The End of Fatherhood

November 22, 2020 in Authority, Bible - NT - 1 Thessalonians, Children, Covenantal Living, Discipline, Faith, Meditations, Parents, Responsibility

1 Thessalonians 2:10-12 (NKJV)
10
You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe; 11 as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children, 12 that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.

For the last couple weeks we have considered the lessons that Paul teaches us about fatherhood here in 1 Thessalonians 2. We have seen that fathers are to cultivate a certain character: we are to live devoutly, justly, and blamelessly in the eyes of their children. We have identified the basic duties of fathers: we are called to exhort, comfort, and bear witness to their families. Today we wrap up our consideration of this text by learning from Paul the end or goal of this conduct. Why ought fathers to be men of character? Why ought fathers to fulfill their duties toward their families well? Paul answers: so that our children may walk worthy of God.

Note that Paul declares that he had been as a faithful father among the Thessalonians “that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory” (12). Paul’s burning passion was to see these men, women, and children in Thessalonica loving and serving God. As the Apostle John wrote in 3 Jn 4, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.” Both Paul and John wanted Christ’s disciples to reflect the glory of God in their own character. And praise God that they did for this desire led them to write the books which now form part of our New Testament canon. The apostles’ passion for their children paved the way for generations of believers to grow and profit.

So fathers (& mothers), two thoughts follow from this: first, how passionately are we praying for our children that they would walk worthy of God? Are we reminding them of what is most important in life? Calling them to believe the Lord, to trust Him, to honor Him, to cherish Him and His law? Our greatest privilege and calling as parents is to bring up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord in order that they themselves may walk worthy of God.

Second, fathers, let us beware putting any stumbling block before our children. After setting a little child before His disciples, Jesus warned them, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of offences! For offences must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!” (Mt 18:6-7) God forbid that any one of us parents be the means that God uses to blind our children to the truth. Instead, let us so live, so speak, so labor that we are the means God uses to call them into His own kingdom and glory.

Alongside these exhortations for fathers (and mothers), let me remind you children of your calling. God has given you the glorious privilege of growing up in a Christian home – a home where you have access to the Word of God, where you are receiving a Christian education, and where your parents are striving to raise you in the fear of the Lord. So treasure that privilege, thank God for it, and grow into it. Your calling is, as Paul admonishes the Thessalonians, to walk worthy of the God who calls you into His kingdom and glory. Learn what that means in order that God may use you to bless future generations even as you have been blessed.

These admonitions remind us of the many ways in which we all fall short of our calling as fathers, mothers, and children. We have sinned and we are in need of the forgiving grace of God in Christ. And so let us confess our sins to the Lord. We will have a time of private confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin. And, as you are able, let us kneel together as we confess our sins to the Lord.

The Duties of Fathers

November 15, 2020 in Authority, Bible - NT - 1 Thessalonians, Children, Discipline, Meditations, Parents, Responsibility

1 Thessalonians 2:10-12 (NKJV)
10
You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe; 11 as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children, 12 that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.

Last week we began looking at this text in Thessalonians and the lessons that Paul teaches us about fatherhood. We learned that our goal as fathers is to live devoutly, justly, and blamelessly in the face of our children, our church, and our community. We are to be men “above reproach” as Paul says elsewhere.

But Paul not only tells us about the character of fathers in Israel, he also reveals the duties of fathers. Paul tells us that he “exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of [the Thessalonians]” as a father does his own children. So notice the triad of responsibilities that Paul ascribes to fathers.

First, fathers are to exhort their children. The word is parakaleo – to call alongside. Hence, fathers are not only to model what it means to live devoutly, justly, and blamelessly but are to call their children to join them in this type of life. The life lived in the fear of God, lived in obedience to Him, is the truly blessed life. As fathers, we are called to point this out to our children and encourage them to recognize it and love it. Even as Paul encouraged the Thessalonians to learn the ways of Christ and honor Christ with their lives, so we fathers are to exhort our children to follow Him.

