Grace and Favor…

Favor or Grace, You can’t separate the Two (Luke 2:39-52)

I’ve often heard, he or she has found favour in the sight of God. For quite some time that phrase puzzled me. It puzzled me so much to the extent that I sought to found scriptural backing for such a statement.

        While searching the scripture, I did find allusions to such a statement. Not only that, I also discovered that one cannot have favor with God or anyone else for that matter without having some element of grace in the picture.

Who better to illustrate this parallelism than our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

        This scripture gives us a graphic depiction of some key inner workings in the life of Jesus. Very early in his earthly life, we are able to get an inside view as to how this concept of favour and grace are actually intertwined.

If you were to go back to the passage, you would be able to see that everything that took place in this passage took place as a result of what Jesus’ earthly parents did initially.

        Notice in verse 39,40 of Luke 2 that his earthly parents, Joseph and Mary were faithful adherents to the Law of the Lord. It is indicated that they had done all that was required of them as far as carrying out any ceremonial acts for a newborn child is concerned. Jesus had been circumcised, he had been named, he had been offered up to the Lord and a sacrificial offering was also made.

Joseph and Mary also received insight from persons who had foreknowledge of who Jesus was and affirmed the announcements.

        Now continuing to comply with the Law of Moses, they are worshipping God in the temple. This worship experience is taking place in their own home town of Nazareth. As they are worshipping God in the temple, scripture reveals to us that Jesus, the young child is growing physically but also spiritually. In addition, to his spiritual knowledge, we also learn that he is becoming wise also.

As a result of his exposure to the teachings in the temple scripture reveals that the grace of God was upon him.

For me, that’s an important revelation. The grace of God was in his life as a result of what he had actively chosen to do. We can learn from our Lord and Savior in this passage. A good deduction is, in order for the grace of God to become manifested in our lives, we have to be at a place where we are open to the teachings of the church.

Are we willing to take time out to listen and be a student of God’s word as we live from day to day? Even with our busy daily schedules, each of us can benefit from participating in the teachings of the church as they relate to God, ourselves and how we are to live in this life as people of faith.

Jesus’ parents were diligent in exposing their child to teachings of the faith and this exposure would definitely be beneficial in times to come.

        On one particular occasion, as the Feast of the Passover was going on in Jerusalem, while accompanying his parents Jesus ends up remaining in Jerusalem while his parents and others leave.

Not realizing that their son was not with them, a day or so later, Jesus’ parents begin looking for Jesus only to discover that he was not in their entourage. Later, they return to Jerusalem and discover that he was still in the temple in the company of the religious leaders and teachers.

Jesus apparently made a great impact on those in the temple area because the scriptures indicate that those persons in the area were amazed at his understanding and knowledge. After clearing up the matter with his parents, Jesus continues the journey with them to Nazareth. Even as he continue his journey we still see where he sought further wisdom and knowledge. And, as he continue to grow in wisdom and knowledge, he found favor with God and men.

Yes, favor with God and men. Again, my research in this area has helped me to become more aware that favor and grace parallel one another. One cannot have favor without grace nor grace without favor. The two are intertwined.

If Jesus was able to find favor and grace with God and men and we purport to be followers of him, should we not also follow his pattern? I think that we should be if you go back over this passage, you will see that Jesus got to where he was in life
through obedience. First, by his parent being obedient and then by his continual pursuit of knowledge as he studied and dialogued with the teachers of the law.

Yes, favor and grace was attainable for Jesus with God and men but not without cost. The cost was simply making a sacrifice to put himself in the place where he could grow.

        Do we honestly place ourselves in similar circumstances? Are we willing to make the sacrifices to grow in favor and grace with God?

God says to us in 2 Chronicles 15:2 “The Lord is with you, while you be with him; and if ye seek him, he will be found of you.” (KJV). And Proverbs 3:4 states, “So shalt thou find favor and good understanding in the sight of God and man.”

We too can find favor and grace with God and men but we have to actively seek it out

Are you being tested? God has a promise!

