As a young man growing up Billy was never involved with any of the things that oftentimes act as fertilizer for mom and dad’s gray hair. He never tried drugs and didn’t drink alcohol. He didn’t rebel by shaving his head into a spiked Mohawk and dying it pink and purple. He was a leader in his church youth group. He dated a wonderful girl that he wanted to marry. The two were from Christian homes and they made a commitment to God and each other to wait until they were married to have sex.

Billy was involved in athletics. The passion of his heart was playing ball and he didn’t have time to get involved in other things. He was constantly lifting weights and trying to improve his game. In the fall he was a defensive back and captain of his school’s football team. In the spring he ran the 100 and 200-meter dash and anchored the 4X400-relay team. There was nothing Billy enjoyed more than athletics. When he wasn’t playing some kind of sport he was watching another.

As the years passed Billy outlived his athletic career. When college ended so did his athletic career. Oh, he still played softball in the summer and fall, volleyball in the winter and spring, but things were different than they use to be.

Billy and his high school sweetheart, Tasha, were married while they were in college. After they had both graduated and were out in the workforce, Tasha came home one day and told Billy that they were going to have a baby. Guess who wanted a boy? Nine months passed and “birth day” arrived. Billy took a football into the delivery room anxiously awaiting the coming of the next Barry Sanders or Carl Lewis. Needless to say, when the doctor said, “It’s a boy!” Billy’s heart raced and he envisioned playing catch with the little guy each evening till the sun sat in the west.

Over the next few years Billy and Tasha had three more children – two girls and another boy. Each time Billy would carry his now worn football and spikes into the delivery room. As the years passed, Billy would circle up the kids in the back yard for a game of catch. As the kids got older they began to express themselves more and more. As a result, all of the kids except the youngest son found little excitement in catching passes or running sprints. More and more they like to spend time listening to mom play the piano, read good books from the library, drawing, or helping cook in the kitchen. Tasha was thrilled the kids were interested in books and music. Billy said he was too, but Donna became worried as she watched Billy slowly withdraw from the more creative kids so he could devote all of his time to the youngest son who enjoyed rough housing and playing ball.

As the kids approached their teenage years, they all wanted Dad to “do” things with them. When Billy was asked to listen to one of the girls read a book he was oftentimes too tired. When his oldest son wanted dad to hear a new piece that he learned on the piano, Dad was usually busy or getting ready to go somewhere. When the youngest son wanted to play catch or go run Dad would drop everything he was doing to go outside and play.

All of the kids knew Dad loved them, but three out of the four felt Dad loved the youngest son more. When the kids grew up and started families of their own they swore they were going to spend time with all of their children, not just the one who was most like them.

This tragic scenario is played out each and every day in homes across our country. Fathers who have children who are a “chip of the old block” sometimes find it difficult not to show partiality to the kids who share their interests. As a result, one or more of the children feel left out or less loved. This is not a new phenomenon, it’s as old as time itself. The need present before us men, is this – all of our children need our blessing. As fathers, we have a gigantic role to play in the lives of our children and God has uniquely equipped us to relate to our children in a way only we can. This is a blessing from God who desires that we in turn bless our children, all of our children.

We are going to take a peek into the home of the typical Hebrew family this morning. Husband, wife, and two sons. Two car garage. Dog and cat fussin’ in the backyard. Bills to be paid on a regular basis. We’ll skip over much of their daily life to get to the point where the father, Isaac, is getting ready to die. I will say this, throughout Isaac’s life he identified more with his oldest son, Esau, than he did with his younger son, Jacob. In Genesis 25:27-28, we read,

The boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was a quiet man, staying among the tents. {28} Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob. (Gen 25:27-28 NIV)

His father showed Esau preferential treatment throughout his life, while Jacob received special treatment by his mother. Although we don’t have much insight into the daily activities of this Hebrew family we do see the harvest of seeds planted in the hearts of the boys as they grew up and became men.

As Isaac approaches his death, he calls Esau to his side to bless him. Let’s take a look at our Scripture for this morning found in Genesis 27:1-4.

