devil sometimes uses in his attempt to draw us away from God.  Whatever happens, we must continue to trust God, and He has promised that He will provide for our needs.  With this assurance, regardless of trials, "the righteous shall be glad in the LORD" and "all the upright in heart shall glory."

“In a Dry and Thirsty Land”

"IN A DRY AND THIRSTY LAND"

by Wayne S. Walker

     "O God, You are my God; early will I seek for you; my soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water" (Psalm 63:1).  The heading for this Psalm says, "A Psalm of David when he was in the wilderness of Judah."  This probably refers to some time after David had to flee from the jealousy of King Saul into the wilderness of Judah.  "Now the prophet Gad said to David, ‘Do not stay in the stronghold; depart, and go to the land of Judah.’  So David departed and went into the forest of Hereth" (2 Samuel 22:3).  David spent several years in the wilderness running from Saul and being cut off from the normal means under the old covenant of maintaining fellowship with God, so that he had to depend on a sense of personal relationship with the Lord to sustain him.

     I have never been "out in the desert."  Many years ago, my wife and I drove through a desert portion of our country on our way to visit a relative on the West Coast.  A few years ago I flew out to preach with a congregation that was in that same general desert area.  Of course, there were all kinds of comforts and conveniences to make those trips very endurable–an air-conditioned car, rest stops along the highway, a home with modern amenities where I stayed, etc.  However, I am sure that we have all seen movies or perhaps read books where someone was lost in the desert, so I assume that we can all imagine what it would feel like to have gone for days without any source of water and how thirsty one would be.  This is the kind of longing that David had for fellowship with God.  There are two important lessons that we can learn from this. 

     First, God created us with a spiritual need for His fellowship, and just as our bodies naturally thirst for water so our spirits should thirst for Him.  If that is the case, God has provided a means to fulfill that thirst.  "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled" (Matthew 5:6).  Jesus told the Samaritan woman of the water she drew from Jacob’s well, "Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst" (John 4:13-14).  Second, this world is indeed like a desert that can never provide the spiritual water that will satisfy this thirst.  Elizabeth Mills wrote, "No tranquil joys on earth I know, No peaceful, sheltering dome, This world’s a wilderness of woe, This world is not my home."  Ultimately, this thirst will be completely fulfilled only when we reach the "pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb" (Revelation 22:1).

“I Shall Not Be Moved”

"I SHALL NOT BE MOVED"

by Wayne S. Walker

     "He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be moved" (Psalm 62:6).  The heading of Psalm 62 says, "To the Chief Musician, to Jeduthan, a Psalm of David."  Apparently, David dedicated the Psalm to the Chief Musician who was named Jeduthun.  The summary in the New King James Version says, "A Calm Resolve to Wait for the Salvation of God."  We do not know exactly when this Psalm was written nor what circumstances prompted it, but we do know that David experienced many trials and tribulations in his life when he looked to God for strength and refuge.  Because David fully trusted in God as his rock, salvation, and defense, he said, "I shall not be moved."  The footnote says that the word "moved" means "shaken."

     On Friday, April 18, 2008, my wife Karen, younger son Jeremy, and I were all awakened a little after 4:30 a. m. by the shaking of the beds, the vibration of the floor, the rattling of the windows, and a rumbling sound outside that lasted for an intense but relatively short period of time.  (Our older son Mark slept through it.)  When the radio went off at 6:00, the first item on the news told us that we had experienced an earthquake of 5.2 magnitude centered about 150 miles east of St. Louis, MO, where we then lived.  The reports of damage were very minimal.  Then about 10:30 a. m. the same morning, while I was sitting at my desk reading some online information on the computer about the tremor, there was an aftershock of around 4.5 magnitude, with the same effects only to a lesser degree.  It was our first actual earthquake, and Jeremy was excited!

     There are many troubles and difficulties which may arise in our lives to produce "tremors" to our hearts–serious illness, loss of income, financial problems, the death of a loved one, accidents, family strife, hardships on the job, perhaps even some form of persecution or ridicule for our faith, our increasing awareness of our own mortality, and so on.  While we know that God cares for us, He has not necessarily promised to remove all forms of suffering or pain from our lives.  However, if we, like David, will look to Him as our rock, salvation, and defense when any of these thing happen, we too can say, "I shall not be moved."  He will provide whatever we need so that we shall not be shaken.  Mary James wrote, "In the rifted Rock I’m resting, Safely sheltered, I abide; There no foes nor storms molest me, While within the cleft I hide."

“The Rock That Is Higher Than I”

"THE ROCK THAT IS HIGHER THAN I"

by Wayne S. Walker

     "From the end of the earth I will cry to You, when my heart is overwhelmed; lead me to the rock that is higher than I" (Psalm 61:2).  I have been told that people travelling through the desert often look for high rocks.  There are at least a couple of reasons for this.  Often, water is available near rock outcroppings.  Even if that is not the case, a high rock casts shade that provides a welcome relief from the burning desert sun.  Especially during a sandstorm, the lea side of the rock would give shelter.  Thus, looking to the Lord for His protection are likened to resting in the shadow a high rock.  The Psalmist continues, "For You have been a shelter for me, a strong tower from the enemy.  I will abide in Your tabernacle forever; I will trust in the shelter of Your wings" (vs. 3-4).

     In 1871, there was a Y. M. C. A. convention at Carlisle, PA.  A strong Bible-believing businessman, John Wanamaker, who basically invented the concept of the "department store," was president of the convention.  One of the delegates was Erastus Johnson (1826-1909).  Johnson’s brother William and William G. Fischer served as song directors.  During the week, a telegram came with news that the bank of Jay Cook, in which Wanamaker had $70,000, had failed.  Reports soon followed of other bank failures, indicating the start of a general panic, which threw a pall of gloom over the convention because nearly all the members were businessmen.  As an expression of the common feeling, Johnson wrote a hymn for which Fischer provided music.

"1. O sometimes the shadows are deep, And rough seems the path to goal;

And sorrows, how often they sweep Like tempests down over the soul.

2. O sometimes how long seems the day, And sometimes how weary my feet;

But toiling in life’s dusty way, The Rock’s blessed shadaow, how sweet!

3. O near to the Rock let me keep, If blessings or sorrows prevail,

Or climbing the mountain way steep, Or walking the shadowy vale.

Chorus: O then to the Rock let me fly, To the Rock that is higher than I;

O then to the Rock let me fly, To the Rock that is higher than I."

     The song im­me­di­ate­ly be­came pop­u­lar at the con­ven­tion, es­pe­cial­ly with Mr. Wan­a­mak­er, who called for it sev­er­al times. It was first published in 1873 and soon found its way into ma­ny other pub­li­ca­tions.  It has been used in practically all major hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, and I remember singing it quite frequently when I was growing up.  This life, with all its trials and tribulations, is like a desert, but as I travel through it I can always look for refuge to "The Rock that Is Higher than I."