God blesses someone who perseveres under trial. Blessed means “fortunate,” and speaks of an inner quality of joy, a contentment in God not affected by outward circumstances. In fact the New Testament often uses this word to describe those who as far as outward circumstances are concerned appear not to be fortunate at all such as the poor, the hungry, the persecuted, or the martyrs. This blessing is a joy that the world can not take from us. It is joy that resides in the depths of your heart. Joy is a matter of choice. You can allow yourself to be miserable in life or you can choose to face the challenges of life with joy. Our joy flows from a personal connection with the Savior of the World. Nothing can ever take that away from you. 

The happiness of believers flows out of faithfully following Jesus. It comes after one has following Him through the good and the bad of life. Inner blessedness is the result of faithfully following Jesus even through the trials and tribulations of life.

And trials will come to the Christian who lives a SPIRITUAL LIFE. A young Christian who worked for a rich man was always telling his master that satan was after him and that he had a constant battle with him, but that he always won over satan. The master made fun of him, telling him that satan never bothered him. How was it, that the devil should bother the boy relentlessly? He would ask. The poor young Christian could not answer him. One day however, they went hunting together. The master shot at some wild ducks. Some he killed and some he just wounded. “Run”, the master said, “and catch the wounded ones first before they run away.” The young Christian came back laughing. He had the answer to the big question. “You know sir,” he said, “why satan does not tempt you? Because, you are dead to God, just like those ducks. He goes after the live ones, ones like me.”Point: temptation is something the Christian has to fight with as long as we are here. If you are not being tempted there is a good chance you’re doing what the devil wants already, so he has no need to bother you. James proclaims that the man is blessed who steadfastly endures [preservers] (hypo-meneo) trials or temptations [(peirasmon), same Greek word,] and has stood the test (dokimos genomenos). The word persevere comes from two Greek words. The first means “to remain” and the second means “under.” To persevere means, “to remain under.” The connotation is “one who remains under trials” and doesn’t crack. The idea here is faithfulness. Perseverance is standing steadfastly in the midst of trial, facing it in the faith of Jesus Christ. God wants to bring us to the place where we patiently wait upon Him to do His work in us. He wants to develop within us the patient assurance that He is at work, and He does His deepest and best work in our trials.

A BLACKSMITH understood the value of trails better than most. About eight years after he had given his heart to God, he was approached by an observant unbeliever with the question: “why is it you have so much trouble? I have been watching you. Since you joined the church and began to ‘walk square’ and seem to love everybody, you have had twice as many trials and difficulties as you had before. I thought that when a man gave himself to God his troubles were over. Isn’t that what the parsons tell us?” With a thoughtful but glowing face, the blacksmith replied: “Do you see this piece of iron? It is for the springs of a carriage. I have been ‘tempering’ [to soften hardened steel or iron by giving it more resiliency] it for some time. It gains elasticity through adding or absorbing carbon. I do this by heating it red-hot, and then plunge it into a tub of ice-cold water. This hot to cold process must be done many times. If I find it taking ‘temper,’ I heat and hammer it unmercifully. In trying to get the right piece of iron I found several that were too brittle. So I threw them in the scrap-pile. Those scraps are worth very little. This carriage spring is very valuable.” He paused, and his listener nodded. The blacksmith continued: “God saves us for something more than to have a good time- that’s the way I see it. We have the good time all right, for God’s smile means heaven. But He wants us for service just as I want this piece of iron. And He has put the ‘temper’ of Christ in us by testing us with trial. Ever since I understood this I have been saying to Him. “Test me in any way you choose Lord; only don’t throw me in the scrap pile.” What is in mind here is not the mere experience of trial; that does not necessarily bring blessedness to an individual. Indeed some come out of their difficulties not softened, or tempered but hardened or brittle, and their test does not become a boon to them. The blessing is the courageous endurance of trial so that we might better serve God. “Blessed is the man who remains firm under temptation.” I heard this story buy, until recently I didn’t fully understand its meaning.

God samples the worth of our faith through the trials of life. If we preserve in faithfulness to Him and His word it proves our faith is authentic, genuine and more precious than gold. Trials bring blessing because they prove our faith is genuine. God blesses our faith when we trust Him through the trial.God uses trials for the expressed purpose of building our faith and character. Character must be tested to be proven genuine. There is no place for wimps in the development of faith for faith development calls for stamina and courage.