Second, fathers are to comfort their children. The word is paramutheomai – to cause them to be consoled. Fathers are not to be distant, not to be hard to reach, not to be unkind or uncharitable to their children. Rather we are to comfort them, to come alongside them, to stoop down and lift them up. Our comforting kindness to our children serves, after all, as a picture of the kindness of our Heavenly Father. Psalm 103 declares that even as a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear him. Thus even as Paul comforted the Thessalonians in the midst of hardship, fathers are to comfort their children throughout life.

Finally, fathers are “to charge” their children. And many a father out there says, “Yes, I wish I could charge my children but they don’t have any money!” Well it’s not that kind of charge. The word is martureo – to bear witness. It is the word from which we get our word “martyr.” Our calling is to bear witness to our children, to point them to Christ. We are to bring up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, pointing them to Christ as the only hope for individuals, families, and societies. In a Christian home, the daily witness of a father (and mother) who loves and serves Jesus is the ordinary means that God uses to bring our children to faith. Even as Paul bore witness to Christ before the eyes of the Thessalonians, calling them to trust in Him and believe in Him, fathers are to do for their children.

So, fathers, how are you doing? Are you daily with your children encouraging them, comforting them, bearing witness to them so that Christ might be formed in them? Or have you been lazy, assuming that your children will just “get it”? Have you abdicated, relying on your wife to accomplish the task? Have you been distant, failing to engage your kids? Then the Word of the Lord comes to you today – repent and start being a real father.

The calling of fathers to encourage, comfort, and bear witness to their children, reminds all of us that we have failed in many ways to live up to our calling in the eyes of God. We have sinned, and are in need of the forgiving grace of God in Christ. And so let us confess the many ways in which we have fallen short. And, as you are able, let us kneel together to confess our sins to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession that is found in your bulletin.

An Open Letter to the Mayor and City Council on the Coeur d’Alene Mask Mandate

November 11, 2020 in Authority, Coeur d'Alene Issues, Politics, Thankfulness

November 11, 2020

Dear Mayor & City Council Members,

I want you to know that I have been praying for you all. I know that being elected to serve our city at such a time as this is not what you had envisioned when you stood for election. The spread of the coronavirus has challenged us all. So know that there are many who are praying for you.

Since your decision to implement a mask mandate for the city of Coeur d’Alene, our surrounding cities have refused to do so. It is my understanding that the Post Falls City Council decided to mandate masks for those on city property but not to mandate masks generally. Given this, I want to urge you to rewrite your mask mandate to follow that pattern. Why?

First, it would enable you to continue to educate the community about masks. I understand that a majority of you believe masks are effective in limiting the spread of the coronavirus. While I would question that conclusion (and have included a couple links below for your information), if you pass a mandate for city property then you would still be able to accomplish this objective and endeavor to persuade the community of their effectiveness. You would still be on record upholding the value of masks for our community.

Second, it would free you from the need to mobilize the police force to cite those not wearing masks. I read in the paper this week that four individuals have been cited and are now at risk of being prosecuted by the city. Is this really how you want to use our police force? Aside from the questionable use of their limited resources, do you really want our officers to hold a gun to the head of our citizens and force them to wear masks? For this is what mobilizing the police force means. When you pass a mandate, you are authorizing men with guns to impose your will on others.

Finally, it would increase the esteem for your lawful authority. As a pastor I want to encourage members of our community to show due honor and respect to those whom we have elected as public servants. But when you pass mandates of this sort that are questionable in their value, dubious in their constitutionality, and widely disregarded by the populace, I cannot do that which I would. This mandate is simply fostering contempt for your authority among our citizens.

Again, thank you for your service. I pray that you may reconsider your mandate and rewrite it to reflect that found in our surrounding cities.

Sincerely,

Pastor Stuart W. Bryan

Links on Policy and Masks:

https://gbdeclaration.org/

https://themodelhealthshow.com/maskfacts/

Click here for a pdf version of this letter.

The Character of Fathers

November 8, 2020 in Authority, Bible - NT - 1 Thessalonians, Children, Covenantal Living, Meditations, Parents, Responsibility

1 Thessalonians 2:10-12 (NKJV)
10
You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe; 11as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children, 12that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.

