My Father's Picture
One little boy defined Father’s Day like this: “Father’s Day is just like Mother’s Day, only you don’t spend as much on a present.” Come on, isn’t that true? Father’s Day is kind of the “left-over” holiday. It’s the one that we do just so the guys won’t feel bad. In fact Garrison Keillor writes that fatherhood is a big misunderstanding
We were young swashbuckling guys riding around in cool cars on a hot summer night and we pulled into the A&W for a root beer and these girls walked over in their little white summer dresses and the next thing we knew we had a house and a lawn and a teenager glowering at us and muttering something about us not understanding him. He thinks he's misunderstood -- hey, how about us? Look at Father's Day. All year long, we dads look forward to Our Day and think, "Well, maybe this year there will be a big parade. A dads drill team, twirling rakes. A float with the Boston Pops on it." And then, nothing. No fireworks, no music. A few people murmur, "Happy Father's Day," and that's it. It's about as festive as Arbor Day or National Pickle Week.
One Dad writes that, during his freshman year, his son Steve couldn’t get home for Christmas. So Steve sent him a set of inexpensive cuff links and a note reading: “Dear Dad, This is not much, but it’s all you could afford.”
The Illinois Bell Telephone Co. reports that the volume of long distance calls made on Father’s Day is growing faster than the number on Mother’s Day. Now, that might make you think that I’m wrong about this. Maybe Father’s Day is just as important as Mother’s Day. You might think that until you hear the rest of the story: They said that the volume of calls made on Father’s Day was growing faster than the volume made on Mother’s Day, but the company went on to apologize that they took so long in compiling the statistics because the extra billing of calls to fathers slowed things down. Most of the calls were “collect.”
Now I know that those statistics may call you to a couple of different reactions: In the first place, you might think, “Well, that’s not true for our family. We give our father a lot of honor and he rightfully deserves it.” Others may say, “Well that is true of our family, but I have to tell you that my father doesn’t get honor because he doesn’t deserve honor.” And, men, in some cases, they are right. Often fathers remain totally disengaged from their children. The selfishness of many men separates them from their kids through their own choice, and, quite frankly, they are hard to honor. Many men have checked out of fatherhood whether they live at home or not.
Did you know that in 1997 (latest stats I found) children spent on 45 minutes per week engaged in any conversation with anyone in the family where conversation was the major activity. The number of families having dinner together regularly dropped by 33% from 1987-1997. Family vacations decreased by 28% as well. I can only imagine what has happened in the last ten years with the explosion of technology and texting.
But understand that, while fathers have less and less involvement in the lives of their children, this apathy is not without consequences. Sons with uninvolved fathers are 300%more likely to be incarcerated in state juvenile institutions. Daughters with uninvolved fathers are 111%more likely to be teen parents Women with uninvolved fathers are 92% more likely to fail in their marriages. Men with uninvolved fathers are 35% more likely to fail in their marriages. Children from father-absent homes make up 63% of youth suicides. Children who live without their fathers are 2-3 times more likely to be poor, use drugs, experience health, educational,
emotional and behavioral problems, to be victims of child abuse and to engage in
criminal behavior than those who live with their fathers. Dad’s are important!
But there is one exception to this overall principle. Research has found that there is one occasion when the presence of the father actually makes things worse, and not better. When the father is antisocial or even abusive, the children in those families turn out worse. Which just leads me to this, dads: Fathers, it is not enough to be HOME, we must also be HOLY. In fact, we must be holy at home. There must be a godliness that pervades our hearts.
If that is so, just what does a godly dad look like? I want to answer that question today by drawing you a picture of a godly leader. In a way, Moses’ position as the leader of the Jews mirrored that of a Father. He had to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt and they often acted like children. How was he able to do it? How did he influence them to follow him?
