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Portrait of a Father
Why are effective fathers so vital to the health of our families and children? Why is it so difficult for men to be effective fathers? In this series, Chip paints the biblical portrait of a father as the leader, priest, teacher and lover of the home.More from this series
Today, four out of ten children will put their head on a pillow in a house without a dad.
In David Blankenhorn’s landmark book, I quote, he says: “The United States is becoming an increasingly fatherless society. A generation ago, an American child could reasonably expect to grow up with his or her father. Today, an American child can reasonably expect not to.”
Now, this isn’t academic to me. And what I know is, for a lot of you men, it’s not.
And so, I wrote my thesis on the role and responsibility of the father in transmitting values in the family.
And I thought, I want to find out what the Bible says. So I looked, anytime the word “father” showed up in Scripture… I divided the Bible into its five major areas.
You’ve got the historical, and then you have the wisdom, and the prophetic literature, and then the gospels, and then all the letters. And anytime the word “father” – when I could smell it, I studied all the passages and had all these papers and all I wanted to ask was two questions.
One: what’s the role of a dad according to God? Who’s he to be? And second: what’s the responsibility? What’s he to do?
And then I thought, because of my background, I did some work in psychology, I thought, I wonder what the world thinks.
And so, as I did that over here, I did the psychological and sociological research and it was early on. They were just beginning to study fathers because most people back then basically said, “Fathers don’t do much. I mean, they provide some genetic material but families do well without them or with them, it’s not a big deal.”
But emerging, they began to see three areas. The father’s role in moral development, the father’s role in developing sexual identity of a child, and the father’s role in a kid’s self-image.
And so, I did the literature review, and I took what I learned here and what the Bible said, and then I said, “Where do these line up?”
Because this wasn’t academic. I got three boys. I got a great dad. He loved me with all of his heart. His dad died when he was thirteen. He was in the Marines by the time he was sixteen.
He loved me but he didn’t have a clue about how to communicate it. And no one was Christians. My wife’s family weren’t Christians. We were first generation Christians. I was just like Scott, the testimony you heard.
And I’m thinking, I want to raise my boys God’s way. I don’t know what it is.
I want to talk about what a Biblical father is. We’re going to paint four quick pictures, snapshots, about what a dad is, what a father is – his role and his responsibility.
Now, I put some teaching notes that I’d like you to pull out with me now and as you pull those out, I want to up the ante just a little.
And what I mean by that is I want to up the ante in that I want to tell you why it’s so vital for the health of a family to have an effective father.
Because see, what the psychological research, the Bible aside, the psychological research was small then. It’s huge now.
Fatherless America became a landmark book. And the last twenty percent of it is all tiny, small print of empirical research.
And here’s what I can tell you, dads, moms, daughters. Is that the father is the primary shaper of a kid’s moral values. Whether a little boy or a girl learns right from wrong, the father has the primary role.
Second, in the sexual identity of a little boy or a little girl growing up in a home, the father is the primary influencer of whether a little girl feels safe and knows what it means to be feminine, or if the little boy knows what it means to be masculine.
The research indicates that, in terms of self-image, it’s about fifty-fifty: mom and dad.
Now, the given is, that mothers have this incredible nurturing bond and I think the most influential person in any child’s life, by and large, will be their mother. But in our day and in our world, people have said, fathers don’t matter. The research actually says just the opposite.
Second question to up the ante is this: why is it so hard for us, as dads, to be effective fathers? I mean, us regular guys. I mean, I’m talking about us chickens in here.
People who say, “I love God, I’ve had an experience with Christ, I’m born again, I’m forgiven, the Spirit of God lives in me, I’ve got the manual.”
Why is it so hard? Let me give you three or four reasons you might want to jot down. Number one: most of us, not all, most of us never had a model. It’s really hard to paint a picture, or to draw a picture, when you have no idea what it ought to look like.
There are not many people, that I say, “Hey, what’s a great father look like?” And they say, “Let me show you, man. Here’s my wallet. This is what it looks like, it’s my dad.” Most men can’t tell me that.
The second thing is, I call, cultural confusion. In the last thirty, forty years especially, we’ve entered a time where the role of a man has been minimized, his importance has been minimized, and his value has been minimized.
I mean, we got a lot of people today saying, “You know what? We don’t need you at all now. We can take your genetic material. We can put it in a test tube. We can pull this whole thing off without you, guys.”
And yet, every major societal issue in America, the greatest, you ready for this? Research of Fatherless America. The greatest predictability of whether a son or a daughter growing up in America lives in poverty is whether they have a father at home engaged and active. If not, the chances are five times greater they’ll end up in poverty.
