Saturday, June 16, 2018

180617 The Father in the Family

Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Being a father is a very complicated business. It should be obvious that there is a process that leads to fatherhood. First, there needs to be a wife! Then there needs to be time spent together growing into what the Bible calls “one flesh”. The term was first used in the very beginning of human relationships — in the garden of Eden! I invite you to use some imagination here.
Most of us had no real idea what rearing children would be like. Most men have the ability to be a parent. All that’s needed is a healthy, willing, woman! Or girl as the case may be.
Fatherhood began in the beginning…
God created man — male and female! Let’s look at the creation record found in Genesis 1:26-27. Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
This passage has some interesting facts in it. First, God speaks of himself as plural. “Let us make man…” I am sure God is not speaking of the angels when he uses the plural pronoun. God does not consult with us or the angels when he chooses to act. It is important to remember that all men are created after the likeness of God. Immediately God gives mankind employment. “And let them have dominion…”. Even though there is a list of subject beings the job description is really summed up in “over all the earth”! In verse 27, God (plural) created man (singular) in the image of God then He changed from singular to plural “male and female he created them”! This is not a different account from what will be taught in chapter 2. The two accounts supplement and complete each other.
After the man, Adam, was created he was introduced to the animals around him. We do not know how much time passed with Adam being the only human on earth. It is easy to think that those few verses the Bible gives us represent a very short period of time. I am of the opinion that, at the very least, several months passed. In one sense, Adam would not have been alone because he was with God on a daily basis. On the other hand, God wanted him to be aware of the situation he was in without a woman. So, in order to get Adam into the right frame of mind, God saw to it that…
Adam observed the creation of all animals. Let’s read Genesis 2:18-20. Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” 19 Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.
I certainly do not think that the God of heaven and earth was surprised by the concept, “it is not good that the man should be alone.” Remember, when God created man he created him male and female. Not that his physical body showed both genders but his soul was dual. The person living in that body included the spiritual elements of male and female.
God’s promise to provide a helper for Adam took a little time. God brought every beast of the field and bird of the air before Adam. That must’ve taken a considerable amount of time. This was an important part of the process. The man had to come to the conclusion, on his own, that it was not good for him to be alone. He would have seen two animals come by him and would observe only minor differences between them. As time went by the two animals became three, or more. Not only was Adam the only human on earth his relationship to the animals must have been unsatisfying to say the very least. Identifying all of the other animals was part of the process of…
Fixing what was not good. Let’s read Genesis 2:21-22. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.
I believe this whole process was designed to teach Adam that he needed human companionship. Yes, he had God! And certainly was not alone in that sense but he had no one of his own kind to talk to or relate to.
God could have caused these things happen anyway he chose. And surely there were other ways to provide a helpmate for man. Apparently, the other animals were placed on earth in pairs. Our Father could have simply placed Adam and Eve together in the garden. I do not believe that would have a satisfying outcome. The man literally needed to hunger for another human. Adam needed to see that he was alone. He had to feel loneliness. The first surgical procedure was performed by God himself when he removed the female construct out of the man he had placed in the garden. If you have ever had major surgery you know what it is like to be put into a deep sleep only to awake and discover you’re missing something. Adam may, or may not, I felt pain upon awakening but the Bible is very clear that
Adam rejoiced in this new creature. Let’s keep the story going Genesis 2:23. Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh;           she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”
I don’t want to question the divine narrative so much as to recognize the fact that many things said and done are not recorded in the Bible. I believe that the most natural response to these events would have been more spontaneous and joyous.
Now it’s time to really use our imagination. I believe that Adam woke up to find the woman standing nearby. I find it hard to believe that his first words were what is recorded here. I don’t believe Adam started by saying “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh;” I believe it would’ve gone more like, “WOW” who is this amazingly beautiful creature the Father is giving to me! Then, when he got his breath back, he would have repeated the words the Bible records. The Bible tells us that…
The concept of family was born. Let’s move ahead to Genesis 2:24-25. Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
These are obviously the words of God. Since God had already established the truth that man should not be alone. God established the concept of future generations. Though Adam did not have a father and mother all future generations would. Since Adam had met the love of his life his sons would need to leave Adam and Eve and establish their own household with a wife. There was no other family on earth to provide wives so when the men began to feel the same feelings Adam had encountered they would have turned to one of their sisters. What? There’s no mention of sisters? Oh yes there is. If you will read the account in Genesis chapter 5 you will see that each generation “had other sons and daughters.” Just as Adam and Eve had. Apparently Able did not have a wife. But Cain did. In Genesis chapter 4 we have a record of the generations of Cain.