The outcome our endurance and trueness forge in the fire of trials is worthy of great reward. The life that has brought such glory to God will not be forgotten in heaven. He or she will be rewarded with the crown of life. The crown of life is to be interpreted as the crown which consists in life, that is the crown of life (Rev. 2:10). The life is promised to those who love Him. It is the enabling to take hold of life and live it as God would have you. It is being able to enjoy God’s abundant life daily, no matter the outward circumstances. Not only is it full and free spiritual life here and now, it is a reward in heaven also. The greatest reward for those who faithfully endure is a reward that will endure. In the Greek world crowns (head wreaths, chaplets, circlets) were given to athletes victorious in the games (1 Cor. 9:25) and to citizens who distinguished themselves in service. Hence the crown in Greek thought was either a prize of victory or a badge of honor. [ The Old Testaments speaks of the crown as the mark of royalty (Ps. 21:3) and as a festal ornament (Prov. 1:9).] Whereas the athletes have human competitors, the Christian’s adversaries are the powers of darkness trying to drive him off course and keeping him from finish the contest. In the present passage the crown is a gift of God symbolizing divine approval of a life tested by trial. The crown is the reward of the Christian’s effort, what against the powers of evil is no less agonistic than the athlete’s against his fellow competitors, it just that the contest last longer. (Other crowns: imperishable crown, 1Cor. 9:25; of exaltation, 1 Thess. 2:19; of Righteousness, 2 Tim. 4:8; of glory,1 Pet. 5:4). Difficulties can get you down. But if you will remain faithful to God your difficulties will give you strength of character so that you will walk confidently with God prepared for whatever life has in store for you. The way to God’s winner’s circle is by loving Him and staying faithful even under pressure. 

Enduring temptation means that we must bear up under it, not get mad at God when troubles come and things don’t seem fair. We must remain faithful and not stumble if God takes His time in bringing us through it all.Enduring temptation means that we take the troubles of life and bravely face them, continuing to trust in the Lord. We should bear them patiently and with integrity because we know that it’s all in God’s hands and will somehow work out something good in our lives. We need to remember that temptations are nothing more than tokens of God’s love and confidence in us. He allows them to come to strengthen us and to help us draw closer to Him.And what is waiting for us when we have endured to the end, when we have faced that great leveler? We shall receive the Crown of Life!

James 2-12 were written to give us encouragement to face the afflictions and trials of life. Encouragement to be patient endurance, encouragement to believe that trials can be turned to our good, encouragement to prayer, encouragement to joyfully accept our lot in life and encouragement to look hopefully to the future.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break, 
In blessings on your head. 
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face. -William Cowper

Sunday morning, May 5, preached in St. Ann’s, was asked not to come back anymore. 
Sunday p.m., May 5, preached at St. John’s, deacons said, “Get out and stay out.” 
Sunday a.m., May 12, preached at St. Jude’s, can’t go back there either. 
Sunday p.m., May 12, preached at St. George’s, kicked out again. 
Sunday a.m., May 19, preached at St. somebody else’s, deacons called special meeting and said I couldn’t return. 
Sunday p.m., May 19, preached on the street, kicked off the street. 
Sunday a.m., May 26, preached in meadow, chased out of meadow as a bull was turned loose during the services. 
Sunday a.m., June 2, preached out at the edge of town, kicked off the highway. 
Sunday p.m., June 2, afternoon service, preached in a pasture, 10,000 people came to hear me.

Who was this persistent man? No other than John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement. We must make the choice to persist through all circumstances, so we can be the kind of people Jesus wants us to be. We must persist through the difficult times of life to discover the rewards that Jesus has waiting for us. The greatest blessing of God flows into lives that stay the course, stay in the race and cross the finish line. When one day you stand before the throne of God I pray you will there receive the crown of life. Our call to each one sharing our service this day is to receive the life that is offered in Jesus Christ. Come, confessing His Name. Come to openly identify with Him. Come, standing openly with Him in baptism as He commands. Come to place your life in the fellowship. Come, & angels attend you in the way.

What’s your priority?