The greatest predictability factor of the welfare of whether kids get on drugs, whether they end up in prison, whether they get pregnant before they’re married, or impregnate someone before they’re married, or whether they end up in juvenile hall is not race, it’s not economics, and it’s not geography.
The single, clearest indicator is the presence or absence, are you ready for that? Of an engaged, caring, loving father. Now, guys, do I have your attention? Your kids need you.
Because I got news for you. Men, when we have done our thing and we’ve busted it, the people that we’ll want around the table, and the relationship that’ll matter most, will not be from our work world.
And it won’t be your athletic prowess. And by then people won’t care how much money you’ve made. Or what you drive. Or where you live.
But you’ll want to look into the eyes of some grown adult children that say, “Hey Dad, man, you had your struggles just like I have mine. But am I glad you were my dad.” Right?
Open your teaching notes with me and let’s dig in.
And here’s how we’re going to approach it. I’m going to give you a pretty clear overview and outline and I’ve designed these notes, are you ready ladies? These are for your husband. You can take notes but these are for your husband. These notes are not to be used for elbow nudging later. Not to be left out on the table with highlighted marks like, you could use work here. Or, this is what meant a lot to me. We don’t do that, okay? These notes are for men here whose God says, “I love you and I know it’s hard to be a dad and it’s really tough. I want to empower you.”
These notes are designed so you can say, “Okay, here’s the four roles and here’s the four key responsibilities. And I need to be able to think this through. And I need it clear and I need it logical. So, give me a definition. Give me a classic passage. Tell me, what are the questions I need to ask? Tell me where my focus needs to be. Give me some how-tos and then summarize it and say, I am a steward of my family in this area in one sentence, and I’ll get away, and I’ll talk with God, and I’ll ponder, and I’ll do what He shows me. That’s who they’re designed for.” And so with that,
Men, your number one role in your family, according to the Bible, and the best psychological research, he is a leader. He’s a leader.
Now, I had this really long, really cool definition. People who work with words like me, I spend a lot of time alone. I write out these definitions. And I had this really long, cool definition.
And men, it was going to be like, he assumes the authority and responsibility of the overall protection and welfare before God to help protect, provide, and help them reach their full potential.
And it was really, really, really long. And I hang out in this little coffee shop where I study. And I share it with both believers and unbelievers. We’re kind of buddies now.
And they looked at me and said, “Man, that’s a lousy definition.” I said, “Well, how come?” They said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about, number one. I can’t remember it, number two!
So, guys, are you ready? This one’s for you. Here’s what a leader is. He makes things happen. That’s what you do, men. You make things happen.
Classic passage. Listen to 1 Corinthians chapter 4 verses 14 to 16. Paul’s going to pick a metaphor of the father and the role of a father to express his relationship with this church where he led these people to Christ. Notice, men, the role of leadership.
He says, “I don’t write these things to you to shame you but to admonish you as my beloved children.” Notice the heart. “For if you have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers for in Christ Jesus, I became your father through the gospel.”
In other words, they came to Christ and they started to grow and then everyone’s telling this Corinthian church, you ought to do this, you ought to believe this, you ought to do this, you ought to do that.
And Paul writes this letter to straighten out some problems. He says, you’re going to have people forever, being your tutors. He said, I’m your spiritual dad. I care more than other people care.
Now, notice as he picks up the metaphor for a father, what his expectation is. Look at his application. “I exhort you, therefore, be imitators of me.” Speed of the leader is speed of the team.
The apostle Paul says, see, long before Bandura did his research and told us that modeling is the greatest way of socialization and impact or education, Jesus had this down.
Remember what Jesus said in Luke 6:40? A learner, a disciple when he’s fully trained, will be just like his teacher.
Whether you like it or not, men, whether I like it or not, your kids are going to turn out a scary, ridiculous amount just like you.
And so, the greatest impact you can have on them is, do what? Be the kind of person you want them to become. And so, Paul could say, “Now, am I perfect? No.” He said, “But as I follow Christ with my ups and downs and I shoot it straight with you, be imitators of me.”
Men, you know what a leader does? They make things happen. The first way you make things happen is you be the kind of person you want your kids to become.
Questions leaders ask to make that happen are very simple. And guys, think about right now your work. Leaders are always asking, consciously or unconsciously, three questions. Where are we now? One. Two, where do we need to go? Three, what must we do to get there?
When’s the last time you said to yourself, Dad, okay, picture in your mind your four-year-old, your seven-year-old, your thirteen-year-old, your nineteen-year-old, your twenty-eight-year-old.
