Acts 7:1
The Story of Our Fathers

Notice \\#Acts 7:2, 11, 12, 15, 19, 32, 38, 39, 44, 51-52\\
Stephen was one of the first deacons in the church.  He was also a witness for
his Savior.  He was preaching to a hostile crowd about Jesus.  Most of Acts 7 is
the message that Stephen preached, but it will end in Stephen being stoned to
death.

There is no doubt that the theme of Stephenís message is Jesus Christ; however,
Stephen makes many references to THE FATHERS.  Stephen, a Jew, preaching to
Jews, had a common ancestry with them.  Their fathers were his fathers.  So as
Stephen preaches, he is remembering the fathers that they shared.

Kids remember their fathers.  Whether for good or for bad, they remember them.
And the memories of a father will stick for a life time.  I have heard some talk
of their fathers who have been gone for decades with much fondness and love.  And
I have heard some speak of their deceased fathers with bitterness and ire.

One day the sum of our entire life will be encased in the memories of our children.
What will your children remember about you?  Will they call you a good father or
say, "He was no father at all?"

Understand, there is no such thing as a perfect father.  We have all made more
than our share of mistakes.  I have grieved at some of the things Iíve done.  I
have grieved enough that I donít want to do them again.  I want to leave to my
children a story about their father that is good.

Before I begin the message this morning, let me say that you cannot change who
you are unless Jesus Christ is in your heart.  Some men know they need to change,
but they canít.  They have tried.  It just isnít in them.  Itís not in them
because Jesus is not in them.

If you have not asked Jesus to be your Lord and Savior, I pray you will this
morning.  Then the remainder of what I am going to say will be doable for you.

Does the Bible tell give us some thoughts on how to be a good father?  Yes, it
does.  Some good from good examples and some from bad examples.

    I. Spiritual leader
        A. Joshua is an example of a father who led his family spiritually.

Joshua 24:14  Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in
truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of
the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the LORD.
15   And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom
ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the
other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell:
but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.

            1. Joshua was the man who brought the children of Israel across
                the Jordan River into the Promised Land.
            2. Not long after Israel got into the land, they began to drift
                from God.
            3. Joshua assembled the tribes of Israel together and challenged
                them.
            4. The nation could serve God or not as they chose, but Joshua
                and his family were going to serve the Lord.
            5. Here was a father who knew God and was going to direct his
                family in the right path.
        B. I see two problems for us in accomplishing this goal.
            1. Some men donít see being the spiritual leader as necessary.
                a. Of all the obstacles of being a good father, seeing the
                    important things is the greatest challenge.
                b. I speak to men as a man.  We have a common problem.
                    (1) Men, by and large, are a confident lot.
                    (2) In part, that is because God has created the man to lead.
                    (3) Every leader must have some confidence.  If a leader
                         doesnít believe in what he is doing, how is he going
                         to convince anyone else to follow him?
                    (4) The problem is that, in most of us, our confidence
                         has turned into pride.
                c. Confidence is a good thing.  Pride is not.
                    (1) Confidence is an assurance that comes because you know
                         what you are doing is right.
                    (2) Pride is a selfish arrogance that does not care about
                         right or wrong.  Pride just wants things its own way.
                    (3) Confidence will lead a man to follow Christ.
                         (a) That is the right thing to do.
                         (b) To protect your family, to lead them to what is best
                              for them, to keep them together - all of these
                              things are right.
                         (c) To let even one of our family perish in the pits of
                              hell is a thought to wicked to even suppose.

Mark 8:36  For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world,
and lose his own soul?

