Godly Fathering – Part 4

Fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).

My son isn’t a musician, a scholar, or a fan of rugby. Parents must take care not to push their children to be something they are not.

As a young boy, Daniel loved to read and study his Bible. He’d show up in the adult Sunday school class having his weekly lesson finished and ready for discussion. One morning he shared his answer to a question only to be rebuked by a jealous adult as a “show-off” and “know-it-all.” Daniel never opened his Sunday school book again.

Children who are pushed to standards that are impossible for them will become frustrated and rebel. Whether it’s a sport, a subject in school, or physical chores, when a father sets expectations that are not within the child, the father sinfully discourages the child and the child will discourage himself.

My son has a knack for entertaining. He has his own Youtube program that he broadcasts live several times a week from his own internet television studio. He has thousands of viewers and gets paid for what he does. It’s not my thing, but it is his, and I encourage him to be the best in what interests him. He plans to pursue his interest through college and into the workplace.

Every child is gifted in some special way by God. It’s the responsibility of the father to help his child discover that God-given gift then nurture and encourage it. When your child pursues her gifting, encouraged by you, her love of it will carry her throughout her life.

Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6).

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Godly Fathering – Part 3

Fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).

In the ancient world, fathers were kings of their households. Under Roman law, a father could sell his children as slaves, make them work in any way he chose, and even put his own child to death for disobedience.

Today, we may not go so far as they did in ancient Rome, but fathers can provoke their children to wrath by being harsh. Anger creates more anger, and a child who experiences the anger or unfair treatment of a parent will someday mimic that anger toward others.

Over the summer of 1981, I stayed with my father and his new family. My step sister was only 3 or 4 years old and had an unusual habit of holding her food in her cheeks while eating. She looked like a curly brown-haired squirrel. When Katrina would do this, my father would flick his fingers across her cheek. Her eyes would water, but she she knew that crying would bring further punishment.

One night at the dinner table, he snapped his fingers against her cheek. I protested and got the same treatment. My teenage eyes didn’t water, they cried as I spit the blood out of my mouth. I’ll never forget his harsh treatment toward Katrina.

Yes, children need discipline, but remember they are children. In the Bible, godly discipline is always meant to correct and restore, not destroy or punish. The Golden Rule applies to you as a father just as much as to anyone else. Just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise (Luke 6:31).

Godly Fathering – Part 2

Fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).

When you become a father, you set aside your own life. No longer are your interests what matters, but the welfare of your children. No longer is your wife the primary focus of your attention. The age of dating and alone-time is over because it’s time to raise your children in a godly fashion. You are responsible for your children; not the school system, the church, or the babysitter.

One of the ways a fathers provokes a child to wrath is by favoring one child over another. Favoritism shows itself in a variety of subtle and not so subtle ways. One child regularly gets a treat from the store while the other does not. A son has daily chores while his sister does not. One boy is disciplined much more harshly than the other. A mother said to me in the hearing of her son, “Brenda is my husband’s favorite.” I didn’t need to be told that because I could see it. Favoritism fuels resentment against both the parent and the favored child.

This sin of favoritism is found in the story of Jacob and his eleven sons. The Bible says that Jacob loved Joseph more than all his children … but when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peaceably to him (Genesis 37:3, 4).

Jacob showed his partiality to Joseph in a very visible act of making him a tunic of many colors (Genesis 37:3). In the dusty ancient world, clothing was made from off-white or beige colored cloth. Joseph’s colored clothes made his father’s love for Joseph stand out all the more. Their jealousy and hatred led them to attempt murdering Joseph and then selling him into slavery to nomads. By his actions as a father, Jacob watered and fed the sin of envy already planted deep in the hearts of his older sons.

Treating a child with partiality will provoke the less favored child to wrath. When this happens, the parent has sinned and may provoke his child also to sin.

Father, love your children equally. You may express your love for Billy differently than your love for Sally, but be careful that both are loved and shown the same love. After all, isn’t that how our Father in Heaven loves us?

 

Godly Fathering – Part 1

Fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).

