Posts tagged godliness

In death as in life



This post was originally published in my personal blog eight years ago. I’m posting it again in honor of a truly good man, husband, father, and friend who lived out his heart of ministry and service in death as in life.

in death as in lifeFifteen years ago this week, my brother was killed.

A drunken driver cut short his life as he pulled a late-night shift for a fellow police officer in Hawaii. Jay took every opportunity he could to earn enough money to move his wife and two young children from their apartment into a real home. He died as he lived, serving and sacrificing for others.

God had prepared Jay and his family for his departure in a way that, to this day, defies explanation. Months before his death, Jay met with a life insurance agent and with his pastor (who was also the department chaplain) to plan for his funeral. There was no reason for him to suspect that his life might be in danger. In fact, he and I used to joke on the phone about some of the “hazardous” assignments he had as a policeman on Maui, like when he answered the call about a bowl of soup that was allegedly stolen off a kitchen table.

For whatever reason, Jay felt impressed to increase his insurance to an amount probably several times higher than any honest insurance agent would recommend. And the solidly evangelistic funeral service that he planned would end up ministering powerfully to his fellow officers, who knew him to be a man of integrity who lived out his faith and loved his family more than anything else.

The card

But probably the most enigmatic act my brother would make in preparation for his death was a sympathy card he had penned years earlier. Jay shared a birthday with our aunt Harriet, who had lost her own beloved husband, Phil, years earlier to a massive heart attack.

Jay wasn’t able to attend Phil’s funeral like I was, and had to settle for sending a card. But his sensitive thoughts and words of hope ministered to Harriet in a way far deeper than my own presence at Phil’s funeral ever could. Jay spoke into the heart of this grieving wife about how her husband lived his life in the grace and love of Christ and how he reflected that godly care to everyone he came in contact with. His words reminded her that her husband was spending eternity with the Savior, free of the pain that is so much a part of this world we know, and that one day, they would be reunited in heaven.

Now, years later, Jay’s own wife, Dee, was experiencing the same inexpressible grief. It was weeks after the funeral. All the family was gone, and she was left to take care of their two young children – who reminded her so much of him – and left to grieve on her own.

Until the card came.

As Harriet heard of Jay’s death, she was reminiscing about the nephew who had comforted her years earlier. After some effort, she managed to locate the sympathy card, which was tucked away in a book. She read his words again, this time thinking about Dee’s grief at losing her husband.

Harriet wasn’t able to attend his funeral, but she sent Dee a card to minister to her in her grief.

The same card

As Dee opened that card, she could hardly believe what she was seeing. The handwriting she knew like she knew her own heart. The tender words of consolation wrapped themselves around her soul as they had in the days when she and Jay were dating. But now, instead of words of his undying devotion, Dee was reading his words of deepest consolation in his own death. And the wife who didn’t get to tell her husband goodbye would end up reading his own words of comfort to her in her time of greatest grief. It was his final gift to her, words of promise and hope that they would be reunited forever in God’s timing.

Jay was inexplicable in life, and inexplicable in death. But his heart lives on, because the One who held his heart lives eternally. And the love of Christ that ruled Jay’s life is the same Life that has conquered death for all.

So on the anniversary of Jay’s death, I wanted to remember one man who, like me, experienced the second birth. One who shared that hope, in word and deed, with those around him.

Copyright © 2014 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.

STEPSeek - 10-point checklistYou just read a post by Scott Williams, “In death as in life,” on the Stepping Up blog for men by FamilyLife.

STEPThink - 10-point checklistJay Williams was prepared for his death.  If you were to die suddenly, where you would spend eternity? 

STEPEmbrace - 10-point checklistHave you spent time considering “If Something Happens to Me, would we be prepared financially?”

STEPPass - 10-point checklistShare Jay’s story of hope and the other links here with your friends via Facebook, Twitter or email.

10 ideas for keeping strong family relationships



“Familiarity breeds contempt.”

“You always hurt the ones you love.”

The timeliness of these old adages speaks volumes. It seems we reserve our least kind words, our most thoughtless deeds, and our meanest actions for those who mean the most to us. And because those close to us care  more about what we say and think, those words and actions hurt more deeply. It’s a double whammy.

Because the stakes are so high in the family, we must ensure that our communications not only stay away from the negative, but that they lead everyone to the positive. Here are ten passages of Scripture that can be very helpful in building and maintaining strong family relationships.

1. Mining for Good – Philippians 4:8

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”

During the Gold Rush of the mid 19th century, prospectors would scoop up pan after pan of rocks and carefully wash away the useless lumps in hopes of finding just one gold nugget. We need to be prospectors of the good in other family members.

2. Rot Not – Ephesians 4:29

“Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”

Unwholesome, in the original Greek, can just as legitimately be translated “rotten.” The contrast in this verse makes it clear that our words fall into two categories:  “Edifying” and “Rotten.” If our words are not lifting our family members up, we don’t need to be wasting our breath.

3. Takes One to Know One – John 13:34

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”

When we’re considering how we ought to respond to an unkind word from a spouse or other family member, we need think no further than what Christ has done for us. “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

4. The “I Insist” Principle – Philippians 2:3-4

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”

I come from “The Hospitality State” (Mississippi), where it’s not unusual to have two drivers stopped at an intersection, sometimes for 10 seconds, each politely signaling to the other to go first. Sure, that may be a bit of overkill, but in this age of selfish individualism, maybe a pendulum swing in the opposite direction would be helpful … and closer to Scripture.

5. Go Deep Into Debt – Romans 13:8

“Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.”

