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Teacher of the Family

From the series Portrait of a Father

Chip continues his series, “Portrait of a Father,” with some good advice for dad’s of all ages. Whether you have kids in preschool or grandkids graduating from college, this message will resonate with you.

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Message Transcript

David Blankenhorn, in his book, Fatherless America, it says, “Fatherlessness is the most harmful demographic trend of this generation. It is the leading cause of declining child well-being in our society. It is the engine that is driving our most urgent social problems from crime, to adolescent pregnancy, to the sexual abuse of children, and to domestic violence against women. Yet, despite its scale and it’s social consequences, fatherlessness is a problem that is frequently ignored.”

And so, I had the opportunity to write this big paper I told you about. I had to write a thesis and I was pretty tired, and I figured, you know what? Write on something that you’re motivated. You have a big need.

And I wrote it on the role and responsibility of the father in transmitting the values in the family. And you remember there were four key roles that the Bible evidences, backed up by the psychological and sociological research.

And that us as dads, we need to be the leader in our home. We need to be the priest in our home. And now we’re going to learn, we need to be the teacher and the lover.

Let’s just go over these four roles and I’ll just highlight them quickly and then we’ll look at snapshots number three and number four.

One of the primary roles is, he’s a leader. We said, a definition of a leader: he makes things happen. That leaders ask pivotal questions like, where are we now as a family? Where do we need to go? And how are we going to get there?

We learned that the focus of leaders is objectives. Where are you going to land? The how-to was: modeling, taking initiative, setting some direction, and ongoing evaluation.

And we said, the stewardship as a man is, we are morally responsible for our homes.

Second thing we learned is that a father’s not only a leader, He’s a priest. A dad who’s a priest says, over and over throughout the stages of his kids’ lives, “Do my kids know God? Do they have an accurate view of God? Does our home honor God? Are they, and am I, growing in holiness?”

We said that the focus of the priest is worship. And we said some how-tos. First, we have to model it, dads. We need to be authentic worshippers, privately and devotionally. And then we need to be the ones to say to the family, “Hey! Let’s get up Sunday morning, or Saturday night. We’re going to worship because it matters.”

And then we initiate family worship. You know, at least once or twice a week.

And then you teach your kids how to worship on their own. The stewardship here, men, is we’re not only leaders but as priests, we’re the stewards of the spiritual climate of our home. That’s not your wife’s job.

Well, where do we go from here? Snapshot three and snapshot four. Snapshot three, he’s a teacher. Definition: he imparts wisdom and builds character. That’s what a teacher does.

The Hebrew word for “wisdom” really has more of the idea of skill. The book of Proverbs defines what it is.

Wisdom is understanding how life is created, life and relationships, and things to work. Then you know it and then after you know it, then you understand the “why” behind it. And then you have discernment about when and how to put it into practice, and then you teach your children to live life according to God’s pattern so that it protects them and brings His “shalom,” His blessing and glory to Him.

That’s what you want to transmit. The wisdom of God. The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord.

But beyond that, you don’t want just them to know what’s right. Or to learn a few skills. You want them to have character.

And so, a teacher’s job is to build values, and principles, and convictions, and loyalty, and integrity, so that when they hit transitional years, they make decisions on their own in their peer group to say, “I’m not going that direction. I’m going this direction. Not because of my parents but because of what God has done in my life.”

See, you want to impart wisdom, and you want to build character. The classic New Testament passage: Ephesians 6:4. And notice, who’s it addressed to? Mothers? No. Parents? No. “Fathers, don’t exasperate your children” is the idea. Or don’t frustrate your children. Or don’t cause them to get angry. That’s the negative side of this command.

“But rather, bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Notice there’s a negative and a positive command.

The negative is, don’t frustrate them. When we’re harsh, perfectionistic, or passive, as men, we stir up anger in our kids. But he says, don’t do that but instead, what? Hey. Bring them up. It’s a very broad word.

To bring up, the word was used in the classical Greek to mean nourishment, even physical nourishment, mental nourishment. It had this broad, broad view of the total development or nurture of a child.

And so, we’re to bring up, the educational environment. We’re to bring them up with two things in mind. The how-to, with the discipline and admonition.

The idea is, whatever it takes for your kids to learn, or be educated or to be trained in the things of God, that’s what you do. But the unique aspect of this word “discipline” or “training” has to do with, you do it by actions.

The instruction or another translation says “admonition,” the discipline and instruction, or discipline and admonition of the Lord, the idea there is you do it with words. And I think the word order is important.

When your kids are first learning, can they understand what you’re saying? How do you teach your kids when they’re real early, when they’re real small? When they do what’s right, they get reward. And when they do what’s wrong, they get consequences. It’s done lovingly and kindly.

The goal is, early on, by way of your actions, they know what’s right, they know what’s wrong, they know what’s expected, they know that they’re loved.

And then the admonition is the words, the verbal words, to keep them on course. And so, dads, our job is to bring up our kids in a sphere of Christlikeness, in the Lord, whereby our actions and by our words we educate, imparting wisdom and building character.

