Family

Modern-Day Elijahs IX: Fathers and Families

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction” (Malachi 4:56, ESV).

Elijah

By 18 century icon painter (Iconostasis of Kizhi monastery, Karelia, Russia) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Elijah ascended into heaven, but his legacy remains. Few biblical prophets share his prominence. Although he did not write any of the books of the Bible, he is considered one of the greatest prophets in Judaism. Only Moses holds higher esteem. When Jesus was transfigured, Moses and Elijah appeared with Him (Matthew 17:1–8).

Part of the reason I called this series “Modern-Day Elijahs” is because God is still seeking men and women to share the “Elijah spirit.” As we will see in the last two articles in this series, the Elijah spirit would reappear in John the Baptist. Yet, all Christians can share the Elijah spirit; James 5:17 shows that all Christians can share Elijah’s prayer power, since he was a “man with a nature like ours.”

Many students of end-time prophecy believe Elijah will return during the great tribulation before Christ returns. They believe he and Moses are the two witnesses in Revelation 11, mainly because the miraculous powers listed in that chapter are similar to theirs. The fact that they have power to shut the sky to prohibit rain (Revelation 11:6) points to some connection with Elijah.

So, do we need the Elijah spirit today? Yes! Malachi 4:56 points out a major area where restoration is needed. This especially relates to Christianity in America.

“He will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers.”

We continue to see a radical breakdown of the biblical pattern for family, and Christians are often as guilty as the rest of society. Here are a few examples of this trend:

Let me emphasize that the final point refers to a general trend: Most single parents are doing the best they can. Many do a great job raising their children, and in some cases the children benefit (especially if one parent was abusive). Also, some people who grew up in seemingly healthy two-parent households end up making bad choices leading to addiction, crime, etc. Nevertheless, the statistics point to some disturbing cultural trends. A restoration of a biblical emphasis on family is necessary.

It is no accident that the Old Testament ends with a promise that Elijah will restore the relationship of fathers and children. Our society needs this restoration: Churches should empower fathers to take a more active role in raising their children. When a father is not present in the home, mature men of God can assume a greater role as mentors and role models. The decline of the family will affect society for generations to follow. Strong men of God should do their part to restore the family as the basic foundation of society.

In his time, Elijah stood up against the greatest sin in his culture: idolatry, from which numerous other evils sprang forth. The modern-day Elijah will have to stand against the modern-day idol of selfishness, which lies at the root of much of the family breakdown. It will require the moral courage of an Elijah, willing to stand even when he feels alone in the world; bold to defy the dominion of darkness that speaks through the voices of politicians, media, entertainment, etc. Without bold men and women of God, though, the future of the nation and society can be very grim.

Copyright © 2017 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Christian Life, Christians and Culture, Current events, Family, Modern-Day Elijahs | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Is Marriage Becoming Obsolete?

There has been a lot of media attention this week to a recent survey, by the Pew Research Center, which indicates that nearly four in ten adults think marriage is becoming obsolete.

Such numbers can be disheartening to people, like me, who have a strong desire to stand up for traditional Judeo-Christian values. Marriage is perhaps the most foundational of all social structures. According to the Bible, it predates government, cities, or any other social grouping known to humanity. Eliminating the family would be, for human relationships, almost as drastic as eliminating air from our atmosphere.

A summary of the survey’s findings can be found on Yahoo! News. Those who really want to dig into the numbers can go directly to the Pew Research Center’s website. While the numbers do not suggest a positive view of marriage by society, they may not be the death knell some people have claimed they are.

It is true that 39% of the respondents said marriage is becoming obsolete; however, 28% said the same thing in 1978. Yes, this is a sad increase. However, it is not as if an entire generation woke up one morning and, out of nowhere, decided that marriage is dead. Clearly, the attitude has been present for a while. The PRG’s study does not introduce a radical new trend; it merely shows that a steady decline in the social stature of marriage, which began in the 1960s, has continued relatively unabated. Having children out-of-wedlock continues to become more socially acceptable. Living together before marriage (or with no intention of marrying) continues to become more popular. Couples continue to marry later in life. Survey results have shown these trends growing for decades.

So, is marriage becoming obsolete? No! A careful reading of the study will show that this is not the sort of bombshell some media outlets are claiming. It is a continuing social trend, but all hope is not lost.