Today in our society everyone is faced with hundreds of choices and options. We live in a consumer-driven culture where you can have your choice of anything and everything you desire. Unfortunately that concept has crept into the culture of church life and our choices concerning church. We pick and choose church life almost the way we choose products in a store. 

We want life to be comfortable. We want to meet our needs and our desires with little consequence. We like to talk about the blessings of God but all too often we are afraid to deal with the requirements of following God. What we must understand is that one feeds into the other. I like that I live in this time in history. I like that I can have fast food, microwaves and a car. I would not survive very long if I were having to plow a field for my food. But, sometimes all of those traps of life can cause us to miss the main focus and purpose of life. 

The Glory of God must be our number one priority.

We can so easily get caught up in our own life circumstances that we miss out on what is most important. We lose sight of the concept that we were created to bring God glory. Life runs at a fast pace and if we aren’t intentional about focusing our lives on the glory of God, we can easily lose our direction. The people in Jerusalem had stopped focusing on the importance of building the temple. The temple was significant not because it was merely a building, it was significant because it was where you met God. Creation declares the glory of God.

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” Psalm 19:1 (NIV)

Scripture teaches over and over again that the main reason humanity was created was to bring glory to God. In particular the reason the nation of Israel was brought into being was to bring honor to God in a culture that worshipped many gods.The nation of Israel declares the glory of God.“And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them. But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.” So the Israelites did this.” Exodus 14:4 (NIV) God’s promise of restoration declares the glory of God.“Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. I will say to the north, ’Give them up!’ and to the south, ’Do not hold them back. Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth– everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” Isaiah 43:5-7 (NIV) Isaiah wrote in the 8th century B.C. that judgment was coming upon the nation of Israel because they had disobeyed God. He was writing either during the time of the beginning of the exile of the nation to Babylon or right before that time. But in this passage, he has a promise from God that God will lead his people out of the nations of their exile to return to the land of promise.

In the 18 years that the people had begun to return to Jerusalem they had not begun work on the temple. The Temple of Solomon that had been built in 959 B.C. was destroyed in the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. Without the temple, worship and connection with God was not possible for the people of the nation. When the people returned to Jerusalem, they were expected to begin construction on the temple so that God could be worshipped and glorified.

They were so preoccupied with their own lives that they ignored building the temple.God had called the people to a specific task to bring glory to him. Now, they were ignoring that one task. So God, through Haggai tells them to get on with the task at hand. It is time for them to build the temple.“Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the Lord.” Haggai 1:8 (NIV) 

What does it look like for us to bring glory to God?

To bring glory to God is to choose obedience. What Haggai was telling the people was that the way they were to honor God was to obey what he had called them to and to build the temple so that they can worship properly. Jesus gave his followers the same instructions 500 years later.“Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross daily, and follow me.” Luke 9:23 (NLT) God is not calling us to crazy things that we could never be expected to follow. Jesus said the way to follow him was to love God and love others. It is so easy to let your life get off track and to chase after things to satisfy us. It is easy to do that even in church life. What we must do is focus our lives so that we are giving God the priority in all we do.

To bring glory to God is to contemplate our actions. God calls us to do more than simply blindly follow. God calls us to reason and to examine why we do the things we do. One of the dangerous misconceptions of Christians is that because we live by faith we don’t have to think. Haggai reminds the people of Jerusalem over and over again that they must think about the actions of their lives.

“Give careful thought to your ways.” Haggai 1:5 (NIV) “Now give careful thought to this from this day on–consider how things were before one stone was laid on another in the Lord’s temple.” Haggai 2:15 (NIV) ’From this day on, from this twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, give careful thought to the day when the foundation of the Lord’s temple was laid. Give careful thought.” Haggai 2:18 (NIV) We must be able to understand on a mental level the depth of what it means to follow Christ as best we can. We have to carefully weigh out the choices and consequences of the actions of our lives.

To bring glory to God is to turn from disobedience. God doesn’t desire that any of us should live in disobedience to him. Instead what he desires is that we take our lives of disobedience and change how we are living. There are consequences for our actions. Haggai reminds the people of Israel that there are consequences for disobeying God.