When Isaac was old and his eyes were so weak that he could no longer see, he called for Esau his older son and said to him, “My son.” “Here I am,” he answered. {2} Isaac said, “I am now an old man and don’t know the day of my death. {3} Now then, get your weapons–your quiver and bow–and go out to the open country to hunt some wild game for me. {4} Prepare me the kind of tasty food I like and bring it to me to eat, so that I may give you my blessing before I die.” (Gen 27:1-4 NIV)

The story is full of deception, partiality, prejudice, and lying. As a result, the home of one of the Father’s of our faith was a fragmented home; a home where disharmony and envy were members of the family. This morning I want us to look at the responsibility God has given to each of us fathers. I want us to examine some of the ways we can avoid the pitfalls of partiality which plagued Isaac, and later in life, Jacob, in his own family. The plague of partiality is still with us today, but God desires for us to break the chain and bless our children, all of our children that He has given to us.

How can we as modern-day fathers learn from the lives of Jacob and Isaac? It is a powerful story that has been given to us in the book of Genesis. To read the story and walk away is not any better than to refuse to read the story. There are many lessons contained within the story about family relations, but this morning I want us to tune our ears into the cries of Esau saying, “Bless me father!”

Dad’s let talk man-to-man, dad-to-dad, for the next few minutes. Let’s pretend that the women and children have gone home and it’s just us fellas. It is tough being a husband and father isn’t it? Do you ever feel like you don’t match up to what you should be? I sure do, and I would assume that if you have a brain and a heart you do as well. I don’t want what I have to say this morning to simply be another revelation of our shortcomings that will bring shame upon us or make us feel guilty because we aren’t what we think we should be. With that said, there is no more pressing need in the lives of our children than for us as fathers to “bless” them each and every one. We, all too often, press for better performances from our kids when in reality we need to be “blessing” them with our words of life and praise.

The blessing of children has a long history in our world. The Hebrew word for blessing, “barak,” which is translated into Greek “makarios” or “eulogeo” (blessing) in the New Testament occurs some 400 times. Literally the word “blessing” means “to speak well,” either in the sense of “to speak finely” or “to speak well of someone.” We have lost much of the power that the blessing carried with it in Old Testament days, but nonetheless there remains a significant lesson for us in the Hebrew understanding of the blessing.

According to the belief of the Hebrews, once the blessing was set in motion, as when a father blessed his child, the operation was irresistible. Blessing one’s children was to speak goodness into existence for them. Many have held that the blessing was reserved for the oldest male son only, but such is not the case when we look at the family of Joseph.

When Jacob, Joseph’s father approached the end of his life he laid his hands on his grandchildren, Ephraim and Manasseh, and blessed them. We, as fathers, should be forever cognizant of the need of our children for our blessing. How can we bless, and be a blessing to, our children? I want to highlight three different areas that I feel Scripture teaches father’s how we can bless our children.

The blessing of prayer. We can bless our children as we lift them up to God in our prayers. Our children are growing up in a far different world than any of us remember from our childhood. In all of my days of going to school, from kindergarten through four years of graduate school, I can not recall even one school shooting ever taking place. As I listen to some of the stories of the kids of our church and our community and the struggles that they face on a daily basis, the faces of my own kids come to the forefront of my mind. I wonder what the future holds for my three children. I am not smart enough to figure out their future. I refuse to call the Psychic Friends Network to hear what they have to say. I have to shoot straight with you and say that sometimes I fear for them.

My kids and your kids will pick up on our fear men. What will tomorrow bring? I know what I want it to hold for my children, but I can’t guarantee even tomorrow for the three of them. One thing we can do as fathers, grandfathers, and friends of children – we can pray. Paul says,

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. {7} And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:6-7 NIV)

We can’t control the environment around our children, but we can intercede on their behalf in prayer. I want my children, and your children, to grow up and experience the joy of being a husband or wife, of sharing in the miracle of birth, spending time building campfires, and building strong homes full of love and compassion. I want that for them so bad, but I can’t guarantee it, not in the world in which we live. Not with so many distractions that try and lure them away. Not with so many young people dying at the hands of another person, not with the family being belittled and put down on every side, not with quickie divorces making it so easy to get out of what God has joined together. I can’t guarantee anything, but I can pray. We should pray for everything concerning our kids – their safe delivery, their spiritual, physical, and emotional growth, their protection, decisions they will be faced with in life, and their future.