                    (4) Pride on the other hand makes a decision that suits
                         it and stands by it no matter how wrong or stupid it
                         turns out to be.
                d. If you donít see leading your family after godliness as the
                    most important goal of your home, you have missed the
                    reason that God gave men authority to begin with.
            2. You canít just tell a family what to believe and do.  You have
                to show them.
                a. To lead a family, you must do it by example.
                    (1) To instruct anyone to live a way that you will not live
                         is hypocrisy.
                    (2) Hypocrisy breads rebellion.
                b. I came across an article I found interesting this week about
                    the first train robbery.
                    (1) It was committed by the Reno brothers of Indiana on October
                         6, 1866.
                    (2) What is interesting is that these four boys had parents
                         who made them read the Bible hours every day.
                    (3) The children rebelled and became cutthroats.
                    (4) I canít prove it, but I am confident that Mr. & Mrs. Reno
                         did not live the life they forced on their children.
                c. You donít have to be preachers or monks.
                    (1) Just live like God wants you to live.
                    (2) Model that life before you children and tell them to
                         do the same.
                    (3) They will respect you and follow your example.

   II. A loving husband
        A. You can not be the right kind of father and not love your wife.
            1. The Bible commands every child to honor and obey his parents.
                a. That includes mother.
                b. For a child to honor and obey his mother, a father is going
                    to have to love her.
            2. It does not matter what you think of that mother now.
                a. Even if you two are divorced and married to other people, you
                    should always show reverence, honor, and some kind of
                    endearment to the woman you once cared enough to produce a
                    child with.
                b. She is your childís mother.
        B. This characteristic doesnít come from an example but a direct command.

Ephesians 5:25  Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church,
and gave himself for it;

Colossians 3:19  Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.

            1. Examples are open to some interpretation.  Commands are simple
                statements that are to be obeyed.
            2. Surprisingly, the Bible does NOT contain a lot of specific
                commandments concerning the family in it.
                a. God commands that a marriage last a life time.

Genesis 2:24  Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall
cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

                b. God commands that the father teach his children.

Deuteronomy 4:9  Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest
thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy
heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sonsí sons;

                c. God commands the fathers not to provoke their sons.

Ephesians 6:4  And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring
them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

                d. God commands the man to provide for his family.  (We will look
                    at that in a moment.)
                e. God commands the wife to submit to the husband.

Ephesians 5:22  Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.

                f. God commands the husband to love his wife.
            3. Of these six commandments, the most important and the most
                difficult is that husbands are to love their wives.
                a. Ladies, you understand that your command from God is to be
                    obeyed regardless of whether your husband is obeying his
                    command or not.
                b. But husbands, you and I should understand that there is no
                    logical reason on this earth for you to EXPECT a wife to
                    submit to you like the Bible teaches if you do not LOVE HER
                    like the Bible teaches.
            4. Some men want to pound the pulpit and preach the Bible to their
                wives about submitting.  Brother, remember, you donít have the
                authority to preach this Book if you donít come close to living
                this Book!
            5. You say, "I do love my wife!"  I ask, "Do you love her like the
                Bible teaches?"
        C. How does the Bible teach me to love my wife?

1Cor 13:4  Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity
vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
5  Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked,
thinketh no evil;
6  Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
7  Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all
things.
8  Charity never failethÖ.

