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!

A New Church in Kwa-Matingi

Richard, Benedict, Kim and Rose (4)
My wife and I with Pastor Benedict and Rose Muendo

This is a photo of Benedict Muendo and his wife Rose. Both are soon to graduate from the Berean School of Ministry in Tala, Kenya.

In 2016 I taught at a conference sponsored by Pastor Benedict. For 6 hours I preached from the Bible on the Doctrines of Grace: how from eternity God chose sinners to be saved, how He saves them by grace alone, and how He keeps them saved eternally.

Kenyans walked or rode for hours to attend this meeting at the Grace and Glory Fellowship Church located on the remote coffee plantation in Kwa Matingi.

The building constructed of wood scraps, tarps, and corrugated sheet metal was packed with 150 and had an overflow crowd. Adults and children sat and stood inside and out listening in both English and Swahili. We ended by singing the great hymn, To God be the Glory, despite calls for me to continue preaching.

Earlier this year I received an update from Pastor Benedict. God used the conference in an amazing way to impact the community, resulting in a second congregation formed and opportunity for a third!

Kenya is a land of unsatiated spiritual hunger. People walk for hours to hear the gospel preached. Cults are actively taking advantage of this spiritual hunger, but Berean School of Ministry stands as a strong voice for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3).

The support you provide with prayer is invaluable. The financial gifts to send me to Kenya have been greatly appreciated, and the monthly scholarship support to the Berean School by both Dean Fairly and Matthew Ferraro is literally changing lives of pastors, congregations, and communities in East Africa.

Thank you for being a part of God’s work in Kenya.

Click here for information on the Berean School of Ministry

Arrested in Kenya

We made our way home in a borrowed car after a lengthy day of ministry. It was late evening as we approached the often seen police barricades on the highway. Kenyan police usually wave passenger vehicles through, but not this night.

Two police officers with machine guns approached us; one to each side of the car. Looking at Matthew in the passenger seat and me in the back, an officer demanded to see our passports which we’d left at home. Pastor Mathembe was ordered out of the vehicle to a loud berating.

American police are commissioned to “protect and serve.” Unlike Americans, Kenyans live in fear of the police who are seldom friendly, helpful, or speak in gentle tones. They are paramilitary and prone at traffic stops to confiscate the vehicle, arrest the driver and his passengers, and ask questions later.

The female commander demanded Matthew provide his passport. Pastor Mathembe had already explained that our home was just a short distance away. He’d get the passports and return, but she wouldn’t hear of it; we might be terrorists who would flee.

Matthew explained who we were, what we’d been doing, and that we had the proper documents at the house. She yelled at Matthew, How do I know that I can trust you? 

Matthew answered as any good Calvinist preacher would: I guess you can’t. I’m a sinner just like you are. I later told him his reply was either the boldest or dumbest thing ever uttered; probably both. The gospel of Jesus isn’t seeker-friendly.

The officer pulled her head out of the car window and let us continue home.

The Bible condemns us all as sinners deserving the eternal wrath of God (Romans 3:23 and 6:23), but by personal faith in Jesus Christ, we are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:24).

Planting a New Church

Pastor Isaac Mathembe translating for me at the Family of God Celebration Center in Mutalia, Kenya.

Not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith (Philippians 3:9).

I finished preaching from Philippians 3:1-11 on the Apostle Paul’s own testimony of God’s salvation. Using himself as the example, Paul explained all the ways that he had tried to gain the forgiveness of sins. He appealed to his own ancestry and nationality, religious rituals and family upbringing, spiritual enthusiasm and traditions, yet none of these made him right with God.

After a personal encounter with the resurrected Jesus, Paul came to understand that God saves sinners apart from any and all works, rituals, or merit. God saves sinners only by full dependence and reliance in the One who died and was raised to life.

When the service was over, one of the women in the church asked if I had a moment to meet her mother. Outside I was introduced to an overjoyed woman my own age who was visiting from the opposite end of Kenya.

She shared how the message of God’s grace had touched her personally. She said, I had no idea there was anyone in Kenyan preaching like this. Then came the shocker. She donated a piece of property in her hometown for a church to be started where the Bible’s message of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ Jesus alone would be preached!

Plans are underway to legally transfer the property title and the planting of a new congregation. The great need right now is for God to raise up – and us to train – a Biblically qualified pastor.

Pray and rejoice with us as God continues to work for His glory in the nation of Kenya.

Your Name Here

Do not be called “Rabbi”; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in Heaven. And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ. But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted (Matthew 23:8-12).

I abhor titles in the church, though I understand they are helpful at times to distinguish roles. Too often among Christians, titles are used to make mediocre and little people appear significant and powerful. Apostle, prophet, bishop, reverend, and even the title of pastor often burnish the sin of pride and transform leaders into objects of idolatrous adoration and authority.

The Jewish religious leaders of Jesus’ day were big on parading their titles, but had no fear of responsibility in the titles. Jesus warned His followers not to fall into the same trap, but to remember that we are family and fellow-servants unto Him.

Few are far-between are humble leaders of God’s people content with the title of brother or servant on their Facebook page, church sign, or business card.

Jesus To Us

Excited students in the class on the Minor Prophets. Berean School of Ministry, Tala, Kenya

He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me (Matthew 10:40).

On my last teaching day in July at Berean School of Ministry in Kenya, a student said, “You have been Jesus to us. Thank you.

Benedict continued, “By teaching us the Word of God – not what men say – Jesus Himself has spoken to us. You have been Jesus to us.

When the Scriptures are delivered to us through expository preaching and teaching, the one who brings it is God’s agent. This places no power or importance in the agent – for God has even used an old donkey to deliver His message (Numbers 22:30) – the power is in the message of the Word of God.

For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect. For the message of the cross … is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:17, 18).


The Sign of a Minister of Christ

A painting in the home of Mr Timothy Musyoki, Mutalia, Kenya.

Jesus called Satan the father of all lies (John 8:44). Since his first lie in the Garden of Eden, deception has been the devil’s weapon of choice. Signs and wonders and miracles prove absolutely nothing; Satan performs such works in order to deceive.

The telling sign of a minister of Christ is his doctrine, not his miracles.

The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved (2 Thessalonians 2:9-10).

Matthew the Murderer

How many of you have ever murdered another person?” I asked the class at Berean School of Ministry in Tala, Kenya. One hand went up. It was the hand of my son in the faith.

Heads turned and looked around the room focusing on Matthew.

I asked, “How many of you have ever committed adultery?” Again, Matthew alone raised his hand.

One student later admitted that when he saw Matthew’s hand rise, he began thinking of ways to avoid the murdering-adulterer at the back of the room.

I had the students turn in their Bibles to the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus said: You have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not murder,” and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment. But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment…. You have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not commit adultery.” But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28).

Matthew understood something none of the students comprehended. In our minds, the physical act is the sin, but Jesus said that even the thought of the mind or motivation of the heart is sin. Matthew wasn’t the only murderer and adulterer in the room; every one of us is guilty of these things, at least in our minds and hearts. Each of us is a sinner, and even after we are born again we are still in desperate and continual need of a Saviour.

But the Scriptures also make this promise to the child of God: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).