There is an interesting passage of Scripture over in Exodus chapter 34. After Moses receives the ten commandments, he was treated to multiple audiences with God. The Bible says, “29 Now it was so, when Moses came down from Mount Sinai (and the two tablets of the Testimony were in Moses’ hand when he came down from the mountain), that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone while he talked with Him.
30 So when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. 31 Then Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the rulers of the congregation returned to him; and Moses talked with them. 32 Afterward all the children of Israel came near, and he gave them as commandments all that the Lord had spoken with him on Mount Sinai. 33 And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face. 34 But whenever Moses went in before the Lord to speak with Him, he would take the veil off until he came out; and he would come out and speak to the children of Israel whatever he had been commanded.
There was the unmistakable glow of holiness about him. There was a power he didn’t control and which he couldn’t explain. More than anything else, I believe it was this power with God and this god-likeness that made Moses effective as a leader, and I believe it is this power with God and this god-likeness that will make you an effective father. The question becomes, “How?” How can I become a godly father? Well, four characteristic describe a godly father. First:
DIV 1: GODLY FATHERS ACT
Now this holiness is more than a state of being, it is a state of action. In fact, it is a state of their hearts that moves them to activity. It begins with expectations. Fathers expect holiness. Everything we have said about Moses takes place in an interesting context. It happens right after Moses goes up on Mt. Sinai to receive the 10 commandments, written by the finger of God. In the midst of his 40 day conversation with the Almighty, he is sent down the mountain by God because the people have begun to commit idolatry. You see what happened over in Exodus 32:1
1 Now when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered together to Aaron, and said to him, “Come, make us gods that shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” 2 And Aaron said to them, “Break off the golden earrings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.”
Wow! That was easy! Aaron’s response when the people wanted to turn away from God and worship an idol was, “Hmm . . . Ok! Bring me your class rings and your wedding bands and we’ll melt ‘em down!” There was no passion for godliness here. Holiness was not expected. Aaron gave in.
That was not so with Moses. Look how he reacts. 32:19 says:
19 So it was, as soon as he came near the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing. So Moses’ anger became hot, and he cast the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. 20 Then he took the calf which they had made, burned it in the fire, and ground it to powder; and he scattered it on the water and made the children of Israel drink it. 21 And Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you that you have brought so great a sin upon them?”
And he expected holiness so much that he did something about it. Fathers take action: In v 25 it says:
25 Now when Moses saw that the people were unrestrained (for Aaron had not restrained them, to their shame among their enemies), 26 then Moses stood in the entrance of the camp, and said, “Whoever is on the Lord’s side—come to me!” And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together to him. 27 And he said to them, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘Let every man put his sword on his side, and go in and out from entrance to entrance throughout the camp, and let every man kill his brother, every man his companion, and every man his neighbor.’ ” 28 So the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And about three thousand men of the people fell that day. 29 Then Moses said, “Consecrate yourselves today to the Lord, that He may bestow on you a blessing this day, for every man has opposed his son and his brother.”
Moses came down the mountain and cleaned house! He made clear what God had revealed to him: holiness was not an option. He expected it because God expected it, and he was willing to take responsibility for it. One of the most pathetic passages of scripture in the Bible has to be chapter 32:22-24.
So Aaron said, “Do not let the anger of my lord become hot. You know the people, that they are set on evil. 23 For they said to me, ‘Make us gods that shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ 24 And I said to them, ‘Whoever has any gold, let them break it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I cast it into the fire, and this calf came out.”
Hey! You can sum up Aaron’s answer like this: Come on Moses! You know these people, they’re baaaaad. They will have to answer for themselves. The holiness of this people is not my responsibility. Moses basically says, “Aaron, that’s where you are wrong. Godly leaders are holy. They expect holiness from their people and they take responsibility for the holiness of their people.”
