Category Archives: Parenting

Believe: One Man’s Journey of Faith


Journey of Faith

We have all faced moments of desperation! The circumstances in life spirals out of control right past all of our human wisdom and ability.

In such moments we are painfully aware that our resources, our influence, and our position in society are useless to meet the need.

  • It may be a personal illness, or the illness of someone you love.
  • It may be a broken relationship.
  • It may be a situation that threatens your present well-being or your future security.

When people face crisis they know there has to be something or someone bigger and more powerful than they are who to come to their aid. People in crisis often turn to God (or religion) in hope of finding that help.

September 11, 2001 was has become an infamous date in the history of the United States. On 9/11 terrorists flew hijacked passenger jets into buildings in New York City and Washington, DC. In the aftermath of this attack, the name of God was on every lip. Churches were suddenly filled with worshippers.

I have been working in S.Sudan since before the recent Independence. One thing that is clear when you visit S. Sudan – after two bloody civil wars lasting 50yrs, everyone believes in God. People publicly credit God for their victory over N. Sudan and for the birth of the nation. Churches in the capital city of Juba are filled to overflowing week after week, yet S.Sudan is riddled with corruption, social problems and political instability. The outbreak of hostilities along tribal lines has cost the lives of thousands and nearly 1 million people have been displaced due to the violence.

The lesson is this: trusting in God when you have a problem is not enough!

The man we read about in John 4:43-46 turned in desperation to Jesus. His journey in faith is instructive. His belief in Jesus grew from merely intellectual belief to genuine saving faith.

INCOMPLETE FAITH (43-49)

His faith is set against the backdrop of the Samaritans and the Galileans

All sins are forgiven for people who repent and believe in Jesus except unbelief. Unbelief is the damning sin! No matter what people do or how zealous for God they are unbelievers cannot please God.

Ro. 8:8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

Heb 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
In Samaria, the people believed that Jesus was the Messiah (4:42). In Galilee, Jesus own people are scandalized by Him!

Mt. 13:57 So they were offended at Him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house.

The Galileans were willing to believe in a Jesus who would revive their political hope, but they would not accept Him as a Saviour from their sin!

Jn. 6:15 Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone.

Jn. 6:64-66 But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him. And He said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.” From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.

The Samaritans accepted Jesus as the one who would meet their spiritual need! The people of Galilee believed in Him for what He could do for them, when he offered them spiritual bread they rejected it (6:26-27).

In Samaria they believed on Him as their Messiah. In Galilee the people would reject Him as Messiah and eventually some of them would doubtless participate with the mob in Jerusalem who call for his crucifixion.

His Faith is motivated by a desperate need (46b-47)

This man was an official in Herod’s court. He was a man of wealth, influence and power. It also means He was very likely a Gentile. None of this could help his current desperate situation – his son was dying!

The sad reality of a sinful world is that children do get sick and die. Everyone experiences suffering and sorrow – there are no exceptions.

Job 5:6-7 For affliction does not come from the dust,
Nor does trouble spring from the ground;
Yet man is born to trouble,
As the sparks fly upward!

Somewhere this Nobleman had heard about Jesus, and now he heard that Jesus had returned to Galilee… and he came desperate and determined to solicit Jesus’ help.

His faith was not driven by his own need of salvation, but by the desperation he felt because of the illness that was taking his own son’s life.

As already noted, many people are driven to Christ because of overwhelmingly desperate needs! These circumstances are tools of God’s mercy and grace. They can often be the start on the journey of faith.

He was coming to the right person but with the wrong presuppositions (48-49)

Jesus pointed out the weakness of his faith – ‘unless you people see signs and wonders you won’t believe!’ (See v. 45).

The faith of this man was incomplete, he did not fully understand who Jesus was: (49)
He thought Jesus had to be present to heal the son. Jesus being God was not limited by time or space. He could as easily heal from a distance as He could if he were present.

He thought Jesus had to heal his son before he died. He again did not fully understand Who Jesus is. Jesus has absolute power over death.

People today often think of Jesus in similar terms. He is acknowledged as someone extra-ordinary, a great teacher, a good man, even a prophet from God; but they fail to understand that He is all of those things, but much more! He is God!