In our text today Paul reminds the Thessalonians of his conduct among them – and he uses the metaphor of a father. In so doing, Paul gives us a vision of fatherhood that we will consider for the next couple weeks. Today I would like us to observe that Paul helps us understand the character that fathers are to possess: “You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe…” What sort of character are fathers to cultivate? Our character is to be devout, just, and blameless. This is our calling. As fathers in Israel we are to set a standard that all others can witness and imitate. And so, though I speak primarily to fathers this morning, these words apply to all – for fathers are to set the tenor and tone for all who believe.

First, we are to live devoutly. We are to model love for God, love for His law, and love for His people. We are to be the ones encouraging our wives and children to grow in their love for the things of God – for His law and for His people. And the principal way in which we encourage this is by modeling it – loving the Lord, loving to read His Word and to pray, loving the singing of the psalms, loving fellowship. We are to live devoutly.

Second, we are to live justly. We are to be models of justice and fair-mindedness, listening carefully to complaints and judging justly based on the principles found in God’s word. This is to be especially true when it is necessary to discipline or exhort our children. We are not to discipline in anger or rage for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. We are to beware being blinded by our own prejudices or simply delighting in our own opinions. We are to be steadfastly loyal to the principles of God’s Word and to apply them faithfully in our homes. We are to live justly.

Finally, we are to live blamelessly. We are to listen to the Word of God and implement it in our lives. We are to live above reproach. Our standard is not that we be cool or hip or that we be fashionable or well liked or that we be conservative or liberal. Our standard is that we be blameless – scrupulously obeying the Word of God while trusting in the forgiving grace of Christ. We are to live blamelessly.

So, fathers, how are you doing? Are you leading your homes? Are you setting the standard for devotion to God in your home or are you lagging behind? Are you a minister of justice in your home or are you a minister of disruption or disinterestedness? Are you striving to live a blameless life, growing in holiness, or are you stagnant? The goal of fatherhood is to live devoutly and justly and blamelessly among those who believe. How can we possibly live this way? Only by the grace of God who calls us into His kingdom and glory. He is the One who must work in and through us to glorify His Name. In ourselves we are not capable to live this way – but by the grace of God we can.

So reminded of our calling to live devoutly, justly, and blamelessly before the Lord and His people, reminded of our need for God’s grace to empower us to obey, let us confess that we often fail in our calling and cry out for His grace. And, as you are able, let us kneel together to confess our sins to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession that is found in your bulletin.

Household Baptisms

June 21, 2020 in Authority, Baptism, Bible - NT - Acts, Children, Covenantal Living, Election, Meditations, Parents, Responsibility

Acts 16:31–34 (NKJV)

31 So [Paul and Silas] said [to the jailer], “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. 34 Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.

Later in the service I have the privilege of baptizing ——–. Because it has been a while since I baptized a baby and because we have a slew of them arriving, I thought it would be fitting to meditate on the biblical basis of infant baptism. Why do we baptize babies?

As we consider this question, recall that throughout redemptive history God has dealt with His people both as individuals and as families. His covenants, His relationships with His people, are generational. So, in the beginning of creation, God made a covenant with Adam and all those in him (Rom 5:18). At the flood, God covenanted with Noah and his descendants, rescuing his entire household from destruction (Gen 6:18). Similarly, God called Abram and his household out of Ur of the Chaldees and covenanted to bless all the families of the earth through his Seed (Gen 12:3). God made a covenant with David and his descendants, promising that one of David’s sons would always sit upon his throne (2 Sam 7:12). What we see, therefore, is that God characteristically works not just with individuals but with families, with households. And this is why the final promise of the OT is that God will “turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to the fathers” (Mal 4:6).