Because, see, what I’ve learned about this parenting stuff, your role completely changes. You never get out of the job. Right?
And now you say: where are they now? Where is my child spiritually, intellectually, emotionally, physically? Where do they need to go? Clear target – vision and values. Then strategy. What do I need to impart? What do I need to do? What do I need to model to help my little boy or not-so-little boy or girl, become all God wants them to be?
And you say to yourself, Wow. Never thought of it quite like that. Oh, yes you have. You think that way every day. Right? When you go to work.
Well, how many of you men go to work? You’re trying to build a company. You’re doing a construction site. You say, “Gosh, let’s have a building here. This is a nice place.” What kind of building? “Oh, it doesn’t matter. Let’s just bring some wood in and we’ll start nailing it together and a building will come up.”
“Let’s build a company.” Well, what’s your, who’s your market audience? What’s your strategy? How are you going to get there? “Oh, I don’t know. Let’s just hire a lot of people, give them a good compensation plan, and I’m sure something will come out of it.” What do you do, guys?
One of my donut shop buddies. He said the lights came on. And as I, as far as I know, he’s not in God’s family yet. Great guy, I mean, a good friend. And he told me, he said, “I work in the landscape industry.” He said, “When you said to bring the same focus and intensity to my family that I do to my job,” he said, “man, the lights came on.”
He said, “Before I landscape, I look at it and I decide, okay, what kind of plants, where am I going to put them? Where am I going to do the irrigation? Where does the sun come up? What kind of plants? What season will I use which plants?” He said, “I plan, and plan, and plan, and plan before I ever do anything.” And he said, “I’ve got to tell you something.”
“I have never in my life thought that way about my family.” Where are we now? Where do we need to go? What do I need to do to get there? See, you know what leaders do? The focus of a leader is objectives. A leader is asking, “Are we hitting the target?” Men, let me ask you, what’s the target you have for your son? What’s the target you have for your daughter? Wherever they’re at. Whatever stage.
What’s the target? See, unconsciously, what we do is we, we don’t make a clear target. We don’t know what it is and so the world shapes your target. Can I give you the target, according to God?
Your goal is for your boy, your girl, your teen, your young adult to become like Jesus.
Your goal is for your boy, your girl, your teen, your young adult to become like Jesus. To become Christ-like.
In fact, you might jot in your notes, guys, Romans 8:28-29. God says He literally uses all things. All things. Who you are. Who your dad was. Your idiosyncrasies. Your struggles. Your problems. The birth order of your child.
He uses all things to work together for the good for people like you who are loved and called by God to do, what? Verse 29. Conform your son, conform you, to the image of Christ.
But, you know what? If you don’t have a target, you’re in big trouble.
Psalm 127, the last three verses of it. What’s it say? “Children are a gift from the Lord.” An inheritance. A beautiful thing. You know, those of you, he says, you know, most of us have got this pretty well wired. He says, “If your quiver is full of them, way to go.”
Now, when’s the last time you saw someone at an archery range like this? Pull out an arrow. Hey, nice arrow. Take it on a bow. Tchoo. Shoot it straight up. Whoa, wonder where that’ll come down. Well, don’t stand still.
Or just shoot it here, shoot. What do you do? You’ve got to have a target, guys. You need, I need, we need to say, “My children are arrows. I put them in the bow of God’s training program and then I reach back and I say, God, I want to aim these kids so they fulfill Your calling.”
God’s goal isn’t that your kids be successful, that they have athletic prowess, that they get a scholarship, that they get straight As, that they’re more financially affluent than you, that they’re popular, that everything works out well for them.
Any of that stuff you get say, “Thanks, Lord.” Praise. His goal is your kids become like Christ. And if you’re not careful, you can unconsciously line them up to become successful failures.
Isn’t that what we heard? We heard from a guy who got straight As, All American in swimming, bench pressed four hundred pounds. That’s a lot of weight. If it lands on your neck, it hurts.
You know what he didn’t have? He didn’t have character. He didn’t have a dad. He didn’t have a marriage that worked. He was successful. But a successful failure.
See, dads, let’s not pass on just secondhand clothes, secondhand stuff. Let’s give our kids the best. How? You say, “How do you do it?”
Let me give you some very specific ways to get there. One, you’re going to hear this a lot because the Bible says it a lot and the research says it a lot. Modeling. Modeling.
You need to be a man of God’s Word. You need to be a man of integrity. You need to be a man involved in loving relationships. Your kids are going to come out, whether you like it or not, a lot like you.