GROWING FAITH (50)

He believed Jesus’ word (50a)

This man heard the calm command and assurance of Jesus and believed Him. His faith was demonstrated by obedience, “he went his way.” This man had not seen his son recovered and in good health. He had the word of Christ, and somehow that was enough!

Heb. 11:1-3 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.

They key is believing in Jesus – this is God’s will!

John 6.27 (NLT) But you shouldn’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that I, the Son of Man, can give you. For God the Father has sent me for that very purpose.” 28* They replied, “What does God want us to do?” 29* Jesus told them, “This is what God wants you to do: Believe in the one he has sent.”

The issue is not the size of your faith it is the object of your faith! (50b)

Faith as small as a mustard seed is enough to “move mountains” (Mt. 17:20). Jesus is teaching us that it is not the amount of faith that matters, but that you have placed your faith is in the right object!

Someone has well said, “Everyone believes in something if only themselves.”

Who/what is the object of YOUR faith?  You might be asking right now, “how can I determine whether or not I have genuine saving faith or not?”

You can identify the object of your faith by identifying who you are serving!

No one can serve two different masters (Mt. 6:24)! Faith is demonstrated by faithfully serving the Master! (Lk. 17:5-10)

REWARDED FAITH (51-52)

Faith became sight his son lived! Our faith will also be rewarded. One day we will look on Him in whom we have believed! (51)

Rev. 1:7 Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.

The connection between the recovery of the son and the timing of Jesus proclamation is undeniable! (52)

It was the time that Jesus had spoken to him. This gracious act of Christ convinced this man that Jesus Christ was God! Who else could heal from 15 km away? This Nobleman was positive now that Jesus was the sent one, the Messiah. And that led him to the final stage on his journey of faith…

MATURE FAITH (53)

He believed!

The nobleman put his faith in Jesus Christ. When faith comes to maturity it accepts Jesus as Light, Life, Lamb, Savior!

You must realize that saving faith is much more than simply assenting to a list of facts about Christ! Many people claim genuine saving faith but on the Day of Judgment will be rejected by God.

Mt. 7.21-22 Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’

They believed!

The mature, saving faith of this man influenced his entire household to put their faith in Jesus Christ!

Mature faith in Jesus is something that is shared – it is convicting, it is convincing!

CONCLUSION

This is the second sign Jesus had done in Galilee (54)! A sign points to something, and this sign points us toward the goal of the journey of faith! John included this miracle of Jesus to the intent that you and I might also believe in Jesus! The Galileans should believe in Jesus and when we read this account we should too!

John 20:30-31 And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.

No matter who you are or what you are facing your current circumstances are signs pointing you to Jesus – Believe in Him today!

Who you serve will be evidenced by who you obey this week!

Download the .pdf copy of Believe, One Man’s Journey of Faith

The Call of a Father


Thank You Dads!

Today we want to look at the call of a father from God’s perspective. Our text today is found in Ephesians chapter 5 verse 31 through chapter 6 verse 4.

If you are like me you probably were not well prepared to be a father. As much as I try I don’t have happy memories of my own father. I have seen photos when I was small sitting on my dad’s lap, and I have often wished I could actually remember what that was like. My relationship with my father was one of physical and especially psychological abuse. Words that hurt.

I remember the day I became a father! My wife woke me from peaceful sleep to announce that she thought it was time. Off we rushed for the hospital feeling quite certain that we would not arrive in time. Another 12 hours would pass before I had the joy of holding my first-born daughter. I remember being overwhelmed by God’s goodness to me. I have had that experience six times since!

Today the most treasured possessions, next to Christ are the members of my family.

There are many challenges of fatherhood. We live in a world that threatens our marriages our families and our children. We live in a culture that mocks biblical morality, glorifies sex and violence and laughs at drunkenness and debauchery.

“Men, the mere fact of fatherhood has endowed you with terrifying power in the lives of your sons and daughters, because they have an innate, God-given passion for you. The terrible fact is, we as fathers can either grace our children, or damn them with wounds that never seem to heal. Our society is filled with millions of daughters pathetically seeking the affection their father’s never gave them. In the extreme there are a multitude of sons who were denied a healthy same-sex relationship with their father and are now spending the rest of their lives in search of their sexual identity via perversion and immorality.”  (Kent Hughes, Disciplines of a Godly Man)

Our society is void of godly male leadership. There are some men who are a success as leaders in the company or marketplace but fail completely in the home.

