When Family Fails

Sons of Noah

CONTEXT = We generally have a high opinion of Noah.  This opinion is well-founded, as the Bible testifies to Noah’s standing in the eyes of the Lord.  Here are some examples of biblical testimony about Noah.

Genesis 6:8-9 = BUT NOAH FOUND FAVOR IN THE EYES OF THE LORD.  THIS IS THE ACCOUNT OF NOAH.  NOAH WAS A RIGHTEOUS MAN, BLAMELESS AMONG THE PEOPLE OF HIS TIME, AND HE WALKED WITH GOD.

Genesis 7:1 = THE LORD THEN SAID TO NOAH, “GO INTO THE ARK, YOU AND YOUR WHOLE FAMILY, BECAUSE I HAVE FOUND YOU RIGHTEOUS IN THIS GENERATION.”

Genesis 9:1 = THEN GOD BLESSED NOAH AND HIS SONS, SAYING TO THEM, “BE FRUITFUL AND INCREASE IN NUMBER AND FILL THE EARTH.”

Noah is mentioned in the “Faith Hall of Fame in Hebrews 11:7, where it is written, BY FAITH NOAH, WHEN WARNED ABOUT THINGS NOT YET SEEN, IN HOLY FEAR BUILT AN ARK TO SAVE HIS FAMILY.  BY HIS FAITH HE CONDEMNED THE WORLD AND BECAME HEIR OF THE RIGHTEOUSNESS THAT COMES BY FAITH.

And so we find today’s passage a little shocking and disconcerting.

Please read Genesis 9:18-29.

          Now be careful.  There’s good information here even if it comes from a cracked pot.

One proof that the Bible is true is that it is completely honest about its heroes.  They are not paragons of perfection, but are fallible human beings.  They sin and are forgiven again and again, just like we are.  This fact alone should make them more accessible to us, more relatable as people.

More good news – God forgave Noah and blessed Noah just as He’d promised He would. We all mess up.  We fall into sin, have errors of judgment, and often inflict our worst behavior on our family members.  God is not done with you, so get over yourself, get forgiven, and get moving forward!

When we fail at being family, there must be room for forgiveness and restoration that causes our relationships to improve.  Today we look at a negative example, people who failed as family.  May we learn from their mistakes and not repeat them in our own family!

Our family deserves our best behavior.

  1. Noah got “three sheets to the wind,” minus the sheets! (18-21)

In vs. 18-19 we are re-introduced to Noah’s three sons (first mention: 7:13).  The author takes pains to point out two important facts.  One, Ham was the father of Canaan.  (This fact may be a reason this account is included in the Bible.)  These three sons are the “fathers” of all the people who were – in ch. 11 – SCATTERED OVER THE EARTH.  There are elaborate theories about the dispersion of the peoples across the earth – suffice it to say everyone alive is a descendant of one of the three sons of Noah.

Noah is described as A MAN OF THE SOIL in v. 20.  This is new information.  Previously, we’ve only seen his carpentry skills.  This item is offered to explain why he planted a vineyard in the first place.

Apparently some time passed between verses 20 and 21.  According to an article on Inc.com, it takes two years for vines to bear fruit and four years before the first bottle of fermented wine is available.  This is not a spur-of-the-moment decision by Noah, it was something into which he poured a lot of time and effort.  I mention this only because it puts the full weight of responsibility on Noah.  This was not a reaction to the stress of the whole ark incident.  It was a genuine, full-fledged mistake.  No excuses.

After four years of toil and waiting, Noah finally got to enjoy the fruit of his labors and enjoyed it too much (21).  First sin: HE BECAME DRUNK.  Drinking wine is not a sin.  For example, Psalm 104:14-15 says that God gave wine to gladden the hearts of men.  But drunkenness is a sin.  Ephesians 5:18 condemns drunkenness as it lead to all other kinds of sin.  Proverbs 20:1 calls wine a MOCKER.

Second sin: Noah passed out and LAY UNCOVERED INSIDE HIS TENT.  Recall that just six chapters earlier (2:25) Adam and Eve were both NAKED in the garden but they FELT NO SHAME.  Then they disobeyed God (3:7) and those days of innocence were replaced with shame over their nakedness. The two situations are parallel; Noah, as were our original parents, in a garden paradise.  They both sinned against God and were ashamed by their exposure.  Biblically, to get drunk and be exposed in this way was a disgrace (see Habakkuk 2:15 and Lamentations 4:21).  The grammar of the Hebrew makes it clear that Noah uncovered himself before passing out.  This was no accident; for whatever reason, Noah chose be naked.  That’s what makes this a sin, not an accident.

