Father’s Day is celebrated around the world, but that hasn’t always been the case. The very first Father’s Day was celebrated on July 5, 1908 when a West Virginia church held a service to honor 362 men who had died in December of the previous year in an explosion at the Fairmont Coal Company mines.
In 1909, Sonora Smart Dodd, one of six children raised by a widower, began working in her town to get fathers honored in the same way mothers were honored on Mother’s Day. She was successful in her efforts and on July 19, 1910, the first statewide Father’s Day was observed in Washington State. Most men weren’t in favor of “Father’s Day” because they said it wasn’t “manly” to give gifts like cards and flowers to men. The observance of Father’s Day spread over time beyond Washington State and has been observed in one way or another since the early 1900s. Father’s Day became a national holiday in 1972 when President Nixon signed a proclamation making Father’s Day a national holiday.
More than a billion dollars will be spent this Father’s Day to honor our dads, but I don’t want to use my time this morning to recommend the best gifts for dads. I want to spend my time this morning encouraging all of you who are dads. Your calling from God to be a father is a serious calling. It is a calling that is far too big for any dad to take on by himself. If there was one job description that all dads could follow it would be helpful, but coming up with that job description would prove to be impossible because it would vary according to who you talk to. One dad will tell you that you should focus on “this” and not “that.” Another older dad will tell you that you should focus on “that” and not “this.” What “worked” for one dad may not “work” for another.
I was reading about fathers and children this past week on the Dadinfo website. They have a “Help Wanted” post that hits at the heart of the demands of fatherhood. Listen to this.
Long term, team players needed, for challenging, permanent work in an often chaotic environment. Candidates must possess excellent communication and organizational skills and be willing to work variable hours, which will include evenings and weekends and frequent 24 hour shifts on call. Some overnight travel required, including trips to primitive camping sites on rainy weekends and endless sports tournaments in faraway cities. Extensive courier duties also required. Travel expenses not reimbursed. Some requirements include:
Must be willing to be hated, at least temporarily, until someone needs money.
Must be willing to bite tongue repeatedly.
Also, must possess the physical stamina of a pack mule and be able to go from zero to 60 mph in three seconds flat in case, this time, the screams from the backyard are not someone just crying wolf.
Must be willing to face stimulating technical challenges, such as small gadget repair, mysteriously sluggish toilets, and stuck zippers.
Must screen phone calls, stay alert for social media red flags, maintain calendars, and help with endless homework projects.
Must be willing to be indispensable one minute, an embarrassment the next.
Must handle assembly and product safety testing of a half million cheap, plastic toys, and battery operated devices.
Must always hope for the best but be prepared for the worst.
Your job is to remain in the same position for years, without complaining, constantly retraining and updating your skills, so that those in your charge can ultimately surpass you.
On-the-job training offered on a continually exhausting basis.
You pay them, offering frequent bonuses and raises! And when you die, you give them whatever is left. The oddest thing about this reverse-salary scheme is that you actually enjoy it and wish you could only do more…
The outline provided by Dadinfo is not far from the truth, but it lacks the needed information on how to accomplish all of these things. There are many dads who are more than willing to give you advice on what you need to do, what you should do, and what you’ll be wasting your time in doing, but I want to let you know that what worked for them may not work for you as you seek to encourage, teach, train, discipline, and love your kids.
There is no universal blueprint for you to utilize that will guarantee that your kids will grow up healthy, well-rounded, and loving the Lord even more than you do. Anyone who tries to convince you that they have a fail proof method is nothing more than a snake oil salesman and you should run from them as fast as you can.
I’ve known some godly men who had kids that didn’t want anything to do with the Lord. I’ve known some very successful men who had children that struggled and struggled to find their place in this world. I’ve known some very moral and ethical men who had a child end up in prison because of the choices they made in life. At the same time, I’ve known some dads who were a wreck in their personal lives and yet their kids ended up working in full-time ministry. I’ve known kids who didn’t have a dad that turned out to be incredible fathers and successful in business. I’ve watched this take place for years and years and it is still a mystery to me.
Instead of spending our time talking about how to produce godly kids I would rather focus for the next few minutes on what’s most important for you as a father. I want you to know that most of what I’ve learned has come about because of the many mistakes I’ve made. There are many things I would do different if I had the opportunity to go back in time and be a better dad to Dan, Nate, and Annie. I never intentionally tried to hurt any of them, but there are some things that I sure could have done better.
There are so many things that you can focus on with your kids: You can provide for them every opportunity to become a great athlete, musician, dancer, academic, or artist, but I wouldn’t make that my priority. If I had it to do over again I would make these things my priorities:
First, tell your kids you love them…often. Never miss an opportunity to tell your kids that you love them. I’ve noticed something through the years as I have been reading God’s Word: God doesn’t hesitate to tell us that He loves us. He doesn’t limit His love for us with words; He shows us His love over and over again. Let me give you just a few examples. In Jeremiah 31:3 we read,
3 The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” (Jeremiah 31:3 NIV)
What kind of love is it that God has loved you and me with…it’s an everlasting love, an endless love, an inexhaustible love. We are called to love our kids with the same kind of love and to never miss an opportunity to tell them and show them. The second verse I want you to see is found in Zephaniiah 3:17.