Second, as a leader, you need to take initiative. All through the Old and New Testament, it’s amazing. It doesn’t say, “Mothers, don’t exasperate your children but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”
What’s it say? Fathers. Initiative. Just like you do at work. I mean, you don’t go to work, put your hands in your pocket, and say, “Gosh, I hope someone calls.” What’s your job? “Oh, I’m a sales manager. I’m just waiting for one of these big companies to call.”
And yet, unconsciously, what do we do? “Hope these kids turn out right.” What are you doing? “Nothing.” Don’t hold your breath.
What’s another thing leaders do? They give direction. They set direction. “This is where we’re going to go. We are here, there’s the target, Christlikeness. My child has unique needs. We relate in a certain way. This is how I’m going to leverage it. Here’s what they need emotionally, spiritually, physically,” bam. You come up with a strategic plan, you lay it out, part of it works, part of it doesn’t work.
So what do you do? You evaluate. That’s the next one. And you look in the rearview mirror and you say, “We’re making progress but not here, not there.”
Guys, you guys are smart guys, alright? You are smart guys. What I’m asking you to do is ask the Spirit of God today to turn a switch inside your head and say, God, would You help me to bring the level of focus, and intentionality, and strategic thinking, and absolute commitment to success, to my kids and my home that I do to work every day?
You do, God will show you how to get there. And here’s the deal. The rewards are awesome. They are long-term rewards. But you hang in there.
Man, I tell you, there are not enough letters you can get behind my name, or your name. There are not enough zeroes you can put in my portfolio, or yours and some of you do. There’s not enough fame, there’s not enough prestige, there’s nothing you’re ever going to get that is as rewarding as having your kids look you in the eye and say, “Dad, I don’t know about anybody else, and I know you’re not perfect. Man, I’m glad you’re my dad. I love you. You have marked my….”
I got a card from one of my kids and it was just like.... Everyone’s there, I just didn’t want to lose it. It said, “Dad, you’ve been the single, most powerful influence in my life.”
Guys, that’s my dream. And, you know, love covers a multitude of sins. You’re looking at a guy who’s blown it early and often. And late and often. And in between and often.
And what I learned was, your kids don’t need you to be perfect. They just need you to be honest, need you to be real, when you blow it, you do what Scott does. You know, even to a four-year-old. “Son, I’m sorry.”
In a word, your stewardship, men, and this is new, so ease back. Deep breath. Your stewardship, men, you are morally responsible. You are morally responsible before God for your home.
Not your wife. Not the Church. Not the maid. Not the nanny. You. Does it mean you do it all? Of course not. You don’t do everything at work, do you? What do you do? You own it! You own the moral responsibility and say, we are going to produce these kind of kids by the grace of God.
And we’re going to have a plan, we’re going to have a strategy, we’re going to evaluate, and we’re going to set direction, we’re going to take initiative, and man, we are going to go for it!
And guys, there’s a little side light here. A lady in between services shared it. She said, “I am married to a man who does what you’re talking about.” And she said, “You just can’t imagine what it feels like and how good it is to have a man who leads his home.”
And this is hard for some of us. You didn’t have a model, like me. Some of you are just going to start off and it’s going to be tough. And ladies, can I give you a little hint here?
Really, don’t, don’t use this message as a, you know, “This is where you need to get with the program.” And when he starts leading, can I give you a little clue? You know who will not like it?
Those laughing understand. You know, because your husband starts to set some direction. “Well, that’s not the way I do it.” Oh, really? Right?
See, you’ve got to be a team. I’m not talking in any way about any authoritarian, “My way or the highway” models. I’m talking about a husband and a wife that come together and say, “What’s the dream for our family? What does God want for our kids? Where are we going to go? How are we going to get there? What do you think? What do you…?” And you do it together.
But when a man starts to do that, a lot of women in this room, here’s what will happen. You come to church, every, “My husband’s a drunk, my husband’s a drunk, my husband’s a drunk.”
You ever met one of those ladies? “Pray for him, pray for him, pray for him.” Well, guess what – God answers. He’s not a drunk anymore. Then she comes, “Pray for me, pray for me, pray for me.” Why? “Because he’s healthy now and I don’t know how to live with a healthy man. He’s making me nuts! He wants to do things, I was in control! I got all these strokes from, you know, ‘You poor dear. Married to this drunk.’” Da da da da.
Guess what, ladies, this is not going to be easy. It’s going to be great. Because I believe God’s going to speak to a lot of men.
And baby steps. Baby steps. Little at a time.
Second role, men. You’re not only a leader. You’re a priest. A priest. What? Yeah, a priest. That brings lots of pictures to a lot of our minds. A priest, what’s his definition? He makes God known. That’s what a priest does. He makes God known. You are the family priest.