WE ARE THE MEN!

The city of Ephesus was a center of pagan worship in the ancient world. It was nearly unknown in this culture for a father to interact with his children in a loving and nurturing relationship.

Most families were in shambles, and mutual love among family members was almost unheard of. A father’s love for his children would have been hard even to imagine. By the Roman law of patria-potestas a father had virtual life and death power not only over his slaves but over his entire household. He could cast any of them out of the house, sell them as slaves, or even kill them—and be accountable to no one. A newborn child was placed at its father’s feet to determine its fate. If the father picked it up, the child was allowed to stay in the home; if the father walked away, it was simply disposed of—much as aborted babies are in our own day. Discarded infants who were healthy and vigorous were collected and taken each night to the town forum, where they would be picked up and raised to be slaves or prostitutes.

A letter written in 1 B.C. by a man named Hilarion to his wife, Alis, reads,

“Heartiest greetings. Note that we are still even now in Alexandria. Do not worry if when all others return I remain in Alexandria. I beg and beseech you to take care of the little child, and as soon as we receive wages I will send them to you. If—good luck to you—you have another child, if it is a boy, let it live; if it is a girl, expose it” (Papyri Oxyrhynchus 4.744). Seneca, a renowned statesman in Rome at the time Paul wrote the Ephesian letter, said, “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.” (MacArthur Commentary, Ephesians, p 318. John MacArthur)

And there is little difference in our day. The majority of children in foster care in the west are there not because their parents are dead, but because their parents abandoned them. In a society without God fatherhood always suffers.

Paul is writing to first-generation Christians! These Ephesian believers had been redeemed by God to the praise of His glory! In Christ they had been placed in a position of victory so that in the ages to come God might show forth the riches of His grace. These Ephesian believers had been brought into the body of Christ through the power of God! (Eph 1:11-13; 2:1-3; 4:17; 5:8)

Because of God’s redemption and because of His grace toward the Ephesians they were to walk worthy of their calling as children of God.

What is God’s call to fathers in regards to their responsibilities to their children?

LOVE THEIR MOTHERS (5:33)

Christ commands it

  1. Eros – Physical love = physical attraction between married couples (this word not used in the NT).  The love commanded is more than just a wonderful feeling.
  2. Storge – Family love = fondness people share with their relatives, especially that love between parents and children.
  3. Philia – Friendship love = a warm hearted affection, attractive appeal between friends
  4. Agape – Love of Choice = the desire for and delight in the well-being of the one loved that leads to self-sacrificing efforts on their behalf.

Christ demonstrates it

  1. This is a sacrificial love (5:25, Ro. 5:8)
  2. This is a serving love (5:26, Gal.5:13b)

TEACH THEM TO OBEY (6:1-3)

An unavoidable command – Children are to obey (Prov 22:6)

  1. This is God’s command to your children, it is not primarily yours.
  2. Obedience = doing what you are supposed to do, when you are supposed to do it, how you are supposed to do it, with the right heart attitude toward the authority asking you to do it.
  3. Teaching them to obey involves

A non-negotiable attitude – Honor them

  1. Honor – give them due respect. (Note: God’s order of Authority)
  2. A child should never be allowed to tell the parent “no.”  Our goal is that our younger children honor us by responding the first time spoken to.
  3. The general promise: it will be well with the child, and they will live a full life.

DO NOT FRUSTRATE THEM (6:4a)

Warning is given to Christian Fathers (Eph 1:1; 2:1-10)

  1. “Do Not”!  This is a command! (2:3 – in the past they lived like this now it is different!)
  2. “Do not” is perfectly clear, do not provoke your children to anger so they begin to seethe with resentment and irritation.

How can we as fathers goad our children to resentment?