One of the most beautiful songs that I have ever heard sung was written and sung by a daddy. Wayne Watson is a man of prayer and it was his prayers that prompted this beautiful song. Listen to the lyrics.

Somewhere in the world today, a little girl will go to play.

All dressed up in momma’s clothes. At least that’s the way I suppose it goes.

Somewhere in the world tonight. Before she reaches to turn out the light.

She’ll be praying for her tender heart. The simple prayer – it’s a work of art.

And I don’t even know her name, but I’m praying for her just the same.

That the Lord will write His name upon her heart.

Cause somewhere in the course of this life, my little boy will need a godly wife.

So hold on to Jesus baby wherever you are.

Somewhere in the world out there; that little girl is learning how to care.

She’s picking up her momma’s charms or maybe swinging ’round in her daddy’s arms.

Somewhere in the world to be; though the future is not really clear to me.

There’s to be a tender love; grounded in eternal love above.

And I don’t even know her name, but I’m praying for just the same.

That the Lord will write His name upon her heart.

Cause somewhere in the course of this life my little boy will need a godly wife.

So hold on to Jesus baby wherever you are.

So hold on to Jesus baby wherever you are.

God has a great and meaningful future in mind for our children. Nobody wants the will of God to become reality in the lives of our children more than I do, but neither you nor I can control their future. There are variables and choices to be made by them and us in the days, months, and years ahead that will greatly impact their lives. We just can’t waste our time on worry when our children need our energy to be spent in prayer.

The second area where we can be of benefit to our children is – The blessing of sacrifice. Sacrifice is a highly valued word in the business world men. It is assumed that when you join the team you will be a team player. You will make sacrifices for the betterment of the team. So if you have to take an extra day of travel a week for the sake of the team, so be it. If you never get to sit in the stands to watch your little boy or girl play little league ball, remember how bad the team needs you. If your work load and late night meetings mean that most of your conversations with your little princess are one sided, spent in her room with you seated on the floor by her bedside long after she has been tucked in and gone to sleep, then remember the promotion your received last month. Let me assure you guys – enough sacrifices have already been made for the sake of the corporation. The corporations are doing very well thank you, but our homes are in shambles. Dad, come home. Your little ones are calling, crying, wanting nothing more than to spend quantity time, not just quality time with you.

The Apostle Paul writes in 1 Timothy 5:8,

If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (1 Tim 5:8 NIV)

It is so very important that we become ever conscious of the fact that our families need us so very badly. God has blessed each of us with incredible talents, and they are to be used, but the greatest talent He has endowed you with is the ability to uniquely bless your wife and children. It is so easy for us to become blinded by the smooth talking world that promises fame and fortune as a return on the investment of a little sacrifice, but we must not bite the bait. Invest in the future of your family dad.

Bart Campolo is the son of one of my favorite preachers, Dr. Tony Campolo, professor of Sociology at Eastern College in Pennsylvania. Bart and Tony wrote a book together called, “Things We Wish We Had Said,” which cuts past all of the importance derived outside the home to the urgent needs of fathers in their homes. Bart writes to his dad,

Dear Dad,

I don’t know how to say this except just come out and say it: I wish we had spent more time together when I was growing up. I don’t want you to feel guilty or bad, because it wasn’t all your fault. You were trying to balance your family with your career and service to God. I was intent on my friends, my sports, occasionally my studies, and, when I got old enough, girls. Somehow we both got busy, and the time got away from us. Why do I wish we had spent more time together? You managed well enough to keep me from resenting your career. You entertained at my birthday parties. You came to my games. You and mom created rituals that gave me a sense of security and belonging. Why do I think you should have been around more if I didn’t miss you back then? It’s simple, Dad. Because I miss you now.