“You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” Haggai 1:6 (NIV) “I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the oil and whatever the ground produces, on men and cattle, and on the labor of your hands.” Haggai 1:11 (NIV) “When anyone came to a heap of twenty measures, there were only ten. When anyone went to a wine vat to draw fifty measures, there were only twenty. I struck all the work of your hands with blight, mildew and hail, yet you did not turn to me,’ declares the Lord.” Haggai 2:16-17 (NIV) 

Our lives are to be lives devoted to obedience to God. We must understand that God uses consequences in our lives to help us to understand that he wants us to continually seek to honor him and follow after him. God’s discipline illustrates his love for us.”The people I love, I call to account—prod and correct and guide so that they’ll live at their best. Up on your feet, then! About face! Run after God!” Rev. 3:19 (The Message) There are consequences for disobeying God. When we find ourselves willingly disobeying God, we should expect God to discipline us to draw him back to ourselves.

To bring glory to God is to receive his blessings. Haggai reminds the people that God blesses their obedience. He gives them six different areas that God promises to bless those who are obedient to him.

A) Enthusiasm “So the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of the whole remnant of the people. They came and began to work on the house of the Lord Almighty, their God.” Haggai 1:14 (NIV) There is an excitement that comes from doing the right things. When we are controlled by God’s Spirit we want to follow him.

B) Strength “But now be strong, O Zerubbabel,’ declares the Lord. ’Be strong, O Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land,’ declares the Lord, ’and work. For I am with you,’ declares the Lord Almighty. ’This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.” Haggai 2:4-5 (NIV) 

C) Resources, Presence and Peace ’The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the Lord Almighty. ’The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the Lord Almighty. ’And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the Lord Almighty.” Haggai 2:8-9 (NIV)

 D) Prosperity “Is there yet any seed left in the barn? Until now, the vine and the fig tree, the pomegranate and the olive tree have not borne fruit. ’From this day on I will bless you.’ ” Haggai 2:19 (NIV) The people had lived in a drought and famine because God had withheld his blessing because of their disobedience. Now, God blesses them because they have focused on the most important things in life.

 To bring glory to God is to trust Gods’ faithfulness. We may feel like we can’t trust God or that we must take matters into our own hands in order to make sense of life. Ultimately as we establish the priorities of life we must realize that God is faithful to do what he has promised.” ’On that day,’ declares the Lord Almighty, ’I will take you, my servant Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel,’ declares the Lord, ’and I will make you like my signet ring, for I have chosen you,’ declares the Lord Almighty.” Haggai 2:23 (NIV) A signet in that day was as good as a signature. It was a seal, the impression of which was laid in wax or clay and was worn either on the finger or on a cord around one’s neck. The significance was that the signet was used as a pledge or a guarantee of full payment. It meant that the one who used it was going to make good on his promise.

That is exactly how Jesus is in our lives. He will make good on his promises with us when we choose to put the priority of our lives into his hands. “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”- Jim Elliot.

Jesus said it this way: “If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for me, you will find true life.” Matthew 16:25 (NLT) 

We must establish our lives with the right priorities and the right focus. What is the focus of your life? What are the priorities of your spiritual journey? We cannot have life changing experiences unless it changes our life.

Fathers who lead

Dads, we’re either headed toward a spiritual stirring or we’re looking at becoming an endangered species. While most Americans have not bought into the ‘daddies are dinosaurs’ rhetoric, I think there is a growing ambivalence about the importance of fathers in our culture. We need to come back to a biblical theology of fatherhood. God very clearly says that dads are to be difference-makers by leading and loving their wives and kids. Fellow fathers, it’s my prayer that through our study of God’s Word together that we might experience a great awakening ­ in both our person and in our parenting!

Ephesians 6:4: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”

In the first century, when this passage was written, families were presided over by fathers who could do whatever they pleased in their homes. Rome had a law called patria potestas, which meant “the father’s power.” Men who were Roman citizens were given absolute property rights over their families. By law, the children and the wife were regarded as the patriarch’s personal chattel, and he could do with them what he wished. A displeased father could disown his children, sell them into slavery, or even kill them if he wished. When a child was born, the baby was placed between the father’s feet. If the father picked up the baby, the child stayed in the home. If he turned and walked away, the child was either left to die or sold at auction. Seneca, a contemporary of the apostle Paul, described Roman policy with regard to unwanted animals: “We slaughter a fierce ox; we strangle a mad dog; we plunge a knife into a sick cow. Children born weak or deformed we drown.”