As long as there are people who believe in the value of marriage, it will survive. Those of us who cherish the traditional values on which our society is based should not be discouraged. Neither the Pew Research Group, nor Barack Obama, nor any state agency, creates marriage. God creates it. He instills within us the desire to bond. Yes, there will always be people who will seek to build relationships on their own foundations, rather than His.

Those of us who cherish the things God loves will continue to teach our children the value of seeking a life-long mate, and making every effort to build a relationship that will last. As long as the parents instill godly values in their children, and religious organizations take a firm stand for marriage, it will survive.

The church (and synagogue, and other houses of worship or religious institutions) have a job to do. We need to promote a biblical view of marriage. Sadly, many churches do little more than tell people what the Bible says about divorce. Perhaps they should focus on emphasizing what the Bible says about building a successful marriage.

For my Christian brothers and sisters who are actually worried about this study, I will close with this observation from Scripture. When Jesus’ disciples asked Him about His second coming, He listed a number of signs. Among them was this one:

“For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.” (Matthew 24:37-38, NASB).

Marriage will survive. Jesus told us so. I will always trust Him before I trust any pollster with a political agenda.

Categories: Current events, Family | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Birthdays, Anniversaries, and Looking Ahead: New Article

I just posted a new article on this site, entitled “Birthdays, Anniversaries, and Looking Ahead.

This is the text of the sermon that I preached this morning at Half Hollow Community Church in Dix Hills, NY. The nondenominational church was celebrating its 134th anniversary, and I was asked to fill the pulpit. The minister, Rev. Juanita Hilsenbeck (my former pastor from People’s Church, Long Beach) was on vacation. A former pastor of Half Hollows, Rev. Garfield Brown, was originally supposed to fill in, but was unable to make it after his wife was injured. (She is recovering from a fall and apparently coming along just fine; thank God.) It is mostly an elderly congregation.

During the past couple years, I have thought a lot about the importance of leaving a legacy behind. I felt this particular church anniversary, coupled with St. Paul’s words of encouragement in 2 Timothy 1: 3, 5 and 3:14-15, was a good opportunity to look at how a church can make an impact on future generations.

Read the article and let me know what you think of this subject.

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Passion and Passivity

Over the next few months, readers of this blog should get used to commentary about rejecting passivity. I will be working on a project with my comrades in the Brotherhood of St. Joseph. We will create a men’s study guide on five general principles of character development that our church’s men’s ministry emphasizes. Those five principles are:

  • reject passivity
  • accept responsibility
  • lead with courage
  • stay with it
  • seek an eternal reward.

These principles can be thought of as “Five Steps for Becoming a Man of God.” [Four of the five principles are borrowed from a book by Robert Lewis, Raising a Modern-Day Knight: A Father’s Role in Guiding His Son to Authentic Manhood (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1997). “Stay with it” does not appear in the book, but is implied therein.]

(Note to any women reading this: Feel free to continue reading. Although men are my primary target audience here, women can gain something from these principles too. By the way, that “something” is not “ammunition with which to nag your husband.)

So, since rejecting passivity is the first step to becoming a true man of God, I will be reflecting on it a lot in the coming months.

It occurred to me today that “passivity” starts with the same five letters as does “passion.” Yet, these words are virtual opposites. Someone who is passionate cannot be passive at the same time, about the same thing.

Think of the passionate sports fan. A guy who loves football will plan his weekend around the schedule of games on television. He will schedule his other activities to make certain they do not coincide with the “important” games. He may invite his buddies over, and he will be certain the appropriate refreshments are handy before the opening kickoff.  Chips, salsa, and beverages should be right in front of him at game time; he will not have time to move from the couch after that. If, heaven forbid, somebody else forces him to do something that they deem important, at the same time as the “big game,” Mr. Football Fanatic will be certain to set his TiVo, DVR, or whatever other recording device he has available, so that he does not miss it.

My friends know I am not a passionate fan of American football. I will occasionally find myself watching a game, but it is not something I plan. I admit, I am much more passive about football.

In fact, there are really only two sports I am passionate about: soccer and hockey. I will schedule my weekend around a soccer or hockey game. In the case of most other sports, my attitude runs from passive to apathetic. I will watch baseball if I have nothing else to do; I enjoy it, but I can live without it.

Most men are passionate about something. Our problem, though, is that we can get passionate about the wrong things. I have known a few too many Christians who skip church throughout the NFL season. They say they love God, but they are rather passive about their relationship with Him. Their true passion is football, not Jesus.