Open your Bibles, will you? Deuteronomy chapter 6. Let me give you the context. Deuteronomy chapter 5, God gives the Ten Commandments from Mount Sinai. There’s smoke, there’s an earthquake, there’s rumbling, and the people are going, “Whoooah!”
So, in verse 27, they come to Moses. And they say, “Moses, we have a great idea.” Moses says, “Well what’s the idea?” “How about God never shows up like this again, ever. Okay? This makes us very uncomfortable. We’re out of our comfort zone. We’re scared to death. How about, you go talk to Him and then whatever He tells you, you come talk to us.” And Moses, in verse 28, goes to God and says, “Hey God. They got an idea. I’d like to run it by You.”
And he tells Him the idea and God says, “You know what? That’s a good idea. Let’s do it that way.”
And so, what happens is, Moses becomes what? A priest. He goes and realizes who God is and he reveals God to the people and then he takes the needs, the hurts, and the fears of the people and he represents them to God. That’s what a priest does. He reveals God to the people, and he takes the needs of the people to God.
Now, as Deuteronomy 6 opens up, listen. God has told Moses, Moses is the priest, and Moses is going to give this mantel of responsibility to the men to pass on to their sons and their grandsons, and the reason you’ve got to have a pencil is he goes through about, literally, eight clear steps about what a priest does.
Now, we’re just going to give you the highlights, but it’s not rocket science. You can figure this out and you know how to do it.
So follow along, let’s read the first three verses as Moses, the new priest, is calling the men to be the priest in their homes.
“Now, this is the commandment. The statutes and the judgments, which the Lord, your God, has commanded me,” that’s Moses, “to teach you.” Why?
“That you might do them in the land where you’re going over to possess it, so that you and your son and your grandson might fear the Lord,” have relationship with Him.
What do you do then? “To keep all His statutes, His commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, that your days may be prolonged. O, Israel, you should listen and be careful to do it, that it may be well with you and that you may multiply greatly just as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you.”
Well, what’s He want for them? What’s God’s will? Is this a God whose arms are crossed? Wears a big, black robe, says, “Here are the rules. My way or the highway!”?
What’s it say? Look at the text. He says, “That God may prolong your days, greatly multiply you, and has promised you a land flowing with milk and honey.”
See, God says, “Moses, I want them to hear the content. This is right, this is wrong, and My character. But Moses, make sure they get My heart. I love them. I love these people. I have delivered them. Make sure every dad tells his son, every son tells his son, for generation to generation to generation. And make sure they do a couple things.
“One, My statues, My word. They’ve got to know it. But don’t let them get into that legalism stuff. Don’t let them just share these rules. Make sure they know it comes from a God who is so good, and so loving, that He wants to protect and give them the very best.”
See, God’s will, in this fallen world, is like a twisting highway on a mountain road. And if you go over the highway, it’s painful down there. Thousand-foot drop-offs. And so, God says, “I want to help you, because I love you.”
And so, He puts guardrails on this winding highway. Guardrail on one side is His commandments; guardrail on the other side is His statutes. And what He wants you to do is bump into those guardrails, “Ooh, that’s wrong.” Boom, “That’s wrong.” Why?
Because, see, if you go over the guardrail you get hurt. This isn’t about a God who says, “Here are all the rules, keep all the rules, memorize this stuff.”
This is a God who says, “I have for you better, bigger, deeper, richer than you could ever imagine. And I’ve outlined how to get there. So follow them.”
And you say to yourself, I’d like to be a dad like that. I’d like to be a priest like that. I’d like to lead my family so that when they go around the winding roads and difficulties of life, they would land well. And you say, “How do you do that?” I say, “I’m glad you asked.”
Look at verse 4. I’m going to give you some steps, here. Get that pen out. Verse 4 says, “Hear O, Israel. The Lord is our God. The Lord is one.” Write down on your notes or in your Bible, put a little number one and write “correct theology.” Moses starts with: you’ve got to make sure you’re worshipping the right God.
He’s living in a world where people are worshipping everything. He says, “The Lord our God is the great Shema of the Hebrews. This is what’s true. Our God. Make sure they get it clear.” Correct theology. Accurate view of God from the Scriptures.
Doesn’t stop there. Verse 5. “And you,” dad, “shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might.” Put a little number two and write down “devotion”.
First of all, get them on the right track with the right truth. And then you, before you say a word, before you try and be a dad, you with all your heart and all your soul, make your number one devotion your relationship with God.