  1. Criticism – Father’s who criticize their children often bring them to discouragement (Col. 3.21).  How do we as Father’s criticize our children? Negative comments, Never praise them, Backhanded praise. HURTFUL words – wounds that never heal.  A child needs the fathers approval and encouragement as much as he needs the father’s correction.
  2. Irritability – Life is sometimes like the cartoon where the boss is grouchy toward the worker; his employee, in turn comes home and is irritable with the children; his son then kicked the dog; the dog runs down the street and bites the first person he sees – the boss!
  3. Inconsistency – Pity the horse that has a rider who gives it mixed signals, digging his heels into its side and pulling the reins at the same time. Pity the child even more who has the rules changed by an unpredictable father.  Be consistent. Never make a promise to your children you do not keep. You may forget, but you have a little boy or girl who will remember it eighty years from now.
  4. Unreasonable expectations: Never being pleased with the child’s achievement – pushing beyond reasonable bounds, by expectations. The child is never good enough.
  5. Withholding Love – Manipulating your child by withholding your affection from the child. “If you don’t behave, I won’t love you anymore.” (Heb 12:6). We are not to discipline out of anger, retribution.
  6. Physical Abuse – Child becomes the object of the father’s anger. Slap the child around, physically beat the child. Bully the sons, berate the daughters. Verbal abuse – often more damaging to a child than the physical abuse!

NURTURE THEM TO MATURITY (6:4b)

In a society where many children are growing up without a father in the home, we as godly men – young and old alike must prayerfully and intentionally become “fathers” to the children around us. In a specific sense this text speaks to biological fathers, in a general sense it provides us a template as men to disciple and be ‘fathers’ to the next generation.

Ephesians 6.4 when fully understood, requires us to do three things:

Tenderness

  1. “Bring them up” means “to nourish or feed” as in 5.29. Bring them up = let them be kindly cherished (Calvin). It emphasizes the idea of speaking to one’s children with gentleness and friendliness.
  2. Tenderness – verbal and physical – comes naturally to a father living under God’s Word.  Men how do we measure up? (Col.3:21)

Discipline

  1. “Training” encompasses everything necessary to help “train a child in the way he should go” (Pr. 22.6). It includes discipline by punishment.  Discipline – the process of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience. (Pr 13:24, Heb 12:5-11)   A child’s heart is filled with folly, we are to discipline them to bring them to wisdom (Pr. 22:15). “Don’t expect a horse trained with shouts to respond to a whisper.”
  2. Failure to discipline will bring disaster to our children. David never disciplined his son, Adonijah (I Kn 1:5-6)   Many of us have left this for the child’s mother or other family member. This approach leaves the child void of the security and self-esteem which come from being disciplined by the father.  Children are a heritage from the LORD, they are to be reared for HIM! (Ps 127:3)  Men, do you discipline your children? If not you are not living under God’s Word!

Life Lessons

  • Don’t make excuses for your sin or the sin of your children – The real problem is sin. Deal with the sin, don’t excuse it. Be willing to deal with your children as sinners.
  • Our children must learn at an early age that there are painful consequences to sin.
  • The problem cannot be solved by education – education just results in a sophisticated sinner (2.6; 22.19)
  • Our children must learn from an early age that God has provided a solution for the sinner – salvation through Jesus Christ.

Instruction 

  1. “Instruction” is verbal instruction or warning. Literally it means to “place before the mind.” Often this means to confront and thus is related to the previous topic, discipline.  This is where the high priest Eli was such a failure in raising his children (1 Sam. 3.11-13).  The word restrain is the same word as instruction. Eli failed to confront his boys. He failed to instruct them about their sin and because of this they were destroyed.
  2. Discipleship!! Men if we are to live up to our responsibilities we must Disciple our children by being:
    • Involved in verbally instructing our children – the well being of your great-grandchildren depend upon it! (Deut 6:7, Josh 24:15, 31, Judg 2:7,10)
    • Regularly leading them in family devotions and prayer.
    • Monitoring the input that enters their impressionable minds. (What music is he listening to? What is he/she watching?)
    • Taking responsibility to help ensure that church is a meaningful experience.

CONCLUSION:

Men, what awesome power we have!  Our children’s hearts are turned toward us! Our hearts must be turned toward them. (Ps 78:5-6).

Above all Dads, we must ensure that the open book of our lives – our example – demonstrates the reality of our instruction, for in watching us they will learn the most.

If you would like a pdf copy of this lesson you can download The Call of a Father by clicking the link.