The Bible calls Christian fathers to a different standard. Just as it was revolutionary for dads to lovingly lead their kids in the first century, faithful fathers today who do not exasperate their kids are counter-cultural. Our kids are not property to own but image bearers of God who need to be managed and trained. Dads, we are called to provide a proper nurturing environment where our kids can grow up to love and serve Christ. Our primary responsibilities by which our fathering will be judged are set forth in Ephesians 6:4. I want you to notice the very first word of this verse: “Fathers.” I think Paul addresses just dads here because he knows that we especially need to hear this. He doesn’t say “parents” or “moms and dads.” He uses the word, “Fathers.” Most of us dads are sloppy in our fathering, not giving much thought to what we’re called to do. This verse brings us up short by calling us to some pretty high standards.In essence, Paul is challenging us to see the word “fathers” as a verb not just a noun. It’s biologically easy to become a father, but biblically challenging to actually “father” our children. The Bible very clearly challenges dads to become the point men in their homes because the ultimate responsibility for what a family becomes is the father’s. In this passage, we’re given 4 “Dad Duties.” One duty is something we should not do; the other three are what we are to do.

The first duty is negative ­ we are told to “not exasperate our children.” This is a caution or warning designed to put us on guard against stirring up anger in our kids either deliberately or through careless provocations. I think Paul started with a negative command because he knows that fathers, who are fallen creatures, are prone to abuse their authority in the home. The Greek word translated “exasperate” means “to rouse to anger” or “to enrage.” The present tense of the verb indicates that we are to stop doing something that is common and continuous. This warning is calling us dads to avoid anything that will eventually break the sprit of our children. Paul puts it this way in Colossians 3:21: “Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.” When we exasperate our kids, they can become bitter and bummed out.

While there are times when kids become sinfully angry due to their own selfishness or immaturity, there are other times when dads are guilty of aggravating their kids. We can do that by deliberately goading them, by callously neglecting them or by any number of other intentional or careless means that exasperate them. When that happens, it is we dads who are sinning ­ and provoking our children to sin as well. Remember that our children are commanded by God to honor us. When we provoke them to wrath, we are causing them to sin against the Fifth Commandment. In such cases we are guilty before God for disobeying Ephesians 6:4 and also doubly guilty for causing our children to stumble.

The word “instead” shows a contrast between what we should not do and what we are to do. Here’s the first thing we are called to do: provide nurture. The NIV translates this verb as “bring them up.” This is the same phrase that is used in 5:29 referring to the husband’s role of “feeding and caring” for his wife. Men, we are called to nourish our wife and children by sharing love and encouragement in the Lord. Notice also that we are to “bring them up.” We are to bring our children up because they will not get there by themselves. Dads, we are to take an active role in shaping the character of our children. Proverbs 29:15 says, “A child left to himself brings shame to his mother.” John MacArthur puts it this way: “What ruins most children is not what their parents do to them, but what they do not do for them.” What strikes me here is that as a dad I am called to not just raise two sons; I’m called to raise two adults. I’m not just a dad of sons; I’m charged with providing a nurturing environment so that they grow up to become young men of God. The phrase, “bring them up” also carries with it the idea of “tutoring” and “instructing.” I’m a dad,  I’m also a tutor and teacher for my sons. In fact, my most important job is to disciple my kids and to leave a legacy of faithfulness for them.

According to a 50-year study of Christian and non-Christian families, most young adults who follow Christ either come from non-Christian homes or from homes where they grew up in love with Jesus because mom and dad were in love with Jesus. Their parent’s passion for Christ permeated their lives and passed through their pores to their kids. Sadly, very few believers came from homes where there was a kind of indifferent, apathetic commitment to Christ. It is sobering to suggest that the chances are better for a child growing up in a non-Christian home to become a sold-out believer than for a child growing up in a spiritually lukewarm environment.