Now, what was God up to in this whole business?
Fathers were intended to be the teachers. Let’s move to Deuteronomy 4:9. Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children.
Here we find Moses talking to the people of Israel about how they would continue the story that they had been living out. They needed to have a way of “storing” the record. That would be done in their children and their children’s children. Moses admonishes them to take action to prevent them from forgetting what God did for them.
God did not set up schools to teach. It would seem that God’s primary purpose in the family is not just to procreate but also to store the record of important events.
The law of God was given to Moses to give to the people but we should remember that…
God gave the law in a family context. Let’s look at Deuteronomy 6:4-9. Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
The generation that stood at the Red Sea and later at Sinai had now passed from the scene and the new generation stood by the river Jordan. It was very important for them to love the Lord their God totally. With all their hearts with all their souls, with all their might. And it was not the end with them! It was to pass on to the next generation. Repeatedly the Bible tells us that the parents are to teach the children. And not just repeat the stories and leave it at that! But we are to “teach them diligently” the next generation. Diligently implies serious intention. God was not instructed them to set up a Sabbath school where the children were taught about an hour a week. They were to hang out with their parents. The parents were to talk about the things of God with their children. They were to spend time with them from the time they get up in the morning until they go to bed at night they were to teach these children. Then as we move toward the end of the words of Moses we find him repeating the admonition.
32:45-47 And when Moses had finished speaking all these words to all Israel, 46 he said to them, “Take to heart all the words by which I am warning you today, that you may command them to your children, that they may be careful to do all the words of this law. 47 For it is no empty word for you, but your very life, and by this word you shall live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess.”
Diligently — command them — that they may be careful — all of the words of the law! You see this is not just an exercise in education this is LIFE! The things they had been taught, the things we have been taught, were not empty words they were intended to be passed down to future generations. Later on we see that…
The family should be the school. Let’s look at a couple of Proverbs. Proverbs 22:6; Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. And 29:17 Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart.
The first Proverb that I will quote here doesn’t seem to always work. Parents have trained their children in the way they should go and those same children turn aside from the path. I remember many years ago struggling with this concept and then I came to understand that if we teach them, though they may drift along the way when they are old they will not depart from the path God has set for them. The next Proverb encourages us to use corrective discipline to encourage the children to follow the right path. The responsibility is not just on the parents…
Children are encouraged to learn. Let’s look back to Proverbs 1:8; Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching,
The child is urged to hear instruction. Pay attention! Listen to your father! Listen to your mother look at Proverb 23:22 Listen to your father who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old.
Your father and the mother gave you life! The parents are to instruct and the children are to listen. Spiritual life in the home is often treated pretty much like sex education. Parents know they should teach their children about sexual relations but often put it off until the world instructs the children. The same holds true with spiritual life if you don’t teach your children about salvation there’s no reason we can assume the world will not impose some kind of spiritual teaching that will turn them away from God.
Teaching children about spiritual life is more important than teaching them about sex education. Both should be done along with social relationships and good money management. Yet, all these things are often avoided. Let’s determine today — Father’s Day — that we will be good fathers; that we will be good parents and instruct them in the way they should go.
Looking back at Ephesians we find that the instructions point in two directions. Children are instructed to obey their parents and honor them. Then in that context fathers are to instruct their children in the way of the Lord. When this is properly done youth will become positive members of society. In both the Old Testament and the New longevity is promised to those who will properly use the law of God. It is God’s intention for the family to be the primary training ground of society. In this day the family has been made dysfunctional. Parents are intended to bring their children to the Lord. Parents should teach their children the plan of salvation.
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton, Ill, Standard Bible Society.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

180610 Imitators but not Imitations

1 Corinthians 4:16 I urge you, then, be imitators of me.
The Apostle to the Gentiles has put himself forward as the best possible example for the believers in Corinth to follow. As the founder of the church in Corinth, he has a deep concern for the congregations being scattered across the Roman world. In Paul’s second letter to the church at Corinth he recounted the many ways he suffered for the gospel’s sake. Remember, the Lord Jesus had promised that he would suffer, he surely did! As Paul listed his suffering he added to it “apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches” (2 Corinthians 11:28). There is not anyone more worthy of patterning our life after than the Apostle Paul!