It is no surprise, therefore, that generational faithfulness characterizes the new covenant as well. Consider the anticipations of the prophets. Jeremiah prophesied of the day when God would give His people “one heart and one way, that they may fear Me forever, for the good of them and their children after them” (Jer 32:39). Likewise, Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones that come to life closes with the glorious promise, “David My servant shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd; they shall also walk in My judgments and observe My statutes and do them…. and they shall dwell there, they, their children, and their children’s children forever…” (Ezek 37:24-25a). Similarly, Isaiah promises those who turn in faith to the Messiah: “Their descendants shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people. All who see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the posterity whom the Lord has blessed” (Is 61:9).

When we turn to the pages of the NT, therefore, we find our Lord Jesus at work not only among adults but among children and infants. He raises Jairus’ daughter from the dead; He cures a father’s son who suffered from epileptic seizures; He listens to the woman of Tyre who pleads on behalf of her demon-possessed daughter; He raises the only son of the widow of Nain; He blesses the little children and even nursing infants who are brought to Him; He welcomes the praise of children in the Temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” Jesus ministers to households not just individuals.

Consequently, the Apostles did the same. Notice our text today: Paul and Silas proclaim to the Philippian jailer, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved, you and your household.” The message they preached to him was the same message that they had preached the day before to Lydia. So, having believed, “she and her household were baptized” (Acts 16:15) just as in our text the jailer “and all his family were baptized.” God deals with households and welcomes us and our children into His church through baptism.

So what does this mean for us? Parents, it means that your children are not your own. They belong, body and soul, to the Lord Jesus, and have been entrusted by Him to your care. So you are called, in Paul’s words, “to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph 6:4). Children, it means that you are not your own but that you belong, body and soul, to your faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. So you are called, with your parents, to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength,” (Dt 6:5) and you are called, in the words of the 5th commandment, to “honor your father and mother that it may go well with you and you may live long on the earth” (Ex 20:12).

And so reminded that God deals not just with individuals but also with families, let us confess that we have often neglected our responsibilities as parents and children alike – we parents have neglected to love and train our children as we ought and we children have neglected to love and honor our parents as we ought. And as you are able, let us kneel together before the Lord as we confess our sins. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

God Cannot Be Reconciled to Sin

June 14, 2020 in Atheism, Authority, Bible - OT - Psalms, Holy Spirit, Meditations, Sanctification, Worship

Psalm 5:4–6 (NKJV)

4 For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness, Nor shall evil dwell with You. 5 The boastful shall not stand in Your sight; You hate all workers of iniquity. 6 You shall destroy those who speak falsehood; The Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.  

There is a grain of truth in the maxim, “God hates the sin but loves the sinner.” The truth is that God has acted in Christ to deliver sinners from their sin and reconcile them to Himself. God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him may not perish but have everlasting life. God sent His Son because He loves fallen men and women and children who are made in His image and precious in His sight.

We must be careful, however, lest we permit this maxim to obscure God’s utter and complete hatred of sin, a hatred so pronounced that He will condemn sinners who refuse to repent of their sin to hell. He will judge both sin and sinner. Matthew Henry writes:

“[God] sees all the sin that is committed in the world, and it is an offence to him, it is odious in his eyes, and those that commit it are thereby made obnoxious to his justice. There is in the nature of God an antipathy [a natural aversion, hatred] to those dispositions and practices that are contrary to his holy law; and, though an expedient is happily found out for his being reconciled to sinners [through Christ], yet he never will, nor can, be reconciled to sin.”

God never will, nor can, be reconciled to sin. While God can be reconciled to sinners through the sacrificial death of His Son, Jesus, He can never be reconciled to sin.

This is, believe it or not, good news. For if God could be reconciled to sin, then we wouldn’t know that our cries for justice, our cries against evil and wickedness, are meaningful or heard by God. Perhaps, as some eastern religions teach, good and evil are just opposites that must perpetually exist in balance and we just ended up on the wrong side of the yang. Perhaps, as atheistic materialism implies, good and evil are just social constructs that different cultures can design wholly on their own without reference to a transcendent standard and we just didn’t have enough power to force others to comply with our design. If God can be reconciled to sin, then the world is a dark and dreary place.