My kids need to grow up, not because I’m a pastor. Not because you’re a carpenter. Not because you’re a dot-com guy, not because you’re in construction.
Your kids need to grow up and say, “Yeah, that’s what he did vocationally. My dad was a man of God. What was most important in my dad’s life, was his relationship with Christ.”
And then, after you have personal devotion, notice it goes on. “And these words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart.” So long before we’re doing any parenting, right theology, personal devotion.
Three, Word-centered life. You can’t know God apart from the Scriptures, not in its fullness. No way.
You want your kids to grow up and say, “Hey, my dad didn’t have a hobby-centered life. He didn’t have a work-centered life. He did those things. He had a Word-centered life.”
You want your kids now and then to, kind of, sneak in the bedroom, “Oh, excuse me dad.” They caught you reading the Bible. Even before the Wall Street Journal. Even before the sports page.
You don’t want your kids thinking, My dad was a ESPN-type guy. My dad was a workaholic type guy. My dad was a softball-aholic type guy. My dad was a real money guy. You know what? All that has, maybe, its place in the right priorities.
God says, “Word-centered.” Because if you don’t have the resources, you can’t give them away.
Then, now notice, it shifts. Number four, what do you do? “And you shall teach them diligently to your sons.” Teach, the word here, has the idea with formal training.
A little Jewish boy, by the time he hit twelve, had the first five books of the Old Testament memorized and had formal instruction. And the dad was responsible. Got a little help from the synagogue but dad was responsible.
Men, we need, when they’re little, you start with the picture Bible books. When they’re a little older, you read them stories. We kept reading them stories all the way up through almost teenage years in different ways and then they read back and forth. There’s certain content.
You need to have formal times where you teach. A couple times a week around the dinner table. Doesn’t take ten, twelve minutes. But you get in the Bible together and you teach. And you try and make it creative. Right, guys?
How many of you have been to a boring business meeting? How do you like them? Ah! Right? How many of you have been to one of those presentations and you’re thinking, We paid four hundred and ninety-five dollars for this seminar? This guy couldn’t keep my grandmother awake!
Well, ask yourself. What kind of times do you want to have around the table when you open the Bible? Do it in such a way where, are you creative? Of course you’re creative. Try applying that at home.
Ask them questions. Use some visuals. Think through, what do you want them to learn and why? This actually can be kind of fun.
But after you teach them formally, notice the next one is, talk with them. When? Well, “When you sit down in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” What’s the point? You not only do formal teaching, but now you talk. This is informal time.
This is when you’re riding in the car and they’re talking about their boyfriend or their girlfriend or why the coach’s son is getting to play ahead of them and they’re struggling with their attitude when they know they’re better. And your prejudiced, biased view as a father you’re thinking, I know my kid’s better than them.
And how do you help them resolve it? And how do you help them have the kind of attitude God wants? And, you talk when you rise up and when you lie down. When you take walks and on vacations and…
It’s just woven into who you are as a person. You teach formally; you talk informally.
And then notice this next one, number six is practice it. Practice it in all of life. Notice what it says. “And you shall bind them,” speaking of God’s Word, “as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. And you shall write them on your doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
What’s he saying? You need to practice your Word-centered, personal devotion to God by teaching, by talking, but in all of life! I mean, what does it mean here?
Your hands. What are the hands? That’s your doing. Your activities. You’re in the garden, you’re playing softball, you’re on the computer, you go to work. Your hands reflect, what’s God’s Word? What’s a person…what’s it look like when a believer, a dad, walks with Christ? You live it out. You integrate.
There isn’t just the church side, or the devotional time, it’s integrated in your activities and in your thinking. That’s the idea here.
Now, the Pharisees took this so literally they would walk around and they actually kind of had, like, sunglasses with verses. They walked around like that. “I am holy. I am really holy. See, I’m getting God’s Word.”
And then when they memorized a bunch, they had phylacteries and they would put on the verses and they would really impress people. And their kids are going, at home, “Give me a break. Give me a break, try living it, dad.”
And that’s what he’s saying here. In your thinking. And then when you go to work. The gates of your house. And how your home operates. The doorposts. So that it’s a reminder. It’s integrated. And then notice what God promises to His priests. Look at this next line. This is fantastic.
He says, “Then, it shall come about when the Lord, Yahweh, your God brings you into the land, which He swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to give to you great and splendid cities, which you did not build and houses full of good things that you did not fill. And hewn cisterns, which you did not dig. And vineyards and olive trees, which you did not plant. And you shall eat and be satisfied.”
Now, that’s Old Testament imagery and very specific things God promised to them. Now, unless you’re really into, like, orchards, this is not a real motivating passage.
