I want to give you a picture of what it is like around my house and after talking to a lot of Fathers it is obvious our house is not unique.
When Linda cuts her finger in the kitchen, gets any kind of injury my children run around like ants at a picnic. One grabs ice, another band aids, the 3rd has 911 on the line and the 4th is calling every blood bank in the Midwest to put them on alert- Just in case.
I on the other hand can have a limb dangling, or be gasping for air and the response I get is rolled eyes and…”Dad quit being so dramatic.”
Ok…so I might tend towards the dramatic, but heck, it takes a near death experience to get any attention for Dad.
I was working in the attic one time and fell through the drywall. I caught myself coming down and was hanging there yelling for help. Linda came to the door, but instead of getting a ladder for me she called the kids all down saying…”hey kids you have to see this one”.
At our dinner table words of affirmation are showered on Mom, but I once sat a dinner table watching my family make a list on a paper tablecloth of all the quirky things I do at the dinner table…
The way I eat, the way I rub my eyes, the way I try to talk when I am choking on food, even the way I blow my nose…nothing is sacred----
and I have to say they got em all right!
And when there is a discussion or a disagreement between Linda and I and the kids observe it. Linda speaks and if I get defensive the kids will get all over me…”Dad you need to be quiet and let Mom speak…she is right you know”
When I try to make my points, weapons are drawn, ranks are closed around Mom and I am told…”Dad that was too harsh”
When my Kids listen to this message, I can already hear the “ Whatever” Because there is no whining allowed for Dad EVER!!
I learned that important lesson one morning as I was leaving the house. I was having a bad couple of weeks and was feeling very sorry for myself and I was living out that self pity. Linda is incredibly supportive of me in EVERYTHING and when I hurt she hurts. She wants to know, AND help me in my deepest pains.
but I had moved past struggling to “whining”. As I was pulling out of the driveway one morning Linda walked out and stopped me. I rolled down the window and she said…”I can take anything, I will go through anything with you, but I can’t handle it when you “whine”.
She was absolutely right…Whining is NOT in the job description of a Father!
It has been very clear right from the beginning that my role in our family as FATHER would look very different than Linda’s role as MOTHER, it is definitely NOT more difficult, certainly not more important, but it IS very different.
I like to categorized things, it helps me understand them better if I can come up with a title for them or a category. Very early we as a family were able to title and to clearly understand Linda’s title in our family.
Through a wise older Christian man I learned about what I was observing in my family as I watched how tied to Linda my kids were in terms of feeling settled and at peace and how protective and affirming they were and are of her. This man pointed to the Psalms and the role of the MOTHER in the home and he gave her a title from the scriptures…Mothers are the “HEART” of the home.
That was it!, that is what I was watching lived out. Linda was the HEART of our home. As our HEART went, so did our home. We “christened” that title for Linda one night around our dinner table and my kids embrace this title to this day…Linda is the HEART of our Home.
That was settled but it still left me with a slight Identity crisis…I knew the titles I was to carry… the “HEAD” …the “LEADER”…PROTECTOR, but I did not have clear picture of what those titles looked like lived out in everyday life.
Well those titles and how they are lived out would become crystal clear to me over the next 15 years and are crystal clear to me today.
I once thought being a Father was easy…
Spend time, affirm, love, be present, teach, guide, protect…
I was doing all of that and I LOVED DOING IT, and it seemed to be working like Clockwork!
After all it was a formula…
Proverbs 22:6 (NIV)
6 Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.
You just do what you are suppose to do, you work your side of the formula and what will come out the other side is a safe, healthy, faithful, predictable and stable family!
The problem is that the Proverbs are principles…NOT promises. These are general principles of wisdom that need to be followed, but they are not promises from God.
Other things enter into life…
- First, I was not a perfect “Trainer” I made mistakes
- Culture, media, professors and friends also influence children.
- Each child has strengths and weaknesses, fears and insecurities that play a part
- Kids still make their own free will choices
- Illness, emotions, death and mourning, suffering in a fallen world also messes with the formula!
On top of that we have an enemy that wants to and will use all of the above to destroy and even kill your family if he can.
I have talked to so many of you and I know for certain that there are many of you like our family who are sitting out there wondering….what hit us? What happened to our once secure and easy little family…What happened to the formula??
One thing became crystal clear to me..THERE IS NO FORMULA!
And as a Father… if I wanted my family to survive and to flourish I was going to have to fight for them…and die for them
Yes Linda was the heart of our home and she would have an irreplaceable role in the survival of our family, but it became clear I was going to have to man up for what was ahead, because battles where ahead and my family would need me to be a FATHER and all that this role calls for and requires of a man.