Pastor Isaac Mathembe and his wife recently had their third child. Baby Kimberly is like every other child born. She constantly demands attention to her hungry tummy, her dirty diaper, or her entertainment. Generally speaking, the mother gives most of that needed attention in the early months of life, but as a child grows, the role of the father must also grow.

Years ago I counseled a woman who had serious relational issues. She’d gone through relationships like a box of Kleenex and her unreasonable demands on her husband were about to cost her marriage.

Her father’s example was a man so busy earning a living to provide for the family, that she didn’t know how a godly husband interacted with a wife, or how a father acted toward his children. In her mind, the husband/father was to be absent from the house, take out the garbage once a week, and make lots of money.

God’s command to Jewish mothers and fathers, was that they both teach His word and His ways to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up (Deuteronomy 11:19).

Every father has a God-given responsibility to the training and admonition of his child in the Lord. He is charged by God with sharing his life-wisdom, explaining the Scriptures in every situation of life, and being a personal example of godliness in his relationships at home and in the world.

The man whose focus is his job or fulfilling his own hobbies and interests is a failure as a father. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged (Colossians 3:21).

Love and Be Loved

Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another (Romans 12:10).

One of the lessons Matthew came away from his first visit to Kenya with me was that he should let his pastor sit in the front seat of the car. I’m not sure how he came to that conclusion, but I accepted it reluctantly.

Yes, reluctantly. Reluctantly, because I don’t care if I sit in the front passenger seat or get squeezed with 5 other people in a back seat made for 2. To me it’s not a matter of being the important guy or the old man of the group deserving some preferred treatment. What impressed me was Matthew’s decision to prefer me over himself. He put into practice exactly what Paul wrote to the believers in Rome: give preference to one another as the demonstration of his love for me.

Christian love, the kind that God has for His people, puts the welfare of another before self. It willingly and selflessly sacrifices its own priorities, desires, plans, and comforts. This kind of God-like love requires two things. First, that if we say we love someone, we are humble enough to put his interest before our own, and second, that the one being honored is humble enough to accept the demonstration of love. It requires humility both to love and to be loved.

The Chief of Sinners

This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to  believe on Him for everlasting life (1 Timothy 1:15-16).

Pastors fear to preach the message of sin. They fear to preach even more so to their own congregations, that they – even after they are born again – are sinners. They cringe at the idea, but such an understanding is not only the beginning of the gospel, but the continuation of the gospel, because without sin there is no need for a Saviour.

Child of God, do you not still need the Saviour? Have you moved beyond and become independent of the cross? Do you recoil at the suggestion that you are a still a sinner in desperate need of the Saviour? Do you suppose you’ve reached an apex of spiritual superiority and are a perfected saint who doesn’t sin, aren’t a sinner, and your life is filled only with occasional mistakes because you’re a king’s kid?

Written near the end of his earthly life, the Apostle Paul called himself at that time the chief of sinners. He knew he needed that fresh and daily reminder that his sins were forgiven by the redemption in Christ’s blood. He relied upon the continuing firm assurance that his spiritual life was only each day by the grace through faith supplied by Jesus Christ. He rejoiced in hearing the same gospel he was preaching to the lost, that the death of Jesus is forever of eternal value, meaning, and power for every sinner called by God.

The chief of sinners kept continually at the cross so that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him.

A Christian never outgrows the cross! It is where living begins!

No Other Name but Jesus

As many as received Him, to them God gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:12-13).

As you read through the Old Testament and even the Gospel accounts, you discover that both true and false religion existed side-by-side in Israel. The Jews went through the sacrificial motions without a heart of faith in God. They feared breaking the traditions of their culture more than trusting in God’s provision (Matthew 15:8).

God’s condemnation of Israel was common of all religious people. The Jews would draw near to Me with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me and their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men (Isaiah 29:13). Jesus used this same verse to condemn the outwardly religious people of His day (Mark 7:6-7).

The people of Israel trusted in the works of their own efforts by following traditions and rituals. They believed that because of their physical ancestry they lived in God’s favor. Through will-power, they were good enough to be in a right relationship with God. Their faith was in their self-effort rather than what God had done. They were good, God-honoring people who tried their level best, but were void of faith in God. Instead of following God’s Way described in Scripture, they killed Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6).