I’m twenty-six years old now. I have a wife, a career, and a life of my own. My childhood is gone now, and I can’t do a thing about it. A few years ago they tore down my elementary school to put up an office building. The other night I ran into Robin Roach, who was the first girl I ever kissed, back when we were in the seventh grade, and I felt so old when she told me she was a senior analyst for a major corporation. Everything that was a part of my childhood is slipping away into time, and all that is left of it for me to hold onto is a bunch of old photographs and my memories. My childhood is gone, and I will never be able to be with you the way I was with you as a little boy. I will never be that small, and you will never seem that big again. But I have my stories, and they comfort me when I am overwhelmed by the world, when I am too old all of a sudden, when I lose my sense of wonder. They are all I have of my boyhood, and the reason I wish we had spent more time together is that I wish I had more of those memories. It isn’t that you didn’t do enough, you see, for I would always want more. You were the king of the world back then, the imp of fun, the man with all of the answers, he one who could always fix what was broken. You made life seem magical to me.

When you die dad, I will surely go to pieces for a while, because I still count on you more than anyone knows, but in the end I will be all right. I will have my stories, and in them I will always have part of you, the part that tells me who I am and where I came from. I only wish there was more because what there is means all the world to me.

Love,

Bart

What a beautiful picture Bart Campolo has etched before us of the importance and impact we as fathers can have on all of our children. To have a positive impact we must make the sacrifice to dispense with our dreams of climbing the ladder of success while they are home so that we can invest in their lives.

The memories Bart speaks of are many in my head and heart, but yet my head, like Bart Campolo’s, is not full and could never be full with enough of those treasured memories of my childhood with my dad. Memories of sacrifice, playing catch in the front yard, seeing dad sit in the stands at my games, having him put together a scrap book of my Senior year in high school, and playing croquet in the backyard with all of my friends. As I have grown older there is one memory that I often reflect on that in the past few years has taken on great significance.

When I was in the seventh grade my father was working as a machinist at Halliburton when the Union was voted in. The workers voted to walk-out and go on strike until they could get better benefits and more money. All of the Union members were asked to walk away from their steady income in exchange for walking the picket line for $40.00 a week. You know the story, sacrifice for the betterment of everyone. My dad went out on strike and while he was walking the picket line he also had a part-time job. His two paychecks weren’t enough to feed and clothe three hungry kids and maintain our household. My dad made a sacrifice for his family – he went back to work. He endured crossing the picket line, the angry men and women he had once marched with, being called a “scab,” and having our own family threatened. Throughout my life with my dad his employer has always asked him to make sacrifices for the company, sacrifices he didn’t always want to make. When I was in the seventh grade my dad made the ultimate sacrifice for our family. It was his willingness to provide for us over the possible advances he could have reaped that has convinced me that the sacrifices I make for my wife and children will pay much greater dividends than any sacrifice I could ever make for the church or ministry.

The final way in which we can be a blessing to our children that I want to discuss this morning is – The blessing of encouragement. The Apostle Paul writes, “Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.” (Col 3:21 NIV) It is so very important for each of us to be an encouragement to our children today. I don’t want to limit my encouragement solely to my “family.” We, as a church “family,” need to be an encouraging church instilling within the minds of our children, and the young people under our influence, the reality of God’s abundant gifts in their lives. When a child has a dream the worst thing any of us can do is to throw water on the passionate fires of hope in their heart.

I believe God has given us grandparents as a prime example of encouragement for young people. To my parents and Connie’s folks, our kids are the brightest, most athletic, and good-looking children the world has ever seen – and they don’t mind telling folks either. When you hear grandparents speaking about their grandchildren you often hear descriptive words like “best, greatest, smartest, strongest, fastest, brightest.”