So what is that role? What does it require?
There is no “how to section” in the Bible for being a Father. However, we have imagery of Fatherhood all through the Bible.
Likewise, this message is not the “how to” of being a Father. This message is just 3 of many pictures that give us insight and challenges to us men on what it looks like, what it takes to be a Father.
This message is not just for current Biological Fathers, in fact one of the stories I will share is about a Father who was NOT a Biological Father. This message is for every man in this building because I can guarantee you that every man in here has someone in their sphere of influence, will have someone in their sphere of influence or should have someone in your sphere of influence who needs a FATHER figure in their life.
The first story is about Elijah and Elisha and it is found in 2 Kings 2:1-15 page_______
Elijah was a famous and powerful prophet of the Northern Kingdom. In this passage Elijah knows that he is about to be taken up from earth. The story we are about to look at is the story of the passing of the “baton” from Elijah to Elisha.
Those of you who know this story know that Elijah was not Elisha’s biological Father. Yet at an emotional and critical part of this story Elisha cries out to Elijah…
2 Kings 2:12 (NIV)
12 Elisha saw this and cried out, "My father! My father!
Although Elijah was not Elisha’s biological Father, Elisha looked at him as a Father none the less, and it is in the passing of the prophetic baton from Elijah to Elisha that we see a powerful picture of the role of a Father.
Elijah’s life as a prophet is coming to an end, Elijah knows he is about to be taken up by God and Elijah requests that Elisha stay behind and not be present when that happens. But Elisha responds…
(V2) I will not leave you
(v3)All the other prophets watching this event (50 or more) tell Elisha “Your master will be taken from you today!
Elisha responds, “I know, be still”
Two more times Elijah comes to Elisha and makes the request that Elisha stay behind and Elisha responds… I will not leave you.”
The 50 prophets now stay back and only Elijah and Elisha proceed forward.
(V8-9) Elijah took his cloak (mantle), rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water divided to the right and to the left, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground.
The mantle was the outer garment worn by the prophets and was an outward symbol of the man and his ministry.
In V9 we see a final exchange between the two men…Elijah asks Elisha. "Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?"
Then this request from Elisha..end of( V9) "Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit," Elisha replied.
From the man Elisha looked at his Father he asks one thing…that he could carry on where his Father left off…that he could have a double portion of the spiritual blessing and ministry that he saw his “Father” do.
Elijah tells Elisha this is not a gift he can give, God will determine if his request is granted…Then in magnificence, Elijah is taken up!
It is then (v12) that Elisha cries out… "My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!" And Elisha saw him no more.
Then… a moving scene is recorded…V13-15
Elisha tears off his own “Mantle” in honor and mourning of his Father…he walks over and picks up the Mantle of Elijah…then strikes the water, just like his Father had done, the river divides, just like it had for his Father, and he walked across on dry land…just as he had with his Father.
15 The company of the prophets from Jericho, who were watching, said, "The spirit of Elijah is resting on Elisha." And they went to meet him and bowed to the ground before him.
Elisha goes on in his life to do even more miracles and wonders than even Elijah did, in fact Elisha did more miracles and wonders during his life than anyone in the scriptures other than Jesus…
Elisha got what he wanted so badly…A double portion of his Father’s spiritual life and ministry.
And in this story we see at least one critical role of a Father, to GIVE OUR CHILDREN A SPIRITUAL TARGET!
Fathers are to walk in a way that our children, instead of longing for our material inheritance, long for our spiritual inheritance!
The role of a Father is to live life in a way that we set a solid and strong spiritual foundation, not just so they walk as we did, but that we set a foundation strong enough that they can actually use our lives to climb UP and OVER us!
To live lives in a way that one man put it…”so that our strong spiritual ceiling turns out to be their strong floor” so they climb even higher and stronger than we did..
Roles of a Father…
provide a strong spiritual Target for your family!
The next story is found in Mark chapter 9 page ____________
Jesus is coming down from the mountain after his transfiguration.
He comes down to a disturbance. A crowd has gathered and the scribes are arguing with some of the disciples. When they see Jesus they all run to him and Jesus asks what’s going on?
It is a brave Father who addresses Jesus (V17)…
Mark 9:17-18 (NIV)
17 A man in the crowd answered, "Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. 18 Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not."
To have a Demonized child would have been devastating to this man and to his family.
Embarrassing as other people would see the man and the son and avoid them at all costs.
A disgrace as people judged what it was the man and his family had done to deserve this punishment.