And the same goes for godly fathers. Godly fathers expect and take responsibility for their family’s holiness. You might say, “How, Rusty? How can I insure my family’s holiness? What do I have to do?” Well, if you want to influence your family to be holy, you must first,
Decipher holiness. I have never seen a group of Christian fathers today who seem to be more clueless when it comes to dealing with their culture. Listen! They will allow their daughters to leave their house scantily clad in the latest fashion and never say a word. They will allow their kids to set the agenda when it comes to what is seen on their television screens or computer monitors, knowing that they are in grave danger. They will allow their kids free access to facebook and youtube on their cellphones and rarely if ever even check up on them. They seem to be deliberately blind, somehow, and unable to put two and two together spiritually speaking. A godly father takes his culture, filters it through the Word of God, then gives his family only those things which will make them holy. He is not passively accepting the culture and embracing sin, he is actively intercepting the culture and inspiring holiness. He deciphers holiness.
Then he demonstrates holiness. One reason fathers are so passive on this “holiness” thing is that they are personally not living a holy life themselves. They know that the moment they try to lead their family to holiness, they will immediately be charged with hypocrisy by the people who are closest to them. Dad’s if we are to influence our families, we must do so by example. Our lives must be concrete demonstrations of the Word of God applied to the knotty problems of life. A godly father deciphers holiness and demonstrates holiness, but lastly, he
Declares holiness. Simply put, he obeys Deuteronomy 6:4. God’s word is in His heart; he teaches it diligently to his children. He talks about it when he sits in his house, when he walks by the way; when he goes to bed at night and when he gets up in the morning. He binds himself to the word of God and constantly declares it to His children. And because he diligently uses the word of God to decipher his culture, lives out that word in his own life, and teaches it to his children, he produces, by the grace of God, a holy family.
I have seen this so clearly in my own family . . . not in my leadership but in that of my father. I remember when my sister and I were both teenagers. We had a fairly active teen group in our church and there was this one family who worked with us a good bit. They really were wonderful people, but they also had teenagers. One of their teens was a boy about my sister’s age. I remember that one night we were over at this youth leader’s house for some kind of meeting or something and, when it was over, there son was supposed to take several of the people home. Now he was considered to be pretty cool and everyone who was “in” was going to ride with him. My sister wanted to ride with him and I think my dad was phoned to see if that would be ok.
Now, here you have the situation: My dad’s pastoring the church; one of his youth worker’s sons wants to give my sister a ride. She wanted to ride in the car with them. I’m sure he felt a lot of pressure. But my dad could not only decipher the culture, he deciphered human nature too. He sensed that something wasn’t right in the life of this young man and so he said, “no!” My sister was mad! I don’t know but what the boy’s parents might have been a little upset too. Didn’t faze my father. I can’t remember if he came and got us or we rode home with some other adult.
The next day we heard that as that boy left with that crowd of kids, there was at least one bottle of “Boone’s Farm” that got passed around the car. It was a scandal in our church. My sister would have at least been tempted and would have been in danger if she had ridden in that car.
Dad’s listen! Deciphering, Demonstrating, and Declaring is your job because godly fathers are holy. But secondly:
DIV 2: GODLY FATHERS INTERCEDE
Whatever you may think of how Aaron acted in all of this, there is one thing you can say. Because of his own compromise and sin, he was in no position to pray for the people. That’s significant because the people, at this low point in their lives, and in very real danger from the judgment of God, desperately needed prayer.
Which is precisely why it was a good thing that Moses was there. He was able to pray at this moment. By the way, that’s what a godly father has to do: He has to first of all be able to pray for his family. I don’t mean that he mumbles a half-hearted “help me” in the middle of some crisis. I mean that he is effectively and constantly interceding for his family. I firmly believe that one of the reasons I stand here to day is because of my father and mother’s constant prayers for me. There have been times in my life when I am confident I would have and deserve to have died in my foolishness, but God preserved me. I am so glad my dad and mom were were able to pray.
But Moses was more than able to pray, he was enabled to pray. An interesting exchange between God and Moses occurs over in 33:1
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Depart and go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, . . . 3 Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; for I will not go up in your midst, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people.”