The three brothers reacted to the news in different ways.  We start with Ham, the troublemaker.   The Hebrew implies there was more to Ham’s reaction than mere amazement at seeing his father lying naked in his tent.  It implies Ham was somehow happy to see his father uncovered.  Medieval Jewish scholars theorized that Ham mutilated Noah or committed a homosexual act with him.  It could be Ham thought the whole episode was funny.

However you explain it, Ham went and told the “whole world” what Noah had done (22).  This is the only explanation the text supports: Ham was guilty of the sins of gossip and of disrespecting his father.  Had he simply not said a thing, this whole event would have passed peaceably.

Shem and Japheth had a more respectful attitude and devised a means to cover up their father without embarrassing him further (23).  That’s why they got the blessing and Ham got the bane.

  1. Noah got up angry and cursed Ham. (24-29).

In verses 24-25 Noah launched into a curse.  Given the usual state of a hangover, we can understand a certain amount of crankiness.  What’s not understandable is why he named Canaan, not Ham, as the object of the curse.  This is odd because the text does not name Canaan as having had anything at all to do with disrespecting Noah.

This discrepancy can be a clue into the purpose of including this account in the Bible.  The name “Canaan” should sound familiar to Bible readers.  Canaan was the set of people nations who settled on the east side of the Mediterranean Sea.  They would were a people of great wickedness.

Obviously, they are descendants of Noah’s grandson Canaan, the person Noah cursed.  Canaan was the region God gave to the Hebrews as their Promised Land.  It was the Canaanite people whom God commanded be utterly destroyed.  Therefore, a purpose of this event is to explain why God made that choice; why he took the newly-founded nation of Israel to take the Canaanites land and their lives.  Not only were they a wicked people (their sexual deviance has been revealed many times over by the archaeologist’s shovel), but they were also descended from the son Noah had cursed.

We need to look at the context to see another explanation for this discrepancy.  In verse one of this chapter it is written, THEN GOD BLESSED NOAH AND HIS SONS, SAYING TO THEM, “BE FRUITFUL AND INCREASE IN NUMBER AND FILL THE EARTH.”  Noah was aware of this blessing and knew it was folly to curse Ham when God had already blessed him.  Canaan had not enjoyed God’s blessing and could be cursed.

Verses 26-29 deal Noah’s blessing of his other sons and the end of his days. He blessed Shem.  One of Shem’s descendants was Abram, the man whom God called into the territory of the Canaanites.  He would become known as Abraham.  The offspring of Shem have come to be known as “Semites,” a name we use as synonymous with Jews.

As later chapters in Genesis will testify, God promised Abraham all the territory occupied by the Canaanites.  In the books of Exodus, Joshua, and Judges, we read how, after 400 years of slavery in Egypt, the Israelites got that land.  Incredibly, the sons of Shem were to triumph over and enslave the sons of Canaan, bringing Noah’s curse into being.

Noah also blessed Japheth, but under the blessing of Shem: “MAY JAPHETH LIVE IN THE TENTS OF SHEM.”  In the curse and blessings Noah spoke predictively; foreshadowing world changing events that started with a disrespectful son.  It’s a shame that after having cleansed the world with a flood, humanity immediately returned to its sinful ways.

In spite of all the family drama, Noah lived a supernaturally long life (28-29).  This would be a good place to clarify; just because Noah’s curse and blessings came to pass throughout the course of history, it would be a mistake to say Noah “caused” all this.  Each person and each generation makes their own choices.  Neither God nor Noah’s offspring were in any way “fated” because of Noah’s words.  Noah’s blessing and curse were as much prophecy as they were disciplinary.

This passage may seem like a poor choice of texts for Father’s Day; a sad chapter of biblical history best forgotten.  However, this text has historically been misused to justify some horrible things by making them seem biblical.

This text was used to justify African slavery.  Without any biblical reason to do so, people said that Ham and his sons were dark-skinned; therefore the curse of slavery was applied to the Negro race by Noah and was therefore legitimate.