Obviously, we do not want to pattern our life after his life before he was saved. He had applied himself to studies of the word of God and that’s good. He was so zealous that…
He had persecuted the church. Let’s look to his own testimony in Acts 26:9-11. “I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 And I did so in Jerusalem. I not only locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them. 11 And I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme, and in raging fury against them I persecuted them even to foreign cities.
These verses are part of Paul’s testimony in court before King Agrippa. He had said that he was very glad to be able to stand before the king. Paul had been so fervent in sharing his faith in that setting that he caused the king to say, “would you persuade me to be a Christian?” To which Paul replied, “I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am — except for these chains.” (Acts 26:28-29).
Here Paul gives the short version of his life before Christ. He had opposed the name of Jesus of Nazareth. He locked up many believers in prison. He had voted to condemn Christians to death. He had gone to foreign cities to persecute the church. It was on one of these trips that he met the Lord Jesus himself. A light shone around him and he heard a voice asking why he persecuted the speaker. In reply to that question, he asked, “Who are you, Lord?” In reply, the heavenly voice said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”
Paul’s testimony was so fervent that he caused the king to question his own faith. King Agrippa knew a good deal about Christianity but he had never put his faith in Jesus. And so far as we know, he never did.
Paul was a persecutor of the church and at the same time…
He was chosen by God from before his birth. Let’s look at Paul’s testimony in Galatians 1:15-16. But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, 16 was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone;
Paul wanted the Galatians to understand that he had not been seeking God but God had been seeking him. Paul was not seeking to know God instead he was seeking to destroy this new belief system called the Way! He was not converted by a man or even by the testimony of those he had been arresting. God had set him apart before he was born!
Several passages in the New Testament affirm quite clearly that God chose people who would be saved before they were saved. God’s choosing is called predestination. Generally speaking, people are pretty resistant to the idea of predestination. Instead, they want salvation based on free will.
The Bible tells us that we are born spiritually dead. We know that a dead person does not have any ability to make decisions or respond to the world around them. In order for a dead person to make a decision life has to be restored to them.
Restored might not be the right word. Life has to be given to them. Part of the struggle we have with salvation is that we wanted it to be our choice and not God’s. I admit that the process of salvation is not easy to understand. Simply put. we who were spiritually dead have been made alive by God and as such are “born again”! Jesus described the process in his conversation with Nicodemus as being like the wind. We don’t know where it comes from we don’t know where it goes we only see the results of it. So, before Paul was born he was chosen. Scripture indicates that God’s choosing us reaches back into the time before creation. Our names have been written in the Lamb’s book of life before the foundation of the world. (Revelation 13:8; 17:8).
Paul recognizes that he was saved by God’s choice and consequently…
He was willing to give up everything for Jesus. Let’s turn to Philippians 3:7-8. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.
“Whatever gain I had” was substantial. So far as his human qualifications were concerned he was all good. He was born in the right family on the right side of the tracks so to speak. He was taught — even trained — practically from his birth to be a good man of God. He lived in a world where he would memorize large parts of Scripture. He would have followed the direction of his teachers and his parents without hesitation. So far as the Mosaic Law was concerned he was blameless! He belonged to the conservative party in Israel. They were called Pharisees. Being a Pharisee was not a negative thing. They were very careful to follow the Law of Moses. Such a person would be welcome in pretty much any good church today. He had much to consider as being valuable. But he counted it all as loss in order to know Christ Jesus as Lord. He had come to realize that the things of this world are all temporary. When he gave up everything he took on a new pattern of living.
Paul’s pattern was Christ. Let’s turn to 1 Corinthians 11:1. Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.
To be like Jesus. Should be our goal. Paul takes a little different direction. If the Corinthians were having trouble imitating Jesus they could imitate Paul and let Paul be an imitator of Jesus. Paul was the founding pastor of the Corinthian church. As such, he had the right to admonish the church in the same way as of a father with his children.