God says to Moses: I’m done. I will make sure they get what I promised them, but I go with them, I’m going to kill them. I believe this was a crisis. Moses knew that He needed God there and he needed the intimacy of that relationship in order to intercede for the people so he says in 33:15
Then he said to Him, “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here. 16 For how then will it be known that Your people and I have found grace in Your sight, except You go with us? So we shall be separate, Your people and I, from all the people who are upon the face of the earth.” 17 So the Lord said to Moses, “I will also do this thing that you have spoken; for you have found grace in My sight, and I know you by name.”
Did you catch that? Moses is able to stand in the presence of God and intercede for these people, and, believe me, they desperately needed intercession!
Fathers this tells me a couple of things: First, we can do all we can do to correctly raise our families but there is a good bit of this that we cannot control. Your children have a free will and a sinful nature just like you do. They are going to make their own decisions at some point and that’s a good thing because God made them to do that. You cannot control your child’s heart for God. You cannot control whether or not they become a Christian, not genuinely. You can’t fully control their sexual activity. There’s a lot you cannot control. So what are you to do? Sit passively by and let nature take its course? Absolutely not! There is one very powerful thing you can do. YOU CAN PRAY!
Francis Chan speaks of this in his own family. He said that his inability to control came home to him with his own teenage daughter. He said he realized that she was not in love with Jesus. He said that he spent nights, crying, bawling, and praying for the Lord.
I don’t know if you know who Francis Chan is, but he is a great man of God and a gifted preacher. He said that he realized that he was known for his ability to communicate the Word of God, but that there was nothing he could do for his own daughter to make her fall in love with Jesus. He could guide, lead, and even discipline, but he was powerless to convict her.
So . . . he prayed. I prayed, “God, either your Spirit comes into her, or your Spirit doesn’t. It doesn’t matter how great a Dad I am. I cannot bring her to life.”
One day he said that she came into his room. She said, "You were right, Dad. The Holy Spirit was not in me. But now he is." She talked about how near she was to God and how everything had changed.
Chan says that he and his wife were skeptical. They wanted to see evidence of change. But 18 months later, He can say that she really is a new creation. Chan says that he didn't do that. It was the Holy Spirit.
Godly fathers intercede, and just in case you’re wondering what that might look like in your family, let me give you some ideas that I found while researching this message. If you want to be a praying father, Pray Regularly. Bring every concern, dream, and desire about your child to God in fervent, persistent prayer. Two of the best times to pray with your child are on the way to school (assuming you drive him or her) and at bedtime—regardless of age. If you live a few miles from school, you can pray about what’s coming up in their lives on the way to school, you know—tests, friends, teachers, activities. You could close the prayer as you were pulling into the parking lot. “And Lord, we ask that you would keep each of our children from harm, evil, and temptation this day, that they would experience You at work in their lives and be used by You to influence others for Your Kingdom. Amen.” When your kids are old enough to drive you can use breakfast for this prayer time.
And then bedtime prayers can be powerful. You can pray for your child’s future mate, relationships, activities, challenges, temptations, and heart for God. Don’t assume that a teenager is too big for you to kneel beside his bed and pray.
Pray offensively. Before your child hits adolescence, pray for his peer group—that he will have at least one strong Christian buddy for the teenage years. Ask God to protect your child daily from others who would be an evil influence. Also consider asking God to help you spot your child doing things right so that you can encourage him in making right choices.
Pray defensively. Realize that your child is probably doing more wrong than you know. They will sometimes have friends who are bad influences. Pray them out of her life. If you feel your teen is deceiving you, ask God to help you catch them! Pray defensively
Pray Intensely Use fasting along with prayer. Pray when God brings your child to mind. It may be at that very moment, your child is facing a circumstance of critical importance. One couple felt a strong and sudden need one night to pray for their daughter. At the very time they slipped out of bed and to their knees, a police car was driving by their daughter’s car on a remote mountain road where she and a girlfriend had gone to look at the city lights, eat a sandwich, and talk. Unknown to them, an escaped prisoner was hiding underneath the car. The prisoner was apprehended, and the girls drove off unharmed.
