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).


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!

Beverly Miller’s Son

Beverly Miller

Bev slowly made her way to the front of the room Sunday morning after I’d finished my sermon and final prayer. She reached out her 87-year old hand and took mine, her skin so pale and thin that it’s almost see-through.


God gave me two daughters, and I’m old enough to be your grandmother, but if God had given me a son, I’d want him to be just like you. I’d still be lost if God hadn’t brought me to you and to our little church. 

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:26).

Bev could think of reasons she’d want a son like me, but I continually wonder why God would want me in His family.

When God the Father gave me the gift of faith so that I could believe upon Jesus Christ as the only remedy for my sin, He brought me into His family. Before I trusted in Jesus, I was an enemy of God and a child of His wrath (Romans 5:10; Ephesians 2:3). Yet He gave up His only-begotten Son, sending Jesus to become a Man and die on a cross, so that I could become a child of God.

Why? Grace alone.

He chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:4-6).

The Creator or the Culture?

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:15).

This morning the clerk at the local grocery store wanted to talk. She closed her register and said that after almost 30 years at the same job, she’s not sure how to handle it any longer.

A few hours earlier, a man dressed like a woman came to Lois’ register. The man went on and on about how proud he was of his little boy who he’s raising as a girl. He’s 8 years old now and has never had his hair cut. This was something to brag about.

Lois asked me, As a Christian, how am I supposed to address a man who thinks he’s a woman? What am I supposed to say when he brags about raising his son as a girl?”

About a year ago Lois received a warning from her employer after a complaint was made against her. The customer was offended when Lois said, Good morning Ma’am. The customer is a lesbian who believes she is a male.

As Christians, we believe the Bible when it says God created male and female. God has never confused the two genders, building their separateness into our very DNA. The blatant blurring of that line of separation denies God’s authority as Creator, makes the Bible a lie, obscures God’s design for marriage and family, and perverts His plan for humanity.

Culture that conflicts with Scripture is sin, and every deviation from Scripture that we tolerate makes us responsible for the results.

In America, Christians are being increasingly challenged to either bow to God or kneel before our sinful culture, to stand for God’s Word or queue in the unemployment line, to pay homage to the Lord or remit a court fine and lose your business.

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).