But what He was saying to those fathers is: When you live life My way and you teach your sons so they teach their sons and you give them correct doctrine and you model personal devotion and you have a Word-centered life, and you decide there’s going to be some formal times in your home where they really get it and teach it. And then you talk about it and you apply it. How you live. I’m going to bless your life. I’m going to bless the socks off of you.
And I’m going to do it relationally and I may do it materially. I’m going to do it in ways that your kids grow up knowing, “You know I don’t know very much about life but the way my dad led our family seems like the way to go. Because when I visit my friend’s house, there’s no dad in that house. Or if there is, they’re arguing all the time. Or if there is, he doesn’t seem like he even cares. And I notice that little chemistry that my dad, when he doesn’t think we’re looking and comes back, you know, around our mom, gives her a little pat on the, uh, rear end. And then gives her a little kiss and I see that stuff. Dad doesn’t think I’m looking. But I see that stuff. My dad is a fulfilled man. My dad has got a heart full of joy. And there’s amazing things. It seems that God blesses. We have hardship, we’ve had struggles, but it seems like God keeps coming through.” That’s what God will do.
He wants your kids to know His way works. Does it mean everything goes your way? Does it mean you get rich? Does it mean you never get sick? Well, absolutely not. It means that the best life possible, in a fallen world, this taste of this side of heaven, you can experience.
Notice the warning, though. It says that God can bless us when we do it His way. Then, “Watch yourself, lest you forget the Lord who brought you from the land of Egypt out of the house of slavery.”
He says, you know, be careful when life gets going kind of good, you don’t focus on the gifts instead of the Giver.
And then notice the summary, verse 13. This is where we get back. He started with passing it on to be a priest. “You shall fear only the Lord.” Capitals. It’s YAHWEH, His covenant name. Your God.
“And you shall,” here’s our key word, “worship Him and swear by His name.” Moses is saying, “Guys, you asked me to go up on the mountain and figure out what God is saying. I went, He spoke, I’m speaking, you do it.”
And he says you swear by His name. Convictions, commitment, dependency, integrity, loyalty. God and God alone has got to be the focus of your heart, your life, your actions, your speech, your thinking.
And when you do, the God who created all that there is and with whom He would desire to spend eternity with every person in this room and on this planet if they would receive the free gift of Christ – that God wants to honor you.
And so you say, “Well, what questions does a priest need to ask? How do you get there?” Let me give you a few and I’ll let you play these out for yourself. First, ask yourself, dad, “Do my kids know God?” Are you thinking about that? Ask yourself, “Do they have an accurate view of God?” Your kids are being bombarded with all the media, all the stuff, all the school. Do they have an accurate view of God? If not, who’s going to give it to them?
Third question, does our home honor God? By what we see, what we allow in, where our values are.
Would Christ walk into our home, sit on the couch and say, “Very well done. I’m very comfortable living with you all. Your values, your heart, your relationships, how you deal with your anger. What movies come on the screen, what you listen to. Man, it honors Me.”
Or would He have to say, “You know, we need to have a little talk. See, you think you can have this double standard and tell your kids this is how they ought to live but you live this way. I’ve just got to tell you, it won’t work. They will never do what you say. They will always do what you do.”
Then the question is, are we growing in holiness? See, that’s not the church’s job. Is your wife, are you, are your kids growing in holiness?
And holiness doesn’t mean, they’re going to get a big black Bible, wear dark robes, and be no fun to be around.
Holiness, biblically means, they’re going to be winsome, free, pure. The kind of people who they say, man, you know what really holiness means? It means to be totally other. They’re going to be different. But not, like, different weird. Different like in, wow, winsome.
A family that works. What a novel idea. A loving relationship between a teenager and his dad. Woo. Amazing.
People that have been married twenty plus years and they’ve got that little twinkle in their eye and they still plan weekends away. What’s going on here? This is un-American. It’s God’s way.
Your focus, men, as a priest is to guard worship. That’s your focus. Worship. Worship. Worship in what you say, worship in what you think, worship in the home. And you say, well how? How do you, how do you become a priest?
And I realize here, guys, the learning curve for some of you, would you relax a little? Just relax some. I mean, when I started out on this journey it was like, overwhelming.
I wrote this thesis and what I realized is, this is what a father is supposed to be. And then I went and looked in the mirror and I said, “And I ain’t it.”
And I said, “God, I, you know what? I’m overwhelmed. Whether I pass this class or not.” A leader, a priest, a teacher, a lover. And you know, I just sensed the Spirit of God say, “Hey Chip. Would you lighten up?”
