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?

 

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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!

The Freedom of Speech

… speaking the truth in love that they may grow up in all things … (Ephesians 4:15).

The United States Constitution is a remarkable document. It defines the role and function of government and lists the protections citizens have from their own government.

Our Declaration of Independence acknowledges that the rights of Americans are not concocted through a vote or dictated by any man or body, but come from our Creator.

Our courts have long held that every person – citizen and visitor, child and adult – has the exact same constitutional rights of protection under our laws.

Among the first of these rights is that the Congress cannot abridge “the freedom of speech, or of the press.” This means that no law can be made to limit, restrict, or take away the right of any person to speak his mind freely without fear of government punishment … even if that speech hurts someone’s feelings.

In America, anyone can publicly and privately speak and write favorably or against the government, a government leader, a political party, or any policy or law. You can be a Muslim arriving from Syria, step into the airport and curse the President, call the Congress vile names, and chant “death to America.” Those around you will not like what you’re saying, but the government is legally required to protect your right to freely speak and print such things. The Freedom of Speech makes America unique in the world.

In Ephesians 4:14, Paul describes the spiritually immature as unstable, fickle, and easily fooled. Spiritual immaturity severely limits the useful ministry of a childish Christian. Paul’s remedy for Christian babies is Bible teaching followed by more Bible teaching, with an added dose of Bible teaching.

Spiritual leaders are given to the Church for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:11). This is accomplished through speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). Freely preach the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth without compromise; remembering that freely speaking the truth of God’s Word must be accompanied by love for those to whom you speak.

The Perfect Man

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to Himself … holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5:25-27c).

I’ve got the best wife in the world, at least the best for me. She is supportive when I lack faith, encourages me with hope in disappointments, listens when I need a friend, goes along with my spontaneous road trips to Wyoming, laughs even when I’m not trying to be funny, is my partner in ministry I can always count on, and loves me despite my every fault.

I admit that I’m not a perfect husband. Not. Even. Close. I continually pray that God provides in Himself what I lack toward my wife, and that He grows in me in the ways I need to be a better husband.

God never expects us to be perfect husbands, but He does expect us to love our wives. That means that I give up myself and my dreams and wants for what is best for her. It means that my highest priority in our marriage is not to make her happy, but to encourage her in holiness and godliness.

Husband, love your wife as Christ loves the Church.

Leaving Home

My son Daniel has turned 18, and though he still has another year to complete in high school, he is old enough and mature enough to leave home and be living on his own. He wants to be on his own.

It’s difficult as a father to feel, see, and hear his eagerness to leave home. I know, it’s what children do when they grow up, and I’m excited to see what he makes of himself, but it still hurts.

Pastors get hurt too. Talk to any pastor you know intimately, and he’ll confide how lonely the job is. Adding to the hurt is that we’re taught in seminary never to become friends with our congregations. Friendship makes it difficult to carry out discipline and can even appear as ungodly favoritism; but friendships still happen. Congregations should not only worship as friends, but exist as family.

When a member leaves the church, it hurts the pastor. Even when it’s a trouble-maker who goes, it still hurts. Always. Believers never leave a congregation because of spiritual maturity but because they are angry or hurt about something. We’d never consider leaving a spouse or our family because our feelings get hurt, yet that’s exactly how we treat our local church and we don’t see it as sinful.

Regularly pray for your pastor; he’s a human being too. No pastor is perfect like you are and he will hurt your feelings at some point in the course of his duty, especially if you are close. You’ll be tempted to flee, but remember that he gets hurt too.

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

Hating our Children

The water from the fountain sprayed on us as Kim and I sat enjoying the hot summer day. On the other side of the fountain was a family of four.

The boy of 5 or 6 grabbed his mother’s cell phone, ran, and waved it over the water in the concrete pond.

Don’t you dare drop that in there,” yelled the mother. The boy just smiled.

After several more warnings, the mother gave up. “If you drop it I’ll just buy another one,” she said with a shrug. Her son tossed the phone into the fountain and ran away.

Kids feel entitled to things because of their skin color, social standing, or personal desires. Children are giving birth to babies. Thuggery, violence, drug use, and sexuality are perceived as the building blocks of success by whole communities (here). Parents refuse to act like parents, preferring to be best friends to their children. These are the mounting results of a godless society (2 Timothy 3:1-5).

God established parents as the foundation of the home, and godly parenting produces a civil society. Loving your children requires disciplining them.

He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly (Proverbs 13:24).

The Answer to Hate and Racism

Looting. Murder. Rioting. Stealing. Theft. Destruction. Anger. Burning. Violence. Fear-mongering. Hatred. Racism. Disregard for the rule of law. Race-war. Rage. Tearing down statues. Injustice. Inflammatory name-calling. Lawlessness.

These are all summed up in one foul word: S I N.

Whatever else you may want to call it – these are all acts and attitudes of evil men whose hearts are filled with the darkness of sin. Sin perpetuating more sin and then used as an excuse for even greater sin.

Don’t be mistaken. Don’t be detoured from what the Bible says. The answer is not found in tearing down monuments to the past, making laws restricting free speech or free assembly, violent attacks, or in shaming certain beliefs and political movements. Don’t look to laws or protests or penalties for answers to hate and racism. These same tools can be used to silence your beliefs … even your Christian beliefs.

As Christians, we are convinced that the answer to the evil in the heart is in the transformation of the human heart through the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Light has coming into the world, and men loved darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the Light and does not come to the Light, lest His deeds should be exposed (John 3:19-20).

A Father of the Fatherless

Richard and Moses at Family of God Celebration Center, Mutalia, Kenya

Sunday was no different than usual. Moses is always one of the first to run to me when I arrive in the church in Mutalia.

I always make a careful effort to preach in a way so that everyone present – including the children – can understand the gospel message. When I finished my sermon, I was immediately rushed by the children, many of whom I’ve watched grow up these past four years. These children love me and I dearly love them. Half of this congregation consists of young children.

After a few minutes of hugs and fist-bumps, Moses, pulled me down and whispered in my ear, May I speak to you in private? His eyes were serious.

We walked to a secluded spot outside and I knelt in the dirt so this 9-year old boy and I could talk eye-to-eye. Will you take me back to America to live with you? I’ve asked my Mother and she says it is okay. What message shall I return to her?

A few hours later I met Moses’ humble and quiet mother. She and her two children live in the only place they can afford, a small room not bigger than the typical American’s bathroom. There they cook, eat, wash, play, sleep, do school work, and carry on the lives of a family.

I know my wife wouldn’t have minded had I arrived at the airport in Portland with Moses and another thousand children like him, but it was impossible. I’m thankful however, that God has given Moses and his little sister a godly mother who loves them, and that He watches over them when I cannot.

A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy habitation (Psalm 68:5).