No one has ever been – or can be – saved any other way than by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus alone. He is the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8). There is no other name under Heaven, given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).

A More Excellent Sacrifice

By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks to us today (Hebrews 11:4).

Like parents today, Adam and Eve shared everything they knew with their children. Certainly they re-told the story of God’s creation, the beauties of the Garden of Eden, their fellowship with God, their act of rebellion against Him, the consequences of their sin, and God’s provision of forgiveness through the sacrifice of an innocent substitute. Surely Cain and Abel knew from their parents that approaching God was possible by only one means.

We learn in Genesis 4:2-7 that Cain offered a sacrifice to God from the ground, something he planted, labored over, and cultivated with his own effort. He went through the motions of a ritual, bringing his self-produced offering to the Lord, full of his own work, absent of any faith in God’s provision alone.

Abel, however, brought the blood sacrifice of an innocent animal, his faith leaping across the centuries to touch the cross, the only sacrifice God would accept. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering (Genesis 4:4).

Cain trusted in himself; Abel trusted in God. Cain’s sacrifice was bloodless; Abel’s was the life of an innocent substitute. Cain gave of his own labor; Abel, by faith, accepted the death of another in his place. Angry that God did not respect Cain and his offering, Cain killed Abel (Genesis 4:5, 8).

These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name (John 20:31).

Faith in God’s Provision

Every attempt that Adam and Eve made to cover up their sin left them exposed before God. Making clothes of fig leaves didn’t cover their shame. Hiding in the trees didn’t avoid the all-seeing eye of the Judge. Passing the blame onto another didn’t relieve them of their personal guilt and responsibility to obey God. The only solution to sin was for God to provide His own sacrifice through the shedding of innocent blood on their behalf.

So Adam and Eve, stripped of all self-effort and works, were covered by the Lord. He killed an innocent animal from the Garden, shed its blood and the made for Adam and Eve tunics of skin, and clothed them (Genesis 3:21).

From Eden onward, there have been two competing religions in the world. The first is packaged in many different names and varieties of self-effort at being good and godly. Each of these comes down to man attempting to reach God by personal effort. That effort may come in the form of saying a prayer, denying self of some necessity or desire, helping others through social causes, or participating in a religious ritual.

Christianity, however, is based upon faith in God’s provision. Man has no part in reaching God, but God reached down to us. We don’t seek after Him, He came to seek and to save the lost. We don’t sacrifice and surrender, God the Father gave His Son to die for the sinful. God, by grace, saves those who have faith in His provision. Biblical religion condemns the addition of any of our own works to gain God’s favor or earn His forgiveness. Our self-efforts nullify grace and make Christ’s death in vain.

No man is justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ (Galatians 2:16)

 

A Failed Cover-Up

Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29).

After God created Adam and Eve, He declared all that He made was very good (Genesis 1:31). Everything was in perfect harmony with Him. There was no sin to separate Him from His creation. Then Satan found Eve, Eve found Adam, and both sin and death entered the world through one man’s disobedience (Romans 5:12, 19).

Adam and Eve were filled with guilt and shame at their rebellion against God. They also feared the Judge and His declared death penalty for disobedience (Genesis 2:17). Their response was to make themselves coverings of fig leaves to hide their sin (Genesis 3:7). When God entered the Garden, they knew their self-made coverings weren’t enough and instead hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden (Genesis 3:8).

God sought out and exposed Adam’s sin (Genesis 3:9). Man’s fellowship with God was destroyed and God cursed all that He had made. Adam’s sin infected the whole of creation and perverted God’s original very good design.

Man’s attempts to cover sin was useless. Fig-leaf clothing, hiding behind trees, and blaming others could not cover sin or remove the guilt of disobedience. Man’s works were fruitless and God stepped in to provide a covering for the couple by shedding the blood of an innocent animal (Genesis 3:21). If any sinner is to be made right with God, God alone must provide the sacrifice, and the covering must come by way of death: either the death of the guilty sinner or the death of a perfect and innocent substitute.