All of us should live our lives in such a way that if a person imitated us, or patterned themselves after our lifestyle. They would not be wrong! They might not be perfectly doing what God wanted them to do because we are each individually programmed in the way we live to serve God. But we should always live in such a way that we could be a pattern for others.
Such a life brings peace. Let’s turn to Philippians 4:9. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
Paul encourages the Philippians to do the things he had taught them. Not just in class either but in observation. What they heard him say and what he did should be their spiritual education. Living out the Christian life is something that requires practice, practice, practice. Again and again, we need to focus on how to live the Christian life. Such a life brings peace. Here God is described as being the God of peace. As such he will be with us when we are obedient to him.
Paul has instructed the Philippians to avoid anxiety by taking everything to God in prayer and living lives filled with thanksgiving. When we do this a peace of God, beyond human understanding, will guard our hearts and minds. We should not only be able to follow our leaders and pattern our lives after them but we should recognize that…
Imitating Christ increases peace. Let’s look at the words of Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
He is able to increase our peace by taking the burden off our shoulders.
First of all, if we are laboring and carrying a heavy load, Jesus calls us to come to Him. His promise to us is that he would give us rest. Now rest is not just stillness. From time to time people advise me to get more rest! What I have discovered is resting can be pretty boring! I realize that is necessary. The Bible tells us that even Jesus took time off and rested (Mark 6:31). So there is a real need in our physical being to rest along with Jesus.
After we come to Jesus for rest then we join with Him in our work. He tells us to take his yoke and learn from Him. This is an example that would’ve been understood by his people. They lived in an agricultural world and the concept of the yoke as shared labor and training to be very common to them. The process was simple when a new beast of burden must be trained to the yoke it would be put in a double yolk with a strong well-trained animal on the other side. No matter how much the new trainee resisted he would be dragged along until he learned to cooperate. Then the new trainee would no longer have to carry the load himself. He would join in the shared load. So Jesus views us as the trainee and He as the trainer. As we allow Him to share our load He makes life easier. In fact, he promises, “my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” When it seems that we are overburdened we should turn aside to some rest and then consciously join with Christ in His yoke allowing Him to carry the load for us.
We will find…
In imitating Him we become more like Him. Let’s turn to 2 Corinthians 3:18. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
In this passage we see the Apostle recalling Moses’ experience in the wilderness. Moses had gone up on the mountain and met with God. There, God carved out the 10 Commandments on two tablets of stone. When Moses came down off the mountain his face shined because he had been talking with God. The people of Israel were afraid to come near him. Moses did not want the people to see his shining face fade so he put a veil over his face (Exodus 34:29-33). On the other hand, we do want people to see the glow of God on us. As we come closer and closer to the Lord we are being transformed into his image. The more we empty ourselves and draw near to God the more He reflects Himself through us. We have no glory in ourselves. We are like the moon. Let me explain. The moon is dark it has no light of its own. When we see what we call “moonlight” we are simply looking at the reflection of the sunlight off the moon. As the shadow of the earth slowly passes over the moon the light gets smaller. Then when it comes to full shadow the moon is totally dark. From that point forward the shadow moves off the moon until finally it comes to fullness. That’s exactly what we want to see in ourselves. We want our lives to reflect the Lord Jesus Christ and as we draw nearer to Him we will move closer to reflecting Him in the world.
Being like Him should be our primary goal. Let’s turn to 1 John 3:2-3. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
We are God’s children and as such we should reflect him in the world. I watch children as they grow up and see that, as time goes by, they looked more and more like their parents. Not only do they look more like their parents they even act like their parents. That is certainly not a bad thing.
Jesus is coming again to gather the church to Himself. When he appears we shall be like him. As we become more and more conscious of our family relationship with our heavenly Father and our older brother, Jesus, we will consciously purify ourselves.
This only happens because we have committed our life to him and he has begun to grow us into his image. Salvation is not just “joining the church”! Salvation is a consequence of our belief in Christ and our response to his invitation. What are we to believe? That Jesus took our sins into his own body and nailed them to the cross. We must confess that Jesus is Lord. We are to believe that God the Father, through the power of the Holy Spirit, raised Jesus from the dead.
In that same power, God shapes us into the image of Jesus Christ!
For our sake, God made Jesus to be sin, who knew no sin, so that in Christ we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton, Ill, Standard Bible Society.