If that sounds superficial, unbiblical, and just plain stupid, it should.  Especially on Father’s Day, I’m ashamed to say it was someone who shared my family name that first popularized this so-called “Curse of Ham.”  In 1578 a sailing captain named George Best published an account of his travels in the southern hemisphere and attempted to justify his work as a slave trader.  In that book he set forth this false teaching.

I mention this so you understand why this goofy little passage everyone overlooks needs to be scrutinized and understood.  It’s also important for us to see that choices have consequences.  Sometimes the consequences are temporary and personal; sometimes they are inter-generational and universal.

Noah sinned by getting drunk and being uncovered.  Ham sinned by gossiping and disrespecting his father.  The immediate consequence was Canaan being cursed.  The long-term consequence was all of Canaan’s descendants being enslaved by the descendants of Shem.

We tend to trivialize things, especially when we are the guilty party.  We say things like, “It was a little white lie.  Why are you making a big deal over it?”  This passage should impress us with the seriousness of all sin and the deadly consequences it can have even generations after us.

Look at it another way.  Consider something a parent or some other adult you trusted did or said that hurt you.  Forgiveness may have been offered and received, but the words are not forgotten.  Whether you repeat them or not, they affect your behavior and your behavior is repeated or avoided in the next generations.  Families are serious business!

All of this to explain and motivate us to adhere to this simple truth: Our family deserves our best behavior.  I tell you this not on the authority of an expert practitioner.  I have failed my family too often.  Instead, I tell you this on the authority of the Word of God and my calling to tell you the truth, no matter how unpleasant and unpopular it may be.

I have never preached on this passage and I would venture to say most preachers go their careers without bringing it up.  It’s like one of those “skeletons” in the family “closet,” the story we know but ignore because it’s embarrassing.  However, we ignore things like this at our peril.  We need to face it, confess it, be forgiven and do better.  That’s what we do when family fails.

 

RESOURCES:

https://www.inc.com/ss/8-steps-to-owning-your-own-vineyard

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curse_of_Ham

More Hard Sayings of the Old Testament, Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.

Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 2, John H. Sailhammer.

 