Scripture warns against being in financial debt to anyone. But here, Paul makes the point that there is an acceptable – even desirable – kind of debt. And because God, who is the author of love, offers an endless reserve of the commodity, the more debt we carry, the better it is for everyone.

6. It’s the Law – John 13:34

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”

All the laws of the Old Testament, Jesus proclaimed, hinged on loving God and others. The burdensome, unattainable “to do lists” created by the Pharisees are preempted by one single command, which Jesus deemed important enough to repeat twice. And rather than being burdensome, it is incredibly freeing to both the giver and receiver.

7. The Checklist of Love – 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

Few passages of Scripture are as widely accepted and as lightly applied as this one. I’ve found it to be one of the most helpful tools for revealing my own unloving attitudes in times of turmoil. People generally don’t appreciate having it pointed out when they’re wrong, but because this passage is so well loved, it tends to disarm even the most stubborn combatant.

8. Egg ‘Em On – Hebrews 10:24

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.”

How many quibbles turn into full-blown disputes because one person has “stirred up” (the word is “provoked” in some translations) the other to anger? Instead of being students of one another’s hot buttons, we need to consider what can nudge each other back into the right direction.

9. Share the Load – Galatians 6:2

“Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.”

In this age of radical individualism, a person’s responsibility goes no farther than the tip of his nose. But the Apostle Paul reminds us that when we notice someone limping down the highway of life with an oversized load, it is our responsibility as Christians to claim some of that load as our own.

10. Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me – Ephesians 4:26-27

“Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.”

Few marriages are destroyed as the result of a single action. The vast majority collapse under the combined weight of unconfessed sin and bitterness held in reserve. God’s way of preventing that kind of stockpiling is with a self-imposed sunset clause. Knowing that you have to deal with an issue before bed not only defuses the dissension, but it improves communication, which makes the marriage (or other family relationship) stronger.

 

Courage and fear: are they always opposites?



The qualifications for being a husband are simple but not easy. A man has to be a man, not just physically but in the full sense of the word. And a man has to be godly.

In their book The Silence of Adam, Larry Crabb, Don Hudson, and Al Andrews point to the interconnectedness between godliness and masculinity. “The only way to be manly,” they write, “is first to be godly. In our day, men are looking for their manhood more than they are seeking God. Too many men make the mistake of studying masculinity and trying to practice what they learn without paying enough attention to their relationship with God.”

Understanding the unique way in which you were created doesn’t make you fully a man. Getting married and having a family doesn’t make you a man. Success in the marketplace, great wealth and power, the honor and praise of the culture — these are not the measure of real masculinity. To be fully a man, you must commit yourself to the pursuit of godliness.

It’s almost a paradox, the idea of a godly man. Not because a man is incapable of godliness, but because of what is at the root of the idea of godliness in the Scriptures. We are called to live out our masculinity with courage and in fear. Courage and fear are not always opposites.

The Fear of God

There is a difference, however, between fearing God and being afraid. In fact, Moses, after receiving the Ten Commandments from God, appeared before the Israelites, who were filled with fear. “And Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin’” (Exodus 20:20).

“There is a fear that is slavish,” writes John Piper, “that drives us away from God, and there is a fear that is sweet and draws us to God. … God means for His power and holiness to kindle fear in us, not to drive us from Him, but to drive us to Him. His anger is against those who forsake Him and love other things more.”

In his book One Home At a Time, Dennis Rainey says, “God is not feared today. In fact, He is mocked by our immorality, our treatment of unborn human life, our broken commitments, and the selfish, ‘me-first’ attitude that characterizes so much of what we do. Even in the Christian community, we are strangely silent about the fear of God. There is little teaching on judgment for sin, and the place of eternal torment called hell. We haven’t rejected God. But we have conveniently recreated Him in our image. We have reduced the Almighty to our level.”

Today there is such an emphasis on God’s great love for us that we have forgotten what it means to fear him. We don’t see him as a consuming fire, but as a kindly grandfather who chides us when we are mischievous, but always with a twinkle in his eye and only a faint sternness in his voice. Don McCullough writes “We prefer to imagine a deity who happily lets bygones be bygones, who winks at failures and pats us on the back to build our self-esteem. But according to Scripture, ‘God is love.’ And love devoid of judgment is only watered down kindness.”

Act like men”

Paradoxically, that fear of God ought to be the basis of great courage in us. As men who fear God, we learn that we are not to fear other men. “Do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul,” Jesus taught, “but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). Our fear of God should produce boldness in the face of opposition from men.

Tucked away at the end of his letter to the church at Corinth, the apostle Paul gives a solemn charge to those men who are leaders of the church. “Be on the alert,” he writes, “stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love” (1 Corinthians 16:13-14). In those five simple statements, he calls the men who lead God’s church to a foundational quality of masculine godliness. He calls them to be men of courage.

In fact, some translations of the Bible take the clause “act like men” in I Corinthians 16:33 (andrizesthe in Greek) and translate it “be courageous.” Earlier, Paul had chastised the Corinthians for acting like babies. “I gave you milk to drink, not solid food,” he wrote, “for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able” (1 Corinthians 3:2). By the end of his epistle, Paul exhorts his readers to act like men. The expression “act like men” is a call to maturity, to conviction and to courage.

In our hearts, we know we ought to fear God, but our sin nature keeps us from doing so. In the same way as men, we know instinctively that we ought to be courageous, but again, we are caught in the conflict between flesh and spirit — between what we know we ought to do and what we often choose to do. Instead of acting with courage, men today too often choose not to act at all.

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