17 The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing. (Zephaniah 3:17 NIV)
Not only does God love us with an everlasting love, but according to Zephaniah He takes great delight in us and rejoices over us with singing. Now, I need to point out, we are not always lovable and neither will your kids be either. I’m sure that when we are ungrateful, rebellious, and distant that God doesn’t feel like delighting in us, but He does and so must you when your kids are ungrateful, rebellious, and distant.
The love that those who do not know God are most familiar with is reciprocal love—if you love me then I will continue to love you. If you are faithful, grateful, and loyal then I will continue to love you. But, the love that you as Jesus’ shepherd over your kids must embody is the love demonstrated by God towards you. His love is not centered in emotion. God’s love comes from His will, His decision to love us regardless of whether or not we are grateful, loving, or obedient. Dads, love your kids. Tell them you love them. Take them in your arms. Show them you love them in as many ways as possible.
Second, lead, guide, and correct but don’t crush your kids. There are two huge mistakes that we as parents can make and I see both of these growing in our day. What’s really interesting is that they are polar opposites of each other. The first mistake that seems to be growing and growing today is the laissez-faire attitude towards parenting kids. This type of parenting is pretty much hands-off. Parents show little concern or interest in what their kids are doing, they seldom address their kid’s misbehavior with any seriousness, and they pay no attention to the company their kids keep.
The second big mistake dads can make in parenting their kids is to become a “helicopter parent.” You may or not know the term, “helicopter parent,” but you certainly know one, you could possibly even be one. Dr. Ann Dunnewold, a licensed psychologist and author of Even June Cleaver Would Forget the Juice Box, says, “It means being involved in a child’s life in a way that is overcontrolling, overprotecting, and overperfecting, in a way that is in excess of responsible parenting.” The helicopter parent is always there to observe, intervene, guide every move, and insure their child’s success at all costs. They call teachers every time their child makes anything less than an “A,” they are all over the coaches when their son or daughter isn’t on the starting team, they vet every friend to make sure their child is never around a potential “bad” influence, they are “friends” not only with their child, but with all of their kid’s friends on social media so they can watch their every move.
For some helicopter parents, their hovering doesn’t stop when they go to college. I heard a story from a friend about a mom who drives to her son’s college every weekend to do his laundry. She heard that her son’s roommate drinks beer so she wrote a letter to the President of the university demanding that he be removed from her son’s room. Too much? Maybe just a little.
What’s interesting is that both of these parenting styles have been shown to “exasperate” kids. I stole that word as a description of what we can do to our kids from the Apostle Paul. He wrote to the dads in Ephesus and said,
4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4 NIV)
The Greek word translated, “exasperate,” is the word, “?????????” (parorgizo) and it means, “to rouse to wrath, to provoke, exasperate,” or “to stir anger.” What’s really interesting is that both of the parenting styles we’ve just talked about can exasperate our kids; they can stir up anger within them. John MacArthur writes about the laissez-faire parenting style by saying,
Excessively permissive parents who indulge or coddle their misbehaving children are actually displaying unloving behavior toward them. Studies prove that children given too much freedom begin to feel insecure and unloved. Our society has fostered increasingly permissive attitudes toward children for many years. We are reaping the harvest of a whole generation of angry young people.
The helicopter parent can exasperate their kids as well. Can you think back to when you were a child? Would you really want your mom and dad commenting on every Facebook or Instagram post you put up? Wouldn’t you have wanted to disappear if you saw your dad chewing out the coach because you didn’t get enough playing time? I would have loved for my mom to have done my homework each night, but it wouldn’t have done me any good in helping me take on the responsibilities of being an adult. There’s a better way.
Third, nurture your kid’s growth with God’s Word. The Apostle Paul says that rather than exasperating our kids, we are to nurture, “to bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” There is no educational institution that is able to equip kids for what they will face in life as kids, as well as adults, like God’s Word. There is no “parent” on the planet that is able to offer counsel and guidance in all life like God’s Word. There is no “comforter” that is able to comfort and strengthen us when we are broken and shattered like God’s Word. Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about. When I was a kid my parents were my authority. My mom and dad set the rules, yet I found ways around their rules and I found ways to hide from them what I was doing. When I went to college I didn’t have them around to police me, but by that time I had accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior and was reading God’s Word. What’s funny is that at a time when I could have been living it up, partying every night, I didn’t. It wasn’t because of rules my mom and dad had set for me, but it was because of what I was learning in God’s Word. Here’s another example. My mom was a Hall of Fame “comforter.” She knew when I was down and she could speak such encouraging words to me. She never had a counseling class, but she could comfort me when I was down. My mom isn’t here any longer, but that’s “ok” because I have a Comforter who is close to me when I am brokenhearted. What a blessing!