Pray with your child. It’s easy for prayer to become an exclusive dialogue—you and God. Why not do what one mom, Nina, did with her teenage daughter, Natalie, and become prayer partners? Natalie’s teenage years were filled with special moments in which she and her mom knelt together and prayed over Natalie’s struggles and challenges.
Pray together as a couple. Pray with your wife or husband.
Listen, fathers! The job is much to big for you. The eternity of your precious child is on the line. You’re not going to be able through your determination and discipline to make them turn out right. Godly fathers intercede; godly fathers act, and then:
DIV 3: GODLY FATHERS SACRIFICE
There is a poignant verse tucked in the middle of this riveting story. In 32:9 God is angry. It says:
And the Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and indeed it is a stiff-necked people! 10 Now therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them. And I will make of you a great nation.”
God is about ready to wipe them out and start all over. That would have been a feather in Moses’ cap if he had been so inclined. We would be talking today, not of Father Abraham, but of Father Moses.
Moses reply is powerful. More than that it was sacrificial. He says in 32:32,But now, please forgive their sin—but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.” In that day, whenever the population of a city or a people group was too large to be committed to memory, it was written down. If you were a member of the city, you were on the roll; if you disgraced yourself or died, you were taken off. Moses is telling God, “If you will not forgive these people and insist that you must blot their names out of your “book,” then you must blot my name out also. Wow! That’s love! And, since love will always sacrifice itself for its cherished object, that’s sacrifice!
This is what godly dad’s do as well. Now notice I didn’t say that godly fathers “love” their families. I didn’t use that word because, if I had, many of you would have missed this point. Every single one of us dads would claim to genuinely love our families, but do we really? You see, when I say I love them, that means I am committed to sacrifice myself for them even, as in Moses’ case, to the point of suffering ultimate eternal punishment, if that were necessary or possible.
But, let’s be honest. That kind of sacrifice really doesn’t get at what is usually our struggle. Most of you men, if it came to it and you didn’t have time to really think about it much, would step in front of the bullet for your family. We don’t have a lot of trouble with bullets, we have real issues over the remote control. The sacrifices we struggle with are much more practical, and . . . much more critical.
We struggle to listen our kids because we’d rather watch tv;
We struggle to play with our kids when we’d rather play on the internet;
We struggle to pray with our families because we’d rather go on to bed.
We struggle to engage our wife’s conversation because we’d rather relax and not have to think.
Listen fathers, I believe it is just as critical that you sacrifice in the little things as it is that you be willing to step in front of an intruder’s bullet. The first is just as noble and far more critical than the second.
SERMON SPICE - A DAY AT THE BEACH
I love the connection that this video clip makes between our heavenly Father and your earthly father. I think that’s what ties everything I have said together, really. You see, ultimately, Moses was a great leader because he was so close to God that, whenever he went in to pray and commune with his Heavenly Father, he would come out from that meeting and the Bible says that his face would glow with the glory of God. Hey Dads, the point of you being a father is really not to raise a successful family or even to love your kids. Those are good goals, but they are secondary. The point of you being a good father is that, in doing so, you reflect the glory of God and you paint for your family such a dynamic picture of what their Heavenly Father is like that it creates a hunger in them to know Him. What a responsibility we have, dads!
How will you do it? Well, Holiness must be your goal. It is not enough for your kids to be good; they must be godly. And if this is to happen, then prayer must be your weapon . You must be an interceding father. And as you pray, you must also sacrifice, being willing to put your daily desires aside in order to minister to your family’s needs. And why will you do this? Because God’s glory is your ultimate goal. You want to be in such clear, constant communion with the Father that His glory is seen in you and your kids begin to be captivated by the very same God that so captivates you.