Dads, how are you doing on this one? Are you modeling authentic faith? Are you providing a nurturing atmosphere in your home in which your children can grow up to love and serve Christ? Are you looking for ways to teach and tutor your kids or are you leaving this for mom to handle? One of the best ways to parent your children is to live authentically yourself. As someone has said, “One way to correct your children is to correct the example you’re setting for them.”

Proverbs 13:24 in the New King James Version provides a strong challenge to us dads: “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly.” I like the way the New Living Translation puts it: “If you refuse to discipline your children, it proves you don’t love them; if you love your children, you will be prompt to discipline them.” You may hesitate to discipline because you think that you’re being unkind to your kids. Actually, when you don’t discipline, you’re being more than unkind ­ you’re not loving them. If we love our kids, then we must admonish, rebuke, and discipline them.Listen carefully. I’m not advocating that you beat your kids. What I am saying is this: children need to be disciplined by their dads. Our kids not only need correction, they want it. If we don’t give it to them, we’re failing them and may cause them to fall away from the faith. Hebrews 12:11 speaks of God’s loving discipline in our lives by showing how beneficial it really is: “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”It’s important to understand the difference between discipline and punishment. The purpose of punishment is to inflict penalty and focuses on the past. The purpose of discipline is to promote growth by looking to the future. Dads, our kids are looking for us to train them and love them by disciplining them.

And so dads, we are to avoid making our kids angry if at all possible and we’re to provide nurture and discipline. There’s one last thing that we’re called to do in this verse: we’re to provide instruction. Notice that this instruction is to be “in the Lord.”“Lord” is an extremely exalted title as Paul uses it in the New Testament. To say that Jesus is Lord means that He is the rightful king of the universe, He is ruler over the entire world, He is commander of all the armies of heaven, He is triumphant over sin and death and pain and Satan and hell, and He will one day establish His kingdom in righteousness.

Dads, we are to bring up our children to hope in the triumph of God. There are at least three ways that we can do this:

—Bring them up to find their place in the triumphant cause of the Lord Jesus Christ.
—Bring them up to see everything in relation to the victory of God. Do whatever it takes to make all of life God-saturated for your kids.
—Bring them up to know that the path of sin is a dead end street because righteousness will prevail in the end.

Dads, you are the point man in your home. You are the coach of your team. You are the captain and your barracks is boot camp for training young soldiers for the greatest combat in the world. Your residence is a launching pad for missiles of missionary zeal aimed at the unreached peoples of the world. Our goal is not merely to get our kids to outwardly conform to a list of rules. Our mandate is to develop children who seek to glorify God with their lives. It is not enough to teach them to do good things; our job is to teach our children how to develop a lifestyle of kingdom servanthood. One of the best ways to make your family God-saturated is by having a regular time of family devotions. Dads, you’re the leader. Lead on! Your kids are waiting for you to step up to the plate!

Let’s be honest about something. We have a problem, don’t we? My trouble, more often than not, is that I’m not engaged as a dad. I’m not always fully present. My heart is not always in the job.Dads, you don’t have to make all these changes on your own. In the very last verse of the Old Testament, in Malachi 4:6, the prophet looks ahead to the ministry of John the Baptist and writes this: “He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.”I know for me it’s really a heart issue. If my heart is fully focused on my kids, then I will do a pretty good job of fathering. Dads, if you sense that your heart is not really into parenting, and you sense that your kids don’t have much to do with you, then make this verse your personal prayer. Ask God to turn your heart to your children and ask Him to turn their hearts to you. He will be glad to answer a prayer like this.

let me remind you of 3 things:
1. There are no perfect fathers, except our Heavenly Father.
2. We can all be better dads if we will work at it.
3. We do not father alone. That’s why we need to pray daily for our kids.

The bible commands us to be the spiritual leaders of our familes. It is full of ways we are to lead our children. If you haven’t seen the movie Courageous you should but, follow in up by reading the book The Resoulation of Men. Seek the word and the wisdom of God to be the man and leader you were called to be. Get involved in your childs life, lead them but, most importantly be a shining example.

ENVY

Have you ever had someone not like you for no apparent reason? You never said anything one way of the other about the person, you never mistreated the person, as a matter of fact you even tried to be nice to the person but no matter what you did or did not do, the person simply did not like you. There’s a good chance that envy is at the root of the person’s problem. There is something you have that the other person wants. You may not have a clue to what it is.

