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).

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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.

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.

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 Two Philosophies of Life

There are two simple, but opposite, philosophies of life.

The first explains that every person is conceived as morally perverted and sinful. No amount of nurturing, training, or money improves the thoughts, motives, or intentions of the person. That moral corruption alienates everyone from God and makes all pursuits selfish. A person’s only hope is to be reborn by the Spirit of God through faith in Jesus Christ.

The second philosophy teaches that everyone is born as a blank slate. Environment, nurture, and social and economic structures influence and improve the thoughts, motives, and intentions of the person. Morality is dictated by the social structure and support of family, friends, and government. Basically, humanity is good, and personal destiny is ultimately up to the individual.

The first is Christianity; the second is humanistic atheism.

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me. There is none righteous, no, not one … there is none who does good, no, not one. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked (Psalm 51:5; Romans 3:10, 12; Jeremiah 17:9).

Where does your philosophy of life come from? The Bible or humanism?

Ma and Pa’s Love

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Billy Bob and Martha Ray got hitched one spring afternoon in their little Ozark hamlet. The tiny church was packed with their friends and family, which were the same group.

The couple got right to business and over the next fifty years, Billy Bob and Martha Ray raised 8 boys and girls, all named “Billy.” Neither had more than a third grade education, but made sure their children each continued in school until the sixth grade. Holidays were especially wonderful as the family dined on raccoon instead of the usual squirrel or possum.

Husband and wife never traveled more than five miles from the village they’d always lived in.

Work always came early; they were up and busy before dawn. Enjoying the last few minutes of the evening before bed, the two sat on the porch of their humble shack, Ma puffing on her corncob pipe and Pa chewin’ a wad a tobaccy. Martha Ray broke the silence. “Pa, how come in fifty years ya ain’t never told me ya love me?”

Billy Bob sat quietly, the only sound was the squeak of his rocking chair on the splintered floorboards. After a minute or two, he spit against the white oak tree he’d planted as a child. “Woman, I said I loved ya the day I married ya. If I ever change ma mind, I’ll tell ya.”

The Bible says that God is love (1 John 4:8), and if God never changes (Malachi 3:6), then His love for you will never change. Nothing will ever be able to separate us from the love of Christ (Romans 8:35).

The Sum of a Life

an-obituaryEach week I read the obituaries in my local newspaper. They are fascinating statements of what families and friends think are important about their loved ones.

A recent obituary noted a man’s age and that he could be found on any given Sunday at a local racetrack. The eulogy went on to list the man’s dead and living relatives and their spouses for 5 generations.

Had the man been alive, I wonder whether he’d find his weekly trip to the racetrack and the names of his relatives and their spouses the true sum of his life.

King David’s eulogy was simple. These are the last words of David. Thus says David the son of Jesse; thus says the man raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel (2 Samuel 23:1).

The great king of Israel summed up his life as the youngest son of an insignificant shepherd-farmer whom God elevated. God promoted him from being a shepherd, to servant in the house of the previous king, to giving David an eternal promise. All David had and was came from the God who had chosen him. He was also an artist whose every song bore an undeniable testimony of God’s goodness and faithfulness.

David’s obituary gave no mention of those he was leaving behind or his great achievements. Instead, he gave all the honor to his God.

What will be said of you?

Is Your Faith A Fishy Tale?

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Two deacons sat in a row boat fishing early one Sunday morning. The church bell rang and the one deacon said, “Better row to shore. It’s about time for church to begin.”

The second deacon sighed. “I can’t go to church today. My wife isn’t feeling well.”

We come up with a lot of reasons not to go to church, for instance, when we have friends or family visiting from out of town. Our visitors may not be churchgoers, and we don’t want to offend them, but when we go to church we show them our priorities. They may not accept our faith in Jesus, but at least they know what is important to us.

Invite your visitors to go to church with you. It may be exactly what they need. They may not attend with you, but that’s alright. As Christians, we are responsible for living out our faith; unbelievers are not.

Sometimes we feel that our time to visit is so limited that we want to make the most of that time together. An hour or two worshipping with other believers is a sign to your friends about the necessity of Jesus in your own life. Isn’t the importance of Jesus to you something you want your friends to know?

It’s easy to talk about how important Jesus is and how He is the love and center of your life, but when you don’t actually live that way because your friends or family are more important … it belies all the witnessing to them you’ve tried. Your faith becomes something of a fishy tale.

“Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed Jesus (Matthew 4:19-20).

Auf Wiedersehen

auf-weidersehenMy great-grandfather Rudolph Losli died when I was 14 years old. One of the things I remember about him was that he never said “good-bye” at the end of a conversation. When he was finished talking on the phone, for example, he’d abruptly hang up.

His son (my grandfather) asked once why he didn’t end a conversation like everyone else by saying “good-bye.” He replied, “Why should I say good-bye when I know I’m going to see you later?

As Christians, the Bible says that we don’t sorrow at death as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Ephesians 2:12 describes those who are not born again as having no hope and without God in the world. For the unsaved, there is a terrible hopelessness when a loved one dies. It’s why they cling unmercifully to the memory of those who have died. They sorrow without thought or assurance of eternity.

For the unsaved, death is a permanent separation of relationship, but as Christians we do not despair at death. We will grieve, but we never truly say “farewell” to our family in Christ, but merely like the German phrase auf wiedersehen, “until we meet again.”

The resurrected Jesus has made our partings as believers temporary (1 Thessalonians 4:14-18). For those with faith in Christ Jesus as Saviour, death is but the blink of an eye in this world and immediate entrance into a hope-filled eternal bliss in the next as we see Jesus face-to-face in His glory and are made like Him (1 John 3:2-3).

Give Thanks to the Lord

thanksgivingSome like the white Christmas with family. Others enjoy the cemeteries, haunted houses, and monsters of Halloween. For me, my favorite holiday is Independence Day.

My hometown, Hillsboro, Oregon, puts on the largest Fourth of July parade west of the mighty Mississippi River.

I’ve attended the parade nearly every year of my 50 years. I’ve seen high school marching bands, politicians shaking hands, senior citizens strumming old washboards, horses in hats, clowns with squirting umbrellas, dogs pulling carts, policemen doing tricks on motorcycles, boy scouts riding bicycles, rodeo and dairy queens, old cars, and war veterans proudly marching alongside the American flag.

I enjoy sitting on the side of the street with my family, scanning the crowds for someone I might know, and watching the children. There’s something close to magical about children and parades.

In recent years, many entrants in the parade have taken to tossing candy to the crowd. Even adults have been known to dash into the street, elbowing five-year olds to get their hands on that mini-roll of Smarties.

The funny thing is that as the parade nears the two hour conclusion, so much candy has been thrown that the crowd begins throwing it back to the parade participants! There is so much candy that we stop appreciating the generous gift.

The solution to ingratitude is to give thanks. In America, we live in a place and a time when we have much, much more than we need or really want. We quickly become ungrateful for our bounty. When we realize how much we really have, and how easily it can be taken away by robbers or tornadoes or our own carelessness, we learn to be grateful.

Society says, “Easy come, easy go.”  I prefer to say, Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! (Psalm 106:1).

HAPPY THANKSGIVING DAY!