If you want to know what you are passionate about, just think: What sort of things do you pursue? What do you go out of your way to obtain? There is a huge difference between the things you are passionate about (the things you pursue) and the things you just casually accept (the things you are passive about).

Sadly, many marriages can see this difference in action. How often do young lovers passionately pursue each other? Every waking minute can be a countdown until the moment they will see each other again. When they cannot get together in person, they may spend hours on the phone, talking about the most trivial details of their days as if they were headline news events. When they were together, their eyes were glued to their beloved’s face.

A few years into marriage, and the wife might sit on the husband’s lap, and he will say, “Hey, you’re in the way! I cannot see the TV!” Passion gives way to passivity. He will get around to her when he cannot find anything on TV. Other passions have taken her place in his heart.

So, perhaps rejecting passivity is not really as hard it may sound. Perhaps the key is to develop a passion for the things that matter to God. What are some of the things that matter to Him?

  • My relationship with God (including prayer and Bible study)
  • My relationship with my wife
  • My relationship with other family (son, grandson, etc.)
  • The ministries He has called me to serve in
  • My job, particularly as a means to serve others in His name

It is not wrong to have other passions. However, the man of God must develop a passion, first and foremost, for the things that matter to the Lord. When a man lacks passion in any of these important areas, it might mean he has invested passion in something that does not matter.

Once you find a passion, you need to hold onto it. Humans can be incredibly passionate, but we can also be fickle. We stay passionate about something for as long as it is new, exciting, unusual, or for as long as there are new things to learn about it. Once it becomes comfortable, familiar and reliable, passion gives way to passivity.

So, take a look at yourself: Do you have a passion for God? Do you have a passion for the people God wants you to be passionate about? Are there areas where you should have more passion? If so, what can you do to develop a passion in those areas? These are the questions I will be asking myself in the coming months. I hope you ask yourself the same questions, and ask God to show you the truth about yourself. Then, may He ignite a fire in your heart for the things He is passionate about.

Categories: Bible meditations, Family, Spiritual reflections | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Fathers’ Day Reflections

I realized this evening that it has been 17 years since I had the chance to call my father and wish him a happy Fathers’ Day. Dad passed away in March 1994, so his last Fathers’ Day was in June 1993.

Fathers’ Day has gone through a number of changes for me since then. For a couple years, I took my family out for dinner. Granted, I was paying for the meal, but it still felt like they were treating. (I did get to choose the restaurant.)

Beginning in 1997, Fathers’ Day had a new format for me. My wife and I were separated the previous November, and eventually got divorced, so my son lived with her in Missouri throughout the school year. Daniel would arrive on or around June 15 each year for his summer in New York. So, Fathers’ Day was frequently the first (sometimes the second) Sunday of his two-month stay with me. Just having my son with me was all I needed for Fathers’ Day. There were a couple years when his mother sent him out a little later than usual, and in those cases I refused to celebrate Fathers’ Day until Daniel arrived. It just did not count without him.

It did take a slightly different turn after Joyce and I married in 2000, as now we were also celebrating with her father. Nevertheless, for me the biggest part of Fathers’ Day was having my son with me.

Over the last few years, Fathers’ Day has been in a state of metamorphosis in my life. My son is now grown and married, and celebrates his first Fathers’ Day this year. (In reality, it is his second. He was a father one year ago; but at that time, his child was still in the womb.)

This will make for a change in Fathers’ Day for both of us. Last year, Daniel sent me a card and called me on Fathers’ Day. This year, he not only gives honor, but also receives honor as a father. I will celebrate, not only as a son and father, but now as a grandfather as well.

I have experienced Fathers’ Day and fatherhood from a variety of perspectives over the years. Two years ago, I was trying to enforce a curfew for a recent high-school graduate. Now, I find myself learning to relate to my son as two men: still as father and son, but no as longer man and child. My status as a father has not changed, but the role has evolved and I have had to adapt. My role as a father is no less important now than it was a few years ago; it has just adapted to a new situation.

With each change in my fatherhood status and role over the years, I have become more keenly aware of the important job fathers have. As I prepare for Fathers’ Day this year, I am reminded of how much God values fathers. The New Testament reveals God as a Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Ten Commandments urge us to honor our fathers and mothers. Fatherhood is so important in the mind of God that the entire Old Testament ends with a statement about fathers:

“Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse” (Malachi 4:5-6, NASB).