A Saintly Stepfather

(Please read Matthew 1:18-25 in your favorite Bible.  I have used the NIV as a basis for these remarks.)
There was the little boy who approached Santa in a department store with a long list of requests. He wanted a bicycle and a sled, a chemical set, a cowboy suit, a set of trains, a baseball glove and roller skates.
“That’s a pretty long list,” Santa said sternly. “I’ll have to check in my book and see if you were a good boy.”
“No, no,” the youngster said quickly. “Never mind checking. I’ll just take the roller skates.”
A less materialistic little fellow came closer to the real meaning of Christmas. A store owner was doing some last minute Christmas shopping with his young son when he saw another store owner with whom he had been friends for some time. The two of them exchanged greetings and spoke with each other about what a financially profitable season it had been for their respective stores. The small boy overheard his father say, “This has been the best Christmas ever.”
As the store owners parted company, the father and son continued their shopping, but the father noticed his son had become very quiet. He inquired as to his son’s silence, and his son replied, “Dad, you just told Mr. Johnson that this was the best Christmas ever.”
His dad replied, “I did, son. The economy is great, and people are really spending.”
“O.K.” the son replied, “It’s just that I always thought the first Christmas was the best one.”
<Retrieved from http://www.tonycooke.org/holiday-resources/christmas_illustrations/ on 12/2/16.>
More than any other holy day, Christmas has been co-opted by our culture, turning it into something irrelevant to the event itself. We know from church history that the church took Dec. 25th away from the pagans who were celebrating the winter solstice. Now it seems they want their
holiday back.
The important thing to we who believe is keeping our perspective in order. At Christmas, we celebrate one of God’s signature events. He became one of us. Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man at the same time is a fact that taxes our knowledge and our imagination, but is wholly necessary for a saving faith.
Whatever reason others may have to observe Christmas in their own way, ours is to look to the Incarnation, the in-boy revelation of God, and rejoice that He came. This is why we return to the biblical texts year after year, reaffirming the faith we have received as a heritage and work to pass along as a legacy.
Last Sunday we looked at the family tree of Jesus. There we saw an important if neglected figure in our history of faith, a man named Zerubbabel. He set an example of perseverance and devotion to doing the will of God that we would do well to follow.
Which leads us to today. At the top of that family tree we found the name Joseph. Joseph, we should observe, was NOT the biological father of Jesus. While Matthew includes Jesus at the very top of Joseph’s family tree, this is not for the usual reason. It is not a relationship of blood that bound Jesus to Joseph.
As we shall see, God is the Father of Jesus. One of the persons of the Trinity would, from Jesus’ birthday forward, be known as “God the Son” because he accepted a human body that God the Holy Spirit made for Him in cooperation with a brave little lady named Mary.
Out of convenience and respect we refer to Joseph as Jesus’ “father,” but it would be more accurate to say that he was Jesus’ “stepfather” or “adoptive father.” I do not make this point to take anything away from Joseph. He too is a great man of faith who sets an example for us to follow.
1. Joseph made a wrong but kind decision (1:18-19).
It was a wrong decision because he did not know the true means of Mary’s pregnancy. Verse eighteen clearly tells the reader the cause of Mary’s pregnancy: THROUGH THE HOLY SPIRIT. Since he believed that Mary’s pregnancy was disgraceful, Joseph decided to DIVORCE her.
It was kind decision because he did not want to expose Mary to disgrace or harm. Joseph writhed on the horns of a dilemma. On the one hand, he was FAITHFUL TO THE LAW. The Law had a very strict penalty for adultery; death by stoning (see Leviticus 20:10). On the other hand, Joseph wished to spare Mary of both kinds of suffering if he could. If he extended her mercy, that outcome could be avoided. However, there was still the court of public opinion and the DISGRACE Mary would face in the community.
Joseph resolved his dilemma by his decision to keep the DIVORCE and its cause quiet. He wanted to keep Mary and her pregnancy out of the public eye as much as possible. In this instance, Joseph is an example of the classic struggle between law and grace, between holiness and love. Knowing how to balance these sometimes complimentary virtues is one essence of wisdom.
2. God’s messenger changed Joseph’s mind (1:20-21).
The word “angel” literally means “messenger.” The ANGEL OF THE LORD APPEARED TO JOSEPH IN A DREAM to deliver God’s message about the truth behind Mary’s pregnancy.
Let’s note the specifics of the message.
The angel addresses him as JOSEPH, SON OF DAVID. Especially in Matthew’s Gospel, it is essential to note that Jesus came as the fulfillment of God’s promises in the Old Testament to send a Messiah. One aspect of the Messiah is that he would continue the dynasty of David, being one of His descendants. We looked into this last week. Though Joseph is not Jesus’ father, it is still important that he be a descendant of David, and that fact is affirmed again by the angel.
DO NOT BE AFRAID TO TAKE MARY HOME AS YOUR WIFE. Of what was Joseph AFRAID? Based on the context, we can assume he was afraid of violating the Law. He may have also feared public ridicule or retribution.