Financially devastating as the child would take endless care, provision and protection from others and himself making it hard for the Father to earn a living.
Emotionally draining in every way as hopeless and helplessness tried to swallow up not just the one who was possessed, but all who love him as well.
Jesus asks “how long has he been like this?”. We are not told exactly how long, but the Father answers..(V21) “from childhood”
Not “all” his childhood, but “from” his childhood. In other words, this boy was no longer a child, he is likely a young man. Still his Father stands by his side, still his Father is advocating for him…not for months, but for YEARS…maybe even decades.
The Father goes on, (V22) 22 "It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him.
Question…who do you think was there to pull his son out of the fire when he was about to burn time after time?
…who pulled his son from the water as the demon tried to drown his son time after time?
Don’t you think it is a safe bet that it was this Father!
Suffering after suffering, sacrifice after sacrifice, year after year, sorrow after sorrow, but the Father is still there…advocating for his Child…NEVER , NEVER giving up!
Then the gut wrenching plea…”take pity on “us” and help “us”
There is no “him”, there is no “me”, when his son suffered he suffered, in this Fathers heart there was only “us”
Jesus challenges the Father…
Mark 9:23 (NIV)
23 "'If you can'?" said Jesus. "Everything is possible for him who believes."
Then the sacrifice of any remaining pride, the sacrifice of any dignity, there is only his son in mind as the father screams…
Mark 9:24 (NIV)
24 Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, (loud outcry) "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!"
The man did not have perfect faith, but he must have had a LOT! …because he had enough to never give up hope
- he had enough to know he could not save his son, and
- he had enough faith to take his to the only one who could!
- He did not have perfect, faith, but he had enough faith…TO NEVER GIVE UP!
And in this man’s story we see another great role of a Father…being a tireless, unrelenting, faithful advocate for our Children and our family.
One of my children struggled with an illness for many, many years. We tried everything for healing, everything medicine had to offer, everything anyone had to offer, but year after year the illness would pull our child back down. I was out of town one time and got a call from this child telling me of another setback. My heart was broken, I was tired and I was out of ideas and out of strength. I responded the only way I said to my child…”I don’t have any more ideas, I don’t have any more plans…I don’t know what to do!” and immediately I heard a heartbreaking desperate cry…”If you give up what do I have left?”
I did what a Father must do…I said, “give me 30 minutes…I will call you back in 30 minutes with something!”
Sometimes the plans run out, sometimes the power is gone, sometimes it is not about what you can do…it is about the ONLY thing you CAN”T do…Give up!
Roles of a Father…
an unrelenting advocate for his family! A Father NEVER gives up!
Which leads into out last story the story of the Prodigal son… Luke 15 page_______
I was in a Bible study and a man walked in who looked like he had been up all night crying…he had. He shared how he had spent the night on the phone with his adult son who was lost and alone in his pattern of alcohol and drugs. His son was in a desperate place but the Father who had tried for years to rescue his son now realized that it was beyond his power. His son would not take his advice, or his counsel. The day before, this Father had sent his son an airline ticket with a note…”please come home…I am waiting here for you.”
The man wept as he said…”I don’t know if I will ever see my son again”
You could taste this man’s pain, heartbreak and sorrow.
this is not the story of a real Father but instead is a picture of a God the Father given to us by Jesus in the parable.
A man has two sons, the youngest son comes to the Father…(V12)
Luke 15:12 (NIV)
,…'Father, give me my share of the estate.' So he divided his property between them.
Asking for an inheritance early would have been an incredibly painful request for a Father to hear. The estate was not normally divided until the Father was dead, but with the Father’s permission could be done earlier.
What this son was saying is…”Dad, what I really want from you is the money I get when you die…could you just give it to me now…kind of pretend you are already dead.”
And although the Father would have been insulted, hurt, and disgraced by this request he grants the son his wish and the son takes it and quickly leaves the Father and the family behind.
The story continues in V13..
Luke 15:13 (NIV)
13 "Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.
The son soon loses all that he had been given by his Father. Hard times hit…a famine, and he must find a job and so he does. It was not a good job because the pigs were eating better than he was.
Luke 15:17-19 (NIV)
17 "When he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.'
The son has no hope of returning as a son, so he prepares a speech of confession and apology hoping that while not as a son, his Father would take him in as one of the servants…and with this goal in mind the son heads home.
He approaches his Father’s home, but before he could get to his apology his Father comes running…V20…
"But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. 21 "
Notice…Compassion and forgiveness preceded the confession!
The son still tries to apologize…(V21)
'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'
but the Father is too busy celebrating…(v22)
22 "But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate.