But thanks be to God, God cannot be reconciled to sin. Evil is always evil and good is always good. God does not take pleasure in wickedness. He abhors the one who does evil, the boastful, the worker of iniquity, the speaker of falsehood, as well as the bloodthirsty and deceitful man. He will not and cannot be reconciled to sin nor to unrepentant sinners.

So what of you? Have you reconciled yourself to your own sin? Are you making excuses for your greed? Excuses for your dishonesty? Excuses for despising the poor? For refusing to hear the cries of those who long for justice? For neglecting your children? Excuses for failing to lead your wife and children? For looking at porn? For indulging your children’s disobedience? Excuses for refusing to submit to your husband? For grumbling against God’s providence? For pitying those executed for murder or kidnapping? Excuses for disobeying your parents? For yelling at your sibling? For neglecting your aged parents? Excuses for nursing your bitterness? For coveting your neighbor’s house? For envying the rich?

Such excuses are simply ways that we attempt to reconcile ourselves to our sin. We call good evil and evil good. We attempt to define good and evil on our own terms, to shake our fist at God and pretend that we are wiser than He. But we are not wiser and the soul that sins shall die. Disaster and judgment come in the wake of excuses for sin. But hear the good news: “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy” (Pr 28:13).

So reminded of our propensity to reconcile ourselves to sin, let us not make excuses for our sin but let us confess it to the Lord. And as we confess, let us kneel as we are able. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in bulletin.

Ascension Sunday 2020

May 24, 2020 in Ascension Sunday, Authority, Bible - OT - Psalms, Church Calendar, King Jesus, Meditations, Politics

Psalm 110 (NKJV)

A Psalm of David. 1 The LORD said to my Lord,“Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” 2 The LORD shall send the rod of Your strength out of Zion. Rule in the midst of Your enemies!

Today is Ascension Sunday. On this day we celebrate the moment when the Lord Jesus Christ, having taught the disciples for 40 days following His resurrection, ascended into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. Ascension Day was actually last Thursday – 40 days since Easter. However, we haven’t yet reached the point of celebrating Ascension Day during the week and so we celebrate it on the Sunday following – today.

But why celebrate this event at all? What’s so important about Jesus’ Ascension? Oft times in history, especially prior to the advent of mass media, the coronation of kings was followed by a time of travel – the new king would journey throughout his kingdom and show himself to his people. It was an opportunity for the people to see their new king, to pledge allegiance to him, and to celebrate his coronation. But eventually the festivities would come to an end and the king would return to his palace, take his seat on his throne, and begin to rule.

It is this narrative that ties Easter and Ascension together. In the NT, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is understood as coronation day. When Jesus rose from the dead on the third day, he rose as God’s triumphant King; the ruler over all the kings of the earth. For the next 40 days, He showed himself to his people. Our fathers saw the new King in his glory, pledged their allegiance to him, and reveled in his coronation. But eventually this time had to come to an end. So Jesus ascended into heaven, sat down at the right hand of God Almighty, and began to rule and reign over His Kingdom. As God the Father declares to Jesus in our Psalm today, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.” And it is sitting on the throne of His father David, sitting at the right hand of God Almighty, that our Messiah Jesus continues to rule and reign even now.

So what is the significance of Jesus’ resurrection? Brothers and sisters, Jesus is Lord! Jesus reigns! Let the earth be glad and the righteous rejoice! He is the King of kings and Lord of lords and He will cause justice to prevail in the earth.

So what ought we to do? Let us pray that God’s kingdom come, his will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Pray for the expansion of Jesus’ rule, the full manifestation of His kingship in human history. Pray for the proclamation of the Gospel and the conversion of friends, family, and neighbors. For, as Jesus’ kingship becomes increasingly acknowledged, light and life will reveal themselves in ever greater fullness.

And because Jesus is Lord, because Jesus is God’s anointed King, the only way that we can come to God is by pledging our loyalty to Jesus. “He who honors the Son, honors the Father; he who does not honor the Son, does not honor the Father who sent him” (Jn 5:23). This morning we have been summoned into the presence of God Almighty; we may only enter in the Name of His Son. So as you are able, let us kneel together as we enter his presence and pledge our allegiance to him.