Many Bible-believing Christians believe that, even though Jesus said Elijah returned as John the Baptist, this refers to a future reappearance of the great prophet before the second coming of Christ. (Some will debate whether Elijah actually returns to Earth, or a great man of God emerges in the spirit of Elijah, or a mighty movement manifesting Elijah’s spirit emerges among God’s people. Another of those issues that I will not go into at this time.) I am inclined to believe that this passage does refer to a future restoration, preceding Christ’s return.

Fatherhood is so important that God wants to restore it before His Son returns. We live in a sad age. With approximately half of all marriages ending in divorce, and out-of-wedlock births becoming socially acceptable, a huge number of children grow up without Daddy in the home. In a recent column, 2008 Constitution Party presidential candidate Chuck Baldwin writes:

The ramifications of raising children without a father are taking a toll, not only on children, but also on society itself. According to published reports, 63% of teen suicides come from fatherless homes, 90% of all runaways and homeless children come from fatherless homes, 80% of rapists come from fatherless homes, 85% of children with behavioral problems come from fatherless homes, 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes, 75% of all adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers come from fatherless homes, and 85% of all youths in prison come from fatherless homes.

These are tragic numbers. I realize we can always point to women who raised their children solo and succeeded. Yet, the numbers do not lie: generally speaking, children are worse off when they do not have both a mother and father in the home. I would dare say that, in most cases, those women who did a good job raising a child without the father’s help would have done even better, if Dad had been there doing his job.

In the light of Malachi 4:6, coupled with those statistics and other research, I would dare say that anybody who is committed to furthering the breakdown of the family in American society is an enemy of Christ’s gospel. This is a serious issue, perhaps one of the two most significant social issues facing the church in America today.

Is it any wonder that, if the hearts of fathers and children are not returned to each other, the land will be cursed? Our culture continues to fall apart at the seams. We can look to the government to fix things; we can keep boycotting sponsors of lewd or otherwise immoral television programs; we can keep handing out Bibles and tracts; we can keep protesting outside abortion clinics or handing out voters’ guides in our churches. However, if we do not seek the restoration of fatherhood to its proper place in the home and society, our culture will continue to slide into a sociological abyss.

As a former pastor, I would urge all sincere ministers of the Gospel to continue to value fatherhood, and to encourage the men of their churches to become seriously committed fathers. Yes, the hearts of fathers must be turned back to their children; that means that many fathers have their hearts in the wrong places. Some have their hearts in the right place, but do not know practically what God expects of them (the hospital always sends those babies home without an owner’s manual). Being the head of the household is much more complicated than bringing home a paycheck and commandeering the television remote control.

In recent months, I have felt that God is really trying to impress upon me the importance of a spiritual legacy. Even though my son is grown, and he is raising his family 1200 miles away, my job is not over. Having raised Daniel, trying to instill an ideal of godly manhood in him, now comes the next phase. What will it mean for me, and then Daniel, then James and his future siblings. and then their descendants, to preserve the “Lynch” name? I thought about this, and made certain to share it with Daniel as quickly as possible during our most recent visit. Rest assured, he will hear it again.

I gained a vision of what our heritage should be at my father’s funeral. Dad and I did not always have the greatest relationship. For most of my childhood, alcoholism kept him from being the father God wanted him to be. He tried to make up for it after he obtained sobriety, while I was in high school.

At Dad’s wake and funeral, I met many people whom he had sponsored or otherwise influenced through a 12-step program to stop drinking. There were people who told me, “Your father saved my life,” and other glowing testimonials. When we arrived at the church for his funeral, the place was packed. A passer-by might have thought that some famous local dignitary was being buried that day; instead, it was just some guy who struggled through life, had little money, and held no important-sounding official title.

There is the legacy that I want to pass on to my son, and to his son, and so on. Our goal should not be wealth, fame, or worldly power; it should be to positively impact the lives of those around us. I desire to impact others for eternity, drawing them to Christ. I hope and pray my son does the same, and teaches his son(s) to follow suit. Maybe it will not be through a 12-step program; God will gladly use us wherever He places us in life, using the gifts He has given us and the experiences He has brought us through.

So, this Fathers’ Day, let us place the barbecues, the cards, and the new ties in their proper place. Fellow fathers, let us renew our vows to build a godly heritage.

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For Future Generations

“You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments” (Exodus 20:4-6, NRSV).

Several months ago, I was at a retreat, organized by the Cathedral Church of the Intercessor, at Mount St. Alphonsus (one of my favorite places; so much so that I use a picture from one of its windows at the top of this blog!). The Lord was speaking intently to my heart about some of the issues in my life.