I had the privilege of growing up just a few blocks from my grandfather. We spent a lot of time together when I was a kid. On Saturday morning he would come to my house and pick me up so that we could go eat breakfast together. Our breakfast time together wasn’t spent with his head buried in a newspaper. He spent our time instilling within me his philosophy of life. He talked to me about economics as he taught me how the stock market worked. He taught me about athletics, he was a semi-pro baseball and basketball coach for years. He talked to me about marriage and family issues – he wanted me to marry the banker’s daughter. He would often say, “There is nothing wrong with marrying money.” More than anything else he drilled into my head over and over and over – “Mike Hays you are a winner! You can go wherever you want to go and do whatever you want to do!” He would say, “I’ve been around many people in my life, but I’ve never met anyone who had it on the ball like you son.” Now, I’m smart enough to figure it out now, but when I was a kid growing up I bought it hook, line, and sinker. I believed he was telling it like it was – after all, he was my grandfather.

I am sure Isaac often used words like that of Esau, but how often did he use them of Jacob? Jacob used them as he described Joseph, but what about the other brothers? Dad, it is so important that we continually bombard all of our children with the same optimistic, enthusiastic, support that my grandfather gave to me. Convince them that theirs is a great and glorious future – it is! Convince them that they are the most special person God has ever placed on the face of the earth – they are! Build them up, encourage them, always stand by their side through their victories and even more so through their defeats and setbacks.

I have to confess to you that I tend to focus too much on strengthening my children’s weaknesses by pointing out their faults rather than by giving them positive reinforcement. When my kids bring home their work from school I acknowledge their excellence, but discuss their less than excellent efforts. I am convinced that there is a better way. I am not implying that we should gloss over our children’s sin or shortcomings, weaknesses, and mistakes, but I am saying, without apology, that whenever our children fall short of our expectations we need to remember the mistakes that we made when we were young. If you were one of those rare children who did not make any mistakes then you need to consider that God says, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” I have failed so many times in my life in so many areas of my life that I have lost count. Losing count is precisely what I need to do with the stumblings of my kids.

Dad, we need to approach each new day with the zeal and enthusiasm our children so desperately need. Be their biggest cheerleader. When they mess up, don’t rub their nose in it, encourage them and let them know you are with them to help them do better in the future.

I loved watching some of the NBA Finals with Michael Jordan and Karl Malone demonstrating their incredible talents. The athletic ability of those guys and their teammates is something to behold, but do you know the most valuable ability they both possess? Encouragement. I watched both Michael and Karl throughout the series and time after time when one of their teammates would blow it they would go over, slap them on the backside, and speak words of encouragement to their disappointed teammate. When one of the Bulls or Jazz blew a scoring opportunity or turned the ball over, do you honestly think they intended to make a mistake? They knew what they had done and the last thing any of them needed was for someone to come and say, “Boy, that really helped us out! Why didn’t you just dribble the ball down to their goal and give them two points!” No, they needed someone to slap them on the backside and say, “Hey, it’s alright. We’ll get it next time.”

Our children are no different. When they don’t score so well on a test, don’t play so hard on the field, or don’t cooperate so well around the home – we need to encourage them to get back in the game. Encourage them as God encourages you when you mess up. When you blow it and turn to God in prayer, asking for forgiveness does God say, “Oh, its you again. I should have known you were going to blow it again. Won’t you ever get it right?” God is our Father and the model for how we should conduct our lives as parents. Love those children. Be merciful when they need mercy. Encourage them to use the manifold gifts God has blessed them with in their life.

Father’s Day is a special day because father’s are special. Men, we have been given a big responsibility by our Heavenly Father. We need to pray daily that God might strengthen us so that we might be a blessing to our children, each and every one, and to all of those around us. Pray for your children. Pray for their daily needs, their development, their spiritual growth, and their future. Sacrifice for your children. Give up the raise and the cross-country move so that the kids might see your commitment to them. Let someone else take on the added travel time which goes along with the promotion so that you might be able to give quantity time as well as quality time to the kids. Encourage them always. You cheer for them when no one else notices their presence. Make a big deal out of their little victories. Don’t magnify their mistakes, but encourage them to learn from them so they might not have to experience the pain of that particular wrong decision in the future.