The robe, the ring, the celebration…it signified that the son had been accepted back full and completely as a son…as if nothing had ever happened!
The Father exclaims…V24..
Luke 15:24 (NIV)
24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate.
Persevere in LOVE…even when rejected!
The child you loved as a little one and love today may reject you, deny you, accuse you…even act like you are dead..and leave you physically or emotionally.
It WILL hurt…the question is while they are away… what will you use your pain for?
you will either store up Hurt, anger and bitterness…or Humility, Grace and compassion?
A Father waits, persevere and loves because the his goal is not that…HE is redeemed from HIS hurt, instead he sacrifices that for the greater goal….so a Child is can be redeemed from their mess!
\A Father Loves/Persevere even when rejected
3 Snapshots from the Bible of Fathers…
- Provide a strong Spiritual Target for your family to aim for
- Be an unrelenting ADVOCATE- A Father never Gives up
- Love and PERSEVERENCE- even when maligned or rejected.
This is the Biblical picture of a “Father”
And it could not be more opposed to what we as men, we as Fathers have come to be are pictured as in the media, television, movies and advertising.
In Sitcoms we are bumbling idiots who do anything we can to get out of work or anything difficult
In advertisements we will do anything for a pretty woman, a beer or a 52 inch Flat screen TV.
Our greatest interest and passion, it is not our God, it is not our family, it is sports!
Sadly, I am not so sure we have not gotten tragically lost or distracted and actually adopted this vision of ourselves
I was walking out of church one day not long ago after Dave had given a compelling message about what it takes to truly walk as a Disciple of Jesus. As I walked out right back there, I walked behind two men, both had young families. It was opening weekend of the college football season and one asked the other…”Pumped up about the games today?”...and the young father answered…with wives and children present…”oh yeah, I told my family not to plan on seeing me between 1:00 this afternoon and 11:00 tonight…nothing is to pull me away from football”
I share this openly because I can honestly say that I would not recognize the two men today if I saw them, but if I did recognize them and I had some time with them, I would say to them without malice, without anger, without judgment but with deep concern with a longing in my heart to warn them..” You’re not ready!
You’re not ready for what will be asked of you as a Father!”
If Mom’s are the heart of the Home, Fathers are to be the Warriors for our families!
Think about it, what movies do we as men, love and emulate?
Kingdom of Heaven
Saving Private Ryan
We are built to be WARRIORS for our families…doesn’t that resonate in your very souls?
Isaiah wrote this about the coming Savior…
Isaiah 53:5 (NIV)
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
It is by Jesus wounds that we are all healed!
Well, listen to what one theologian wrote about the role of FATHER after the coming of Jesus…
“The father was no longer the central figure of the family but was replaced by God the Father and faith in Jesus Christ. The authority of the male became like the sacrificial, servant authority of Jesus Christ –
We are men, we are FATHERS, born and built to fight, and if necessary to die…for a for our families, for the Kingdom of God…it is in the fighting…it is in the dying daily that we live!...anything less…is going to end up feeling empty and a waste.
You are a Father? Man up, because in some way, at some time, you may have to die for your Children in some way shape or form.
It may very well be that by your wounds, your family may be healed…are you ready?
If I have come across as a perfect Father, please forgive me because I am not.
I have been tested at one time or another in every one of these categories!
Nothing! has humbled me more in my life than my role as a Father.
Nothing has brought me to my knees and pointed out my helplessness and powerlessness like my role as a Father.
Nothing, Nothing has made me more grateful for Jesus…than my role as a Father.
I have the greatest kids in the world, no drugs, no jail, they are the greatest kids any Father could have and even with that truth I can say without exaggeration or Hyperbole that without the sustaining Grace of Jesus Christ I would not be standing here as a Father today, in fact if it were not for Jesus I am not sure I would be standing at all.
Perfect as a Father…NEVER
Failures…I am sure that I have
But I can tell you I fought..and am still fighting. I have the beautiful scars of being a Father to prove it!
But you know what else I have…. I have these!
Statue- I receive this last Christmas from 2 of my now adult girls. It is a little soldier with a shield and on the shield is a Sun and a moon. It came with a note….Thank you Dad for fighting for us Day and night!
Letters- And these, these are little notes I have gotten along the way from my children, some written in crayon when they were young, some written as teenagers and some written as they have gotten married and started their own lives.
Try to take my house or my car or my bank account and I will fight you for them!
Try and take these…you will have to kill me before you can have these.
I will die for these because it is these that testify that I am a Father and all that that means…and there is nothing I would rather be!
Happy Fathers Day!