Envy is one of those sins that the bible considers deadly, but we simply brush it to the side. We bring it with us to worship. That’s why we have to sing, “As we gather, may Your Spirit work within us.” Otherwise envy will be at work each time worship begins. If someone claps louder for another soloist or if someone says, wow that was a great song. Envy whispers, “your song was just as good why didn’t he say it about you.” Someone says, “He does an outstanding job as an usher.” Envy says, ‘you do just as good as a job, why does she play favorites.” Envy resents it when someone else gets more credit, more recognition, or more results than you do. It keeps us from rejoicing with those who rejoice.

Envy can begin with very innocent sounding statements. “I wish I could sing like she does.” I use to dance like that. Then they move to accusations. “Why can’t you be more like Janet’s husband.” “It’s just not fair, I know I deserved that promotion more than she did.” “Our church works just as hard as they do, why are they growing by leaps and bounds and we’re barely growing at all.”

What are some definitions of envy ; Webster’s Dictionary: Envy: “a feeling of antagonism towards someone because of some good which he is enjoying but which one does not have oneself. You’re upset because everything is just falling into place for them, but nothing is going the way you want it to go for you. You know they do not deserve what they’re getting.

Vine’s Theological Dictionary: “envy, is the feeling of displeasure produced by witnessing or hearing of the advantage or prosperity of others; Your no good brother who feels like work is a disease, just won the lottery. Your friend who brags about everything, just got the most handsome boyfriend you ever seen.

Dr. Gary Collins (Homemade, July, 1985): To envy is to want something which belongs to another person. In other words…ENVY is saying… “I like what you’ve got, I don’t like the fact that you have it, and I want it”!!!

The bottom line is we think we should have what the other person has, whether it’s a position, a power, an authority, a blessing, or an item. Envy says that should have happened to me, or I somehow deserved to have it happen to me. Do you see how envy goes against the spirit of Jesus Christ. Envy thinks about self, and it leads to grumbling, complaining, murmuring, gossip, and death. Envy is Satan’s tool for wreaking havoc in the body of Christ.

Envy says that everyone is to be treated at or below my level of approval and my level of success. This means, nobody should get more than I get but it’s okay to get less. The sneaky thing about envy is that it is at times hard to tell the difference between envy, selfish ambition, and seeking God’s best for our lives. This is a struggle we all will have to go through because it’s not always a black and white issue.

Peter had asked Jesus, what will we get since we have left everything to follow you. Jesus says in Matthew 19:28 (NIV) “I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. “ Notice that Jesus said, you who have followed me, will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
Jesus you is inclusive of all those who give up everything to follow him, as we can see from the next verse. But what the disciples heard, was that the 12 of them would soon be sitting on twelve thrones ruling with Jesus. They are still thinking about this earthly kingdom Jesus is going to have. They have no concept at the time that Jesus is going to be killed in a few weeks.
Now they heard that Jesus was calling them to rule in this new kingdom. At what part does wanting the fulfillment of what Jesus said was going to happen begin to turn away from seeking God’s best for our lives to selfish ambition and envy. For instance if God spoke to you and said you would be a vital part of the church’s choir or of the church’s leadership team or of a company you worked for, or on a team you played for, how many of us would have heard God to say, we were going to be the super star in the choir, or get a top spot on the leadership team, or rise to prominence.

At the heart of envy is an anger toward God, because it seems to us as though God is playing favorites. God how dare you do that for them and not for us. God, How dare you treat me like this, when I have done so much for you!
God, Why on earth would you use my life in this way, when I could be making such a great impact for you over there? God why did you choose her and not me? Why did you make me look like this? Why did I have to have this family? Is there anyone here who just feels as though there are times when God just seems unfair? Envy keeps us from seeing how God has blessed us in the situation we are in. Somebody would love to be in your place or mine.

Can we humble ourselves to say, Lord I see the envy in me. Would your pour yourself into me, so that there is no longer any room for envy. If you want me to be such and such, I’m going to give it my best shot, but if you want me to stay right here where I am, I’ll give it my best and be content just as well. Just pour Yourself in me.