Well, what’s the focus, then? The focus is wisdom and there are some questions to get you there.

As a teacher, what are the kind of questions you need to ask to be effective? The first one is ask yourself: what does your kid need to know, do, and be? Okay? What’s the knowledge that they need, what are the skills, the doing, and what do they need to be or become?

If you want a good way to put this together, this has been very helpful to me. Think about, I need to develop my child’s head, I need to develop my child’s hands, and I need to develop my child’s heart. You get it?

The second question, then, is how do they best learn? See, the greatest danger is, you’ll have your first kid and they’ll be fairly compliant and whatever you do with them, you think that’s the way you ought to do it.

I’ve got news for you. They’re all different, aren’t they? I have four. They learn completely differently.

And so, as a teacher, you better find out how your kids learn, what kind of personalities they have, and what’s the most effective way to communicate?

The third question you need to ask is, when and how will you teach them in this season of their life? Let me give you a quick example. Let me run through this and maybe it’ll be helpful for some of you, maybe like me, didn’t grow up in a Christian home and I didn’t read the Bible until I was eighteen.

Each season is different. When my kids were small, see, what I’m talking about is, you have to have a structure and a game plan to educate them.

And so, when my kids were small, it was bedtime. Each bedtime, I put my kids to bed if I was home. Now, I’d fight over this now and then with Theresa, because she’d always want to get in on it. So, I said, “You get to be with them a lot more than me.”

And so, I read through storybooks. Storybooks of the Bible. And I’d get them real close to me, and then we’d shut the door and pile up the pillows, and we made it fun. It was outrageous and it was crazy.

But I wanted them to hear the content of God’s Word associated with their dad, my arm around them, cuddling up together, and I did that in the early years.

In the middle years, then, you shift. And the time, instead of bedtime, was around meals because by the middle years, even ten, eleven, twelve, early preteens and teens, I want my kids to meet with God on their own, before they go to bed.

And so, around meals, once or twice a week, read the Bible a little bit, talk a little bit. I tried a million different ways. None of them lasted more than three weeks to three months and then it didn’t work.

It’s a lot like business isn’t it? You know, whatever’s working now, three months from now, it’s not working. Why should it be any different with your family? Because they’re growing, they’re changing, the paradigm’s got to shift. And so, it was mealtime. That was the formal, instructional time.

And then as they’ve gotten older, you know, nineteen, twenty, I’ll give them a book. “I need a really good book. Give me a really good book. I mean, something to fire me up.”

You go out and you goof around and you talk about it. And around the table, a lot of our family times now, is, I just say, “Honey, what are you reading right now?” And she’ll share. Eric, how about you? Ryan, what’s going on with you?”

And so, each season, you need to figure out: how am I going to communicate formally and informally the truth of God’s Word in a way were it gets into their heart and they apply it to their life?

And so, the focus is wisdom. And ask yourself. Some of you are, I hope you’re thinking, I need some curriculum. I mean, I need some curriculum. Where would I go? What should I teach them?

Are you ready for this? There’s a section of the Bible called the wisdom literature. If you want to train your kids’ hands, skills in life: book of Proverbs. Take your kids through the book of Proverbs. It starts out, “Son, I want to teach you how to walk with God.” It’s all the skills about life. It starts – what? “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”

And then chapter after chapter after chapter, it talks about basic things like work, your tongue, sex, money, relationships, loans. It teaches your kids the skills of life.

But you don’t just want to do their hands. Then move as they get into preteen, actually teenage years to Ecclesiastes. Because you’ll want them to know when they’re finding their identity that it can’t be found in money, it can’t be found in education, it can’t be found in fame, it can’t be found in popularity.

Let them know there was someone that could do anything. The wisest, richest, most powerful man in the world named Solomon and he said, “When it’s all been said, when it’s all been done, if you don’t walk with God, everything’s vanity.” And you give them a Biblical worldview.

And then finally, you want to develop their heart. So the wisdom literature, get in the psalms. And you read and pray psalms out loud. You got a great curriculum there.

Because the focus of a teacher is to transmit wisdom. You do it how? One, by modeling, having a Word-centered life yourself.

Two, by those formal times of instruction, like we talked about. And then by informal times.

And by the way, I want to just for a second, think outside the box. Now, all of us would say, when your kids graduate from high school, you want them to be able to read, write, think, and be able to articulate ideas, right? And communicate verbally. We all want that.

And I fell into the trap of thinking that if the public schools are not doing a good job of that, and I know there’s, I mean, I’m a schoolteacher. My parents were schoolteachers. Been involved in public schools all my life.

But, you know, there’s been a slide. There are a lot of great teachers out there but there’s been a slide.

You know, I hope that they’ll help me but I’m not going to stand before God and say the name of such and such high school, how come they didn’t do a better job with my son. I realized that’s my job.

Now, if I get a lot of help and it gets done at the school. Great. If not, then I better do it.

Let’s think outside the box