This statement is puzzling if we don’t understand that culture’s wedding traditions. When the marriage was arranged and agreed-upon, the couple was considered to be married in every way until the wedding day. Then the wedding was held and the union consummated for the first time. What looks to us as an “engagement” is a different relationship in their culture. In this case, as Mary’s “reputation” was already under suspicion, Joseph was told to move up the wedding date and immediately include Mary in the home he had made for the two of them.
WHAT IS CONCEIVED IN HER IS FROM THE HOLY SPIRIT. Mary was not, as everyone assumed, guilty of adultery. She had not cheated on Joseph. Just the opposite; she had been faithful to both Joseph and God. The truth of the matter was that her pregnancy was a miraculous act of God.
SHE WILL GIVE BIRTH TO A SON…YOU ARE TO GIVE HIM THE NAME JESUS…HE WILL SAVE HIS PEOPLE FROM THEIR SINS. HIS PEOPLE are the Jews. Jesus’ own description of His mission was to the nation of Israel first.
FROM THEIR SINS = Jesus came to save people. Sin leads to death. The sacrifice of blood is God’s cure for the problem of sin and Jesus’ blood would be shed for that purpose.
3. Interlude: explaining prophecy (1:22-23).
As we’ve observed, Matthew is very concerned about Jesus as the fulfillment of prophecy, so, no surprise that 22 verses into his Gospel, we have the first citation of fulfilled prophecy. This is not part of the angel’s message, it’s an aside delivered by Matthew. Let’s note the specifics.
THE VIRGIN WILL CONCEIVE AND GIVE BIRTH. This is obviously a supernatural, miraculous occurrence. Both Matthew and Luke go to lengths (as we’ll see in v. 25) to let us know Mary’s pregnancy was this miracle.
To be clear – the conception of Jesus was supernatural; a miracle. The birth of Jesus was completely natural and typical. Mary shared the experience of every mother from Eve onward.
SHE WILL…GIVE BIRTH TO A SON, just as the angel predicted to Joseph in v. 21. As we see later in the passage, this is exactly what came to pass.
THEY WILL CALL HIM IMMANUEL might, at first glance, seem contradictory with the angel’s instruction to Joseph to name Him Jesus. Note that THEY, not “you” will call Him Immanuel. This is a name others will bestow on Jesus. The meaning of this name or title is literally “God with us;” Jesus was God present in the flesh. What is more significant than the name itself is what it tells us about Jesus; He would be GOD WITH US.
4. Joseph completely obeyed God (1:24-25).
WHEN JOSEPH WOKE UP means he didn’t waste any time. Joseph was obedient in time and in the fullness of the angel’s instructions.
It’s my pet theory that the wedding date was moved up and perhaps it was observed without the usual fanfare and the customary week-long party. I speculate that it was early enough in Mary’s pregnancy that no one else knew about it and a quick wedding might mislead others into thinking Jesus was Joseph’s son.
This theory has only a little support in the Bible. In Matthew 13:55, when Jesus returned to Nazareth after beginning His ministry, the people of Nazareth remarked, “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?” If they had ever known about Mary’s pregnancy before consummating her relationship with Joseph, they forgot about it. I like to think that Joseph was such a kind-hearted man that he was willing to endure a slur on his character rather than let Mary take the heat for something she clearly had not done; be unfaithful to him.
Joseph is such a faithful man he took the command of God one step further and did not insist on his conjugal rights: HE DID NOT CONSUMMATE THEIR MARRIAGE UNTIL [after] SHE GAVE BIRTH TO A SON. This, of course, fulfilled the prophecy entirely, maintaining Mary’s virginity until the birth of Jesus. Also, Joseph followed through on all the angel’s instructions and GAVE [Mary’s son] THE NAME JESUS.
For all kinds of reasons, Christmas has occasionally been a tense, hotly contested holiday. One of the recurring stories is non-Christians complaining about how the holiday gives Christianity too much of the spotlight.
You may remember that our former governor Bill Janklow was not one to let complaints bother him too much. When criticized about having a nativity scene on display, Janklow prepared to let every religion put something on display in the Capitol, and even set aside an “empty corner” for the use of atheists.
Tony Cooke and David Beebe came up with a cute and insightful look at the conflicts of Christmas. They took a popular poem and wrote their own version of it. The titled it ‘Twas the Fight Before Christmas.
‘Twas the fight before Christmas,
And all through the house,
Not a creature was peaceful,
Not even my spouse.
The bills were strung out on our table with dread,
In hopes that our checkbook would not be in the red.
The children were fussing and throwing a fit,
When Billy came screaming and cried, “I’ve been bit.”
And Momma with her skillet, and I with the remote,
She said, “You change one more channel and I’ll grab your throat.”
When on the TV there arose such a clatter,
I sat up on the couch to see what was the matter.
When what to my wondering eyes should appear,
The cable was out, it was my worst fear.
“The Cowboys, the Celtics, the Raiders, the Knicks,
Without the sports channel I’d soon need a fix!”
And then in the midst of my grievous sorrow,
I remembered the times I had promised, “tomorrow…”
“Not now, my children, but at some soon time,
Dad will play with you, and things will be fine.”
Now under conviction, I looked at my wife,
Where was my kindness? Why all the strife?
My heart quickly softened; I now saw my task,
Some love and attention was all they had asked.
I gathered my family and called them by name,
And told them with God’s help I’d not be the same.
We’ll keep Christ in Christmas and honor His plan.
No more fights before Christmas—on that we will stand.
My children’s eyes twinkled; they squealed with delight.
My wife gladly nodded; she knew I was right.
It was the fight before Christmas, but God’s love had come through,
And just like He does, He made all things new.
<Retrieved from http://www.tonycooke.org/holiday-resources/christmas_illustrations/ on 12/2/16.>