You know, what did you do with your kids? Did they take one tiny little step and you say, “Come on! Run, kid! Get with the program!” Or did you just get excited over every little baby step your kids took?
He said, “That’s how I am, Chip. Let these dads know, just take a little step toward Me. I’ll impress each man exactly where he needs to go. Let him start taking some steps and then put a little step here, step here, step here, step here, step here.” About a year from now, whoa. About five years from now, whoa. It’ll happen.
Let me give you some practical ways to get going. Number one, here, on the how-to, to be a priest is modeling authentic worship. And, men, let me just shoot it straight. You have time, I have time. It’s a priority issue. Set your clock back fifteen minutes this week or twenty. Get up, read. Start in the New Testament. Start in Matthew. Start in Acts. Start in Mark. Get in the Bible every day. Okay?
You can’t be changed, you can’t be transformed, you’ll know the truth, the truth will set you free. You can go to groups. You can come to stuff. You can listen to stuff. Until you get in the Bible for yourself, you will never be the man you’re supposed to be.
Authentic worship begins. So, begin reading through the New Testament and say, God, “I don’t have a clue. I don’t know what to do.” Pray for each one of your kids and your wife and get out your Day-Timer, and look through who you’re supposed to meet with and say, “I’m going to pray for each of these meetings.”
It takes about fifteen minutes. You do that for a year. You come back and tell me what a lousy idea it was. Okay? Your kids will have a different dad. Your wife will have a different husband. You’ll have a different work world.
And you’ll have rest and peace in your heart. It’s sheer discipline. Not legalism. Just do it – private, authentic worship.
The second is, dad, let’s not be the guy who people are trying to drag out of bed to come to church. Be the leader. Be the initiator. Set direction. “Hey look, this is a priority. Part of God’s plan is that worship happens corporately. We’re going.”
And when your kids say, “I don’t really want to go.” “That’s fine. You don’t have to want to do things. You don’t have to want to eat. You don’t have to want to do a lot of things. I just love you so much, we’re going to go anyway.” You won’t hurt their psyche a little bit.
Then, initiate some family worship. And don’t go home and say, “Every night, we’re going to have family devotions.” Men, you’ll end up doing it two or three times and feel like a failure. Set one night a week. Just one night.
Look at your calendar. I know it’s nutty. It’s crazy. And just say, okay, we’re going to eat. You got one night to do it. And then decide, do a little prep like you would at work.
And do something very short.
And then just say, “Okay, we’re going to get in the Bible a little bit, together, and then we’re going to pray a little bit, together.”
I mean, like, eight minutes. Ten minutes max. And you know something? It’ll grow. What’ll happen is, your kids will want it to go longer. Be creative.
And then, encouraging private worship. As your kids get older. Early, early on. Most of my kids, by the time they were ten or eleven, before they went to bed and then later they developed on their own in the morning is that, we just say, “You know something? How many sitcoms are going to just radically change your life?” “Oh dad, oh dad, I’ve got to watch this, I’ve got to watch this, I’ve got to watch this.”
You know what? Just turn the TV off a half hour before bedtime and say, “You know what? Why don’t you take a little time. Read the Scriptures or read a good book that will encourage you spiritually,” and early on you can teach your kids to end each day with time with God, do some reading and thinking, and your kids will be transformed.
It can be fun stuff when they’re little that you read to them. Later on, you can do it together and you read. Then you introduce them to C.S. Lewis and some of that stuff and then they get in high school, early college and you get some real thinking type stuff.
And then, what your meals become. Hey, what are you reading? What are you thinking? Where are you reading? Well, what do you think God’s teaching you? How’s it going? Well, can we pray for you on that?
I mean, this is like doing life. This isn’t rocket science. This isn’t like you’ve got to have a Bible degree. This is about saying, “Let’s do life God’s way, together.”
The stewardship then, men, is that you own, and I own, the spiritual climate of our house. And ninety-nine percent of the homes in America, the woman does. And she would love you to take this ball and run with it.
And in about two years, if you do, you’ll say, “Now that was the best decision I ever made.” And will it be easy? Of course not. You name one, name a company you’ve built, a house that you’ve built, a relationship you’ve built. Name me one thing that had great impact that was, like, “Man that was easy. I just kind of woke up and it all fell right into my hands.”
Anything of value is going to take focus, intentionality, strategy, discipline, objectives, work, evaluation. And what you’ll probably need, you’ll probably need two or three other guys to help you do this.
Because you’re a lot like me. You really don’t know how. And neither do I. You find a few people and you get close. And, man, it’s where the action is.