            1. \\#4\\ Love is kind.
                a. KIND means tolerant; ability to handle a variety of situations
                    gently; to be tender.
                b. You say, "Thatís me."  I wonder what kind of answer we would
                    get if we asked your wife and children!
            2. \\#5\\ Love does not VAUNT (boast) itself and it is not PUFFED
                UP (the picture of pride).
                a. Both of these terms deal with our tendency to be proud as
                    opposed to having confidence.
                b. Are you a man who can see when you have made a mistake?
                    Or do you just think you never make any mistakes?
                    Do you ever think your wifeís point is valid?
                    Have you ever had to say, "I was wrong.  I am sorry."?
                    Or have you just stuck to your guns because they were your
                     guns?
                    Is your attitude, "Because I say so!"?
                c. Friend, that is not confidence.  That is pride!
                d. It is also a failure in keeping Godís command to love your
                    wife.
            3. \\#5\\ Love does not SEEK HER OWN.
                a. That means that the husband is not to gain from the family;
                    rather, he is to give to the family.
                b. America has developed a sinful attitude about leadership.
                    (1) We equal leadership with ENTITLEMENT.
                    (2) That is not surprising.  American equate everything with
                         ENTITLEMENT.
                    (3) However, we think that being the leader means we are
                         supposed to have perks.
                    (4) The Bible teaches that leaders to take perks.  They give
                         them to those they are leading!
                c. Any sign of pride, of exalting yourself, or of gaining from
                    your marriage at the cost of your family is a failure to love
                    as God as commanded you.
            4. \\#5\\ Love is NOT EASILY PROVOKED and \\#4\\ SUFFERS LONG.
                a. That means that if you love the way God has commanded, you will
                    never be the first one angry and, even more, you will seldom
                    get angry at all.
                b. Someone can talk to themselves.
                    (1) That is called a monologue.
                    (2) But it takes two to have an argument or a fight.
                    (3) Husbands and fathers, if you are one of the two, you have
                         not loved as the Bible commands.
        D. This is just the beginning of how we are to love our wives!
            1. Men, if you are not filled with pride, chances are you would have
                to admit that you have failed in loving like we are to love!
            2. There are ten more characteristics of true love given in these
                verses!
            3. However, even after you attempt to do all of these things, you
                still have not seen the toughest characteristic of how you are
                to love your family!
        E. The toughest characteristic of love.

Ephesians 5:25  Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church,
and gave himself for it;

            1. We are to love our wives as Christ loved the church.
            2. Christ both gives us an EXAMPLE and a DURATION for that kind of
                love.
                a. What is the example of how Christ loved the church.
                    (1) He loved it enough to lay down His life and die for it!
                    (2) Husbands, God may never ask you to LAY DOWN YOUR LIFE
                         for your wife; however, He commands you to LIVE YOUR
                         LIFE in love with your wife.
                    (3) So what if right now it seems like a sacrifice for you to
                         love her?  Christ gave His all to love you.
                b. What is the duration of Christís love for the church.
                    (1) Jesus loved the church to His deathóand beyond!
                    (2) The kind of love that we are commanded to give to our
                         wives is an eternal love just God has for us.
        F. Men, might I say that most of us have fallen miserably short of loving
            like we are supposed to love!
            1. What man can have a grievance with his wife who has failed to
                submit to him when he has so miserably failed to love her as
                God has commanded him?
            2. Maybe she isnít the wisest, the most capable, the most efficient
                woman in the world, but who are you to complain when you have
                not given yourself to her as you should!

  III. A reasonable provider

1Tim 5:8  But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his
own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.

        A. Godís method of providing for the home is to work.

Exodus 20:9  Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:

        B. We are living in a tough economy and it is possible to work hard and
            still not make a lot of money.
            1. Men, work at something.  Even if you must take some help from
                others, obey Godís command and work.
            2. While you are working, remember it is God who is the Provider.
                a. He always has been.
                b. You worked, but He provided.
                c. If God is not providing as much as He used, get closer to Him
                    to ask Him why not?

   IV. A balanced disciplinarian
        A. The greatest, most direct, and most important command for a man is
            to love.
            1. However, the Bible also teaches that a father is to direct his
                children.

Proverbs 22:6  Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he
will not depart from it.

            2. That will require a variety that a good father have a variety of
                methods to discipline your children.
            3. Fathers must then discipline and direct while demonstrating love.
        B. There is a balance to being a disciplinarian.
            1. Our desire to shower our children with good can make us too soft.
            2. Our desire to make our children into good people can make us too
                hard.

Fathers, one day our life (like the fathers of Stephen) will be summed up in a
story told by our children.  What kind of story will they tell about you?

To get his good-night kiss he stood,
Beside my chair one night,
And raised an eager face to me,
A face with love alight.

And as I gathered in my arms
The son God gave to me,
I thanked the lad for being good,
and hoped heíd always be.

His little arms crept round my neck,
And then I heard him say,
Four simple words I canít forget,
Four words that made me pray.

They turned a mirror on my soul,
On secrets no one knew,
They startled me, I hear them yet,
He said, ďIíll be like you!Ē

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