We redeem the days of Advent by following the faith example set for us by Joseph.  In addition to being faithful to God’s will, Joseph showed grace.  He demonstrated personal holiness in his full devotion to God and gracious love in the sacrifices he made for Mary and by adopting Jesus as his son.

Proud Papa

I tell you, fathers don’t get any respect…even on Father’s Day!

Mothers get the red carpet treatment on their day, with fabulous brunches and beautiful bouquets. For the fathers, however, retailers have cleverly priced almost everything under $9.99!
Case in point: the Talking Fly Swatter. It’s a lime-green fly swatter with a little speaker that says stuff like “Hasta la vista, baby!” “Flight canceled!” and “Die sucker!” every time you try to use it.

I tell you, fathers don’t get any respect…

The children begged for a hamster, and after the usual fervent vows that they alone would care for it, they got one. They named it Danny. Two months later, when Mom found herself responsible for cleaning and feeding the creature, she’d had enough and promptly located a prospective new home for it.

The children took the news of Danny’s imminent departure quite well, though one of them remarked, “He’s been around here a long time–we’ll miss him.”

“Yes,” Mom replied, “But he’s too much work for one person, and since I’m that one person, I say he goes.”

Another child offered, “Well, maybe if he wouldn’t eat so much and wouldn’t be so messy, we could keep him.”

But Mom was firm. “It’s time to take Danny to his new home now,” she insisted. “Go and get his cage.”

With one voice and in tearful outrage the children shouted, “Danny? We thought you said Daddy!”

I tell you, fathers don’t get any respect…

A Father’s Day Poem

Dad, Dad, Dad. The dear old worthless geezer. 
Oh the fusses I have had, with that old patient teaser. 
He lacks the spirit of a mouse, most anyone can ‘down’ him. 
We let him hang around the house. Its cheaper than to drown him.

I tell you, fathers don’t get any respect…

According to the “Almanac for Farmers & City Folk,” The largest number of collect calls are made on Father’s Day.

Fortunately, dads have a good sense of humor. Most of them. Today we want to highlight six biblical virtues that dads are supposed to have. You know they were intended for dads because these six virtues spell out the word “FATHER.”

F” is for FAITHFUL (Hebrews 11:6).

AND WITHOUT FAITH IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO PLEASE HIM, FOR WHOEVER WOULD

DRAW NEAR TO GOD MUST BELIEVE THAT HE EXISTS AND THAT HE REWARDS

THOSE WHO SEEK HIM. (ESV)

Faith that pleases God consists of belief in two things: that God exists and that His existence gives this life consequence.

Believing that God is real is the easy part, as proven by the fact that 90% of Americans believe it. However, when it comes to acting in ways consistent w/t reality of God, I suspect the number of participants drops off dramatically. Popularity not withstanding, real faith results in an increasingly God-centered life; real faith makes changes.

Belief that God rewards seekers follows naturally if you accept the first point. In other words, your life has consequence. Daily decisions are important. The writer of Hebrews expresses it positively to encourage believers, but the negative side is just as true; God’s wrath will be poured out on the unbelieving and wicked.

Without faith it is IMPOSSIBLE TO PLEASE God. If we want the rewards and not the wrath, then we must start with faith. Men, we must be full of faith.

Faithful fathers relate to their family in a way that pleases God. Men, treat your family in a way that recognizes God is present and that one day you will account for every word and deed. Since you’re going to eat your words, make ’em sweet. Don’t make family relationships the least holy; make them as holy as every other relationship you have. Holy relationships are marked by love, respect, positivity, and grace.

A” is for ACTIVE or AMBITIOUS (James 2:18-20).

BUT SOMEONE WILL SAY, “YOU HAVE FAITH AND I HAVE WORKS.” SHOW ME

YOUR FAITH APART FROM YOUR WORKS, AND I WILL SHOW YOU MY FAITH BY

MY WORKS. YOU BELIEVE THAT GOD IS ONE; YOU DO WELL. EVEN THE

DEMONS BELIEVE – AND SHUDDER! DO YOU WANT TO BE SHOW, YOU

FOOLISH PERSON, THAT FAITH APART FROM WORKS IS USELESS? (ESV)

Faith and works are not opposing approaches to God, they are two sides of the one approach that is real. Belief in the one true God is a starting point, not the finish line. With a little bit of irony, James notes how such belief is something that even DEMONS believe – only they shudder in fear at the thought of it.

The finish line is death. The balance of the race that is this life is finding ways to WORK OUT the consequences of our decision to accept the truth about God. A half-faith is no faith at all, just as a coin with only one side is not legal tender. If you’re going to have a saving faith, you’re going to have to be ACTIVE with it. No half-measures.

Men can be very ambitious in their vocations and avocations; they need to bring a similar ambition to their work within the home. “Active” fathers take an active faith into their home. The easy part of fathering is two-fold.