For years, I have prayed for God’s strength in some areas of my life and wondered, “Why are You not meeting my needs in this area? Why do I still struggle? Why do I fall sometimes?” God’s answer: “Because you are thinking too small. You are not getting the big picture.”

This was not exactly a “new revelation.” It has been there all along. I just missed it, even though it is a verse, which I memorized decades ago, from one of my favorite books of the Bible.

“You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:3, NASB).

Usually, we read that verse and think God is talking about all of those materialistic prayers we babble. This definitely applies to those times when we pray for easy money, a big house, fancy car, or other stuff to make us happy.

It is true that we ask amiss if we are only trying to feed our physical or fleshly desires. What about those times when we want to stroke our egos? When we want to impress the rest of the church with our holiness? That may be an extreme case, but some of us enjoy being more “holy” or “spiritual” because that makes us better than the other guy. “At least I’m not like that tax collector” (or whichever modern-day label you choose to substitute: drug addict, alcoholic, criminal, pervert), as the Pharisee in Luke 18:11-12 prayed.

Should a Christian pray for a closer walk with Jesus? Absolutely; but if we are praying to be better than others, or to be more highly revered by church people, or to be one of God’s favorite people, we are missing the boat. If you have already accepted Jesus Christ into your heart, and you are praying for a closer walk with Him to secure your salvation, you have missed the entire point of grace.

So, why should we seek a closer walk with Jesus? Why, if we are bound by addiction or other sinful habits, should we pray for deliverance or victory? There are a number of answers to these questions. However, the verses I highlighted above, in the Ten Commandments, bring out a perspective that we often do not consider. Our society is so self-centered that most Americans—including mature, committed Christians—have a hard time thinking beyond what they can see.

We think in a short term, but God thinks long-term. As a married man, it is easy to think about how the choices I make today will affect my immediate family. If I spend money foolishly, my wife may have to cut back and miss out on things she needs.

God, however, sees a much bigger picture. He sees generations yet unborn and calls me to seek blessings for them, as well as for the family I have now. My decisions and choices today do not affect me alone: they affect future generations as well. God does not punish the third and fourth generations because He holds grudges and likes to hurt people. He does so because sin tends to find its way into future generations; however, a godly heritage does too.

I am encouraged by a story I heard at one of my wife’s family reunions a few years back. Joyce’s great-great-grandfather was a devout man who prayed frequently for future generations in his family. His prayers were answered; most of his descendants in this country are faithfully serving the Lord now. God is a central figure at most of their family gatherings. He did not see the fruit of his prayers, but God remembered to answer.

On the other hand, we can bear the weight of previous generations’ sin. Alcoholism is often called a “family disease” for a number of reasons. For one, children and grandchildren of alcoholics frequently grow up to develop drinking problems.

As I participated in the services at that Mount St. Alphonsus retreat, mentioned earlier, and spent time praying and studying the Bible, the Lord called to mind the “generational curses” in my heritage. (I will not go into a debate about the idea of “generational curses” at this time. It will take another blog posting or more.) Alcoholism is rampant in my family tree, with heavy drinkers on both sides. There has also been a lot of divorce. I will not go into too much detail. I know some people whose families have more dark sides than mine, but my family’s heritage is the one I am concerned about.

One blessing I received by following Jesus is the fact that I never became an alcoholic. I am free of that affliction. However, I have a greater goal in mind now: I want my son to remain free from that. I also hope my grandson (and any siblings he may one day have) do not fall prey to the bottle.

I have not been spared the divorce bug. Thank God, my current marriage is good. However, the past cannot be changed. My son, though, has the opportunity to see that curse broken in his generation. I pray that he and his wife remain married “’til death do they part.” I pray the same for my grandson and his siblings (even though my grandson is only eight months old, it is not too early to begin praying for his future).

So, what can I do to affect future generations?

  1. I can live a life that pleases my heavenly Father.
  2. I can live a life that I, as a Christian, would want my descendants to imitate.
  3. I can pray daily for my descendants: not just for their current situation, but for their futures as well.
  4. I can encourage and exhort them every chance I get, in the hope of guiding them to follow Jesus.
  5. Most importantly, I can leave them in the hands of God.

If I keep God’s commandments and serve Him faithfully, rejecting all false gods and idols, He has promised to visit His lovingkindness on future generations.

Categories: Family, Spiritual reflections | Leave a comment

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