So, you’re convinced now that you need to nurture your kids with God’s Word. You may wonder, “At what age should I begin?” That’s a great question. Start right now. It doesn’t matter how young they are you need to share God’s Word with them. Bruce Waltke is one of the world’s foremost Bible translators. He’s responsible for the Old Testament translation of the New International Version Bible from Hebrew into English. Bruce was in Seoul Korea teaching last year. There were 7,000 people at the meeting, but what amazed Dr. Waltke were the kindergarten kids. There were more than one hundred 5 year olds that Dr. Waltke met with one morning. The kids were reciting the 10 Commandments in Hebrew. They were reciting New Testament Scriptures in Greek as well. He was especially amazed and bewildered that the 5 year olds were able to recite all 32 of the Hebrew’s campsites as they were traveling from Egypt through the Wilderness to the Promised Land. Dr. Waltke asked, “Why would you have the kids memorize such trivial matters as the campsites?” The leaders told Dr. Waltke that the problem with Israel was that they failed to teach their kids about the mighty acts of God. Each camping site the kids memorized was followed by a mighty act of God.
Trevin Wax is an author and Director of The Gospel Project. When his son was real young, 3 years old, Trevin would to recite The Apostle’s Creed at bedtime. Trevin says that in no time his little boy was reciting The Apostle’s Creed right along with him…at 3 years of age. When our kids were little they went to sleep each night listening to GT and the Halo Express. G.T. and the Halo Express were a series of cassette tapes with Scripture set to kid’s music. Dan, Nate, and Annie would sing God’s Word that they learned before they ever learned to read or write. It’s not too early and neither is it too late dad. Nurture your kids with God’s Word.
Last of all, let them see Jesus living in you. As important as it is to nurture your kids in the Word of God it is even more important that your kids see Jesus in you. Over and over again in God’s Word we are told to let our light shine in an unbelieving world. Jesus said,
16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16 NIV)
Our ministry begins at home. There is no place that will present a greater challenge in your daily walk than your home. The folks at church and the people we work with every day only know us to the degree that we let them know us, but our wives and kids know us really well. Not only do they know us—the good, the bad, and the ugly, but they also know how to push our buttons. There is no greater testing ground for walking with Jesus than our homes and that is the one place where we must let our light shine.
We can memorize the whole Bible with our kids, but if they don’t see Jesus in us then they are going to have trouble seeing the truth of God’s Word. Please don’t hear me say that we must be perfect. That’s impossible. What we can be is humble. When we mess up we need to be quick to admit our mistakes and ask for forgiveness. What we can be is loving. Never ever plant a seed of doubt in the heart of your child as it pertains to your love. What we can be is unashamedly committed to Jesus. Let your love for Him show. Take your kids to worship and Bible study instead of sending them while you go out and play golf or go hunting or stay home to watch a game. Let them see your love for our Savior.
I’ve got to add one more thing. There may come a time when your child wants nothing to do with you. A disagreement may become so deep that it threatens the future of your relationship with your child. Do not allow anything to drive a wedge between you and your child.
I read a story this week about Lee Strobel, the great author of “A Case for Christ” and “A Case for Faith.” Lee and his dad had a falling out when his father stood before him, held up his pinky finger and said, “I don’t have enough love for you to fill my little finger.” Lee left home. His dad didn’t attend his graduation and whenever they were around one another they were distant and didn’t talk. Then his father died. Lee went to the wake. He asked everyone to leave the room. As he stood over his father’s casket he said, “I’m sorry dad.” He was sorry for the ways he had disrespected his father, for the lies and rebellion, for his bitterness, and lack of gratitude. Lee owned some of his own culpability in the brokenness of the relationship. Then he spoke his last words to his dad, “I forgive you.” They were words he wished he had spoken to his dad while he was alive, but now the opportunity was gone.
This is quite a different scene than what I experienced while back. I had a friend who was nearing the end of his life. He told me that he was ready. He had done everything he had ever wanted to do in life. I didn’t dispute the statement. I had no reason to, but a couple of weeks later when I went to see him his voice began to crack as we talked. He told me about what had happened over the weekend. He had a son that he had not talked to in 18 years. A disagreement had grown so deep that the relationship was severed. The man’s grand-daughter, the daughter of the estranged son, had come to see her granddad. She said, “You don’t have long to live granddad. I don’t know what it was that led to you and dad not talking, but I wish you would reconcile.” That’s all it took. He picked up the phone, called his son, and they planned a meeting at his house. He told me that when his son arrived they hugged each other, cried together, and said, “I’m sorry” over and over again.
As he was telling me the story tears rolled down his cheeks. He was so mad at himself for wasting 18 years that he could have enjoyed with his son if only he wouldn’t have allowed the divide to remain. Before I left that day we held hands and prayed. We praised God for His reconciling work in our lives, that not only did God reconcile us to Himself through Jesus, but that He still has the power to reconcile us to one another.
Guys, parenting can be crazy. The Lord will take you on a journey that you can’t even imagine. Some of you will have your heart shattered time and time again, but let me assure you that there is nothing worth severing your relationship with your kids. At the same time, don’t miss what God desires to teach you in the tough times of parenting. Trust Him, cry out to Him, thank Him, and rely on Him in the great moments as well as in the dark nights that seem like they will never end.
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
July 21, 2015
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