One easy part is to provide for their family’s material needs. Godly fathers take on more than just physical provision for their family, they actively make emotional and spiritual provision too.

The other easy part is to be proud of their family. Ask the average person what they value most and most of them will reflexively say “family.” The more difficult thing is to give your family reasons to be proud of YOU. ACTIVE fathers promote respect for the family name and forge a godly identity.

The more difficult thing and the thing most needed, is for fathers need to have a full-featured faith that is useful for godliness. Fathers are not the only leaders in the home, but they need to actively and ambitiously work to lead the family in God’s direction.

T” is for TENDER-HEARTED (Galatians 6:2).

BEAR ONE ANOTHER’S BURDENS AND SO FULFILL THE LAW OF CHRIST. (ESV)

This portion of the New Testament book of Galatians deals with how Christians are to relate to one another. It’s one of many places where human nature and spiritual nature interact to form our way of life.

It’s a common experience of life that you find out who your true friends are when you are in moments of greatest need. True friends will come alongside to provide help and support and encouragement, false friends will make themselves scarce. That’s human nature.

But Paul identifies something more important than human nature being operative here. Bearing one another’s burdens is one way we fulfill the LAW OF CHRIST. Remember Jesus’ law? “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you,” JHN 15:12. This means following Jesus’ example in love. Including our sins, Jesus bore every burden on the cross. The ultimate solution to all our problems is found atop Golgotha. Following His example and being joined in His Body, the Church, means that burden-bearing is standard behavior for followers of Jesus. Love is true when it seeks what is best for the beloved.

The ruin of the tender-heartedness expressed in this verse is selfishness and impatience. Selfishness can blind us to the burdens others carry. We’re too wrapped up in our own situations to take notice and thereby miss opportunities to help. Impatience takes many forms and is, in my opinion, the root of many problems. For example, impatience will cause a man to try to “fix” things when he needs to listen. It will show up when he says, “Not again!” or “Aren’t you over that yet?”

Tender-heartedness can be a difficult virtue to achieve because you have to really want it. You have to seek it, cultivate it, actively work to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. It requires listening, watching, waiting, and apologizing – things for which men aren’t known for being naturally good. BUT, as we said, this is based on Jesus’ nature, not human nature!

H” is for HOLY (Romans 12:1-2).

I APPEAL TO YOU THEREFORE, BROTHERS, BY THE MERCIES OF GOD, TO PRESENT YOUR BODIES AS A LIVING SACRIFICE, HOLY AND ACCEPTABLE TO GOD, WHICH IS YOUR SPIRITUAL WORSHIP. DO NOT BE CONFORMED TO THIS WORLD, BUT BE TRANSFORMED BY THE RENEWAL OF YOUR MIND, THAT BY TESTING YOU MAY DISCERN WHAT IS THE WILL OF GOD, WHAT IS GOOD AND ACCEPTABLE AND PERFECT. (ESV)

To be “holy” is to be different from the rest of the world – set apart to God’s glory and purpose. These two important verses describe the reason and the method of holiness.

The reason for holiness is to give God the kind of worship He accepts. Self-sacrifice is the kind of worship God accepts. Worship that costs us nothing is worth nothing. To be meaningful and effective, worship is a little more death to self. This is done in view of God’s MERCIES. In other words, Jesus made Himself a “living sacrifice” on the cross, as His follower, you’re to do the same on a spiritual scale.

The method of holiness is resisting the world’s pressure to conform, choose transformation instead. Transformation is achieved by changing your mind! Unlearn the world’s definition of manliness and substitute Jesus’ example in it’s place. Unlearn all worldly values – resist the pressure to conform to them. Choose the life-long process of transformation into a reproduction of Jesus Christ.

Holy men make the best fathers. By this I mean “men that are holy,” regardless of their vocation.

Our culture does not make good fathers. In fact, we’ve seen fatherhood become something of a quaint institution, with record numbers of women left to care for children alone. The masculine values of our culture are promiscuity, independence, wealth, power, and pride. The sacrifice of these foolish things is a form of spiritual worship.

The masculine values of our faith are strength, commitment, love, and godliness. Becoming like Jesus enables a man to stand with his family, leading by serving.

E” is for ENCOURAGING (Hebrews 3:13).

BUT ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER DAILY, AS LONG AS IT IS CALLED TODAY, SO THAT NONE OF YOU MAY BE HARDENED BY SIN’S DECEITFULNESS. (NIV)

Encouragement is not optional; it’s a requirement. ENCOURAGE is the same Gk word used for the Holy Spirit; it’s also translated as “Comforter.” This isn’t mere positivity; it’s also translated as “exhort.” To exhort someone is to urge them to do the right thing. DAILY shows that encouragement is something we require. Encouragement serves an important purpose; to keep our soul from being HARDENED BY SIN’S DECEITFULNESS. Sin hardens our conscience and makes us insensitive to the will of God and incapable of loving others.

One of the important reasons God puts us together in families and in churches is so that we can encourage one another. The need for encouragement is not a sign of weakness; its simply human nature. While everyone needs different amounts of encouragement and favors different types, it’s as necessary for the health of our souls as food is for the health of our bodies. Encouragement is the “daily bread” of the spirit.

An amazing thing about family relationships is the strength of a child’s desire for dad’s approval. I don’t claim to understand it, but I have observed it often enough to know that there a powerful desire at work that is part of our very nature.

It stinks, then, that men are so often so poor at encouraging. For whatever set of reasons, we don’t seem to know how to do it and too often choose not to. Unfortunately, teasing and anger come more easily, so we can be guilty of unbalancing our input to the negative side. Fathers who are not active encouragers neglect an essential aspect of family life at the peril of their families.

R” is for REASONABLE (Isaiah 1:18).

COME NOW, LET US REASON TOGETHER,” SAYS THE LORD; (ESV)

The OT prophets spoke for God and made many appeals to the people for Him. The prophets appealed to the people on the basis of their emotions, striking fear of wrath and the promise of reward. They appealed to them spiritually, describing the majesty and power of God. And they appealed to their REASON, trying to get them to stop and think about what they were doing, the consequences of their actions.

This passage is obviously an appeal to REASON. Had we read the rest of vs. 18-20, we would have learned that God was trying to reason with them to repent and obey His Law. In the book of Proverbs especially, there are many biblical appeals to reason. God gave us each a brain so we would use it to think about ways we can do the right thing, not to plot evil or devise excuses for our sin.

Remember what we read in Romans. Transformation happens through the renewal of our mind. It is by thinking and reason that we see God’s way is best for us and follow it. It is by thinking and reason that we read, understand, and apply the word of God.

“Reasonable” is one of the virtues at which men like to think they excel. Male and female brains typically have physical differences that make logic and practicality more appealing to men, emotion and sentimentality more appealing to women. That’s science, not a value judgment. It simply explains typical preferences.

However, reason is only a tool. It can be correctly used to do good and be godly or it can be misused to make excuses for sin and selfishness. Part of being “reasonable” is using your head in the right way, not the wrong.

Another part of being “reasonable” is to be open to reason. Being confident is a virtue, but taken too far it becomes close-mindedness and that’s a vice. Reasonable men listen.

A third part of being “reasonable” is being patient. As James wrote, QUICK TO LISTEN, SLOW TO SPEAK, AND SLOW TO BECOME ANGRY (1:19). Patience is a virtue, men.

An article from a British newspaper, the Telegraph, was published last December, but applies to Father’s Day. Here’s an excerpt: “When it comes to Christmas, it might be safe to assume children will ask Santa for an extensive list of toys, games and treats …. A study of 2,000 British parents found most children will put a new baby brother or sister at the top of their Christmas list, closely followed by a request for a real-life reindeer. A ‘pet horse’ was the third most popular choice …. Despite their material requests, the tenth most popular Christmas wish on the list was a ‘Dad.'”

Wow. That must mean that dads are becoming as scarce in British culture as they are here in America. We need to call men to accept their responsibility to be a father at all, then to be the kind of father God wants them to be.

The title of this message is “Proud Papa.” Generally that refers to a father who is proud of his family. In this case, however, I want to turn that around. I’ve been advocating for a papa of whom the family is proud. I’m calling the fathers, grandfathers, uncles, mentors, teachers – all the men in this virtual room who have families to be the kind of leaders who earn the pride of their family by being the kind of man your family needs you to be.

The Bible calls us to a high standard in all our behavior and relationships, and fatherhood is no exception. In fact, given the extraordinary influence of fathers and their general scarcity in our culture, you might say that fatherhood is a priority. Something to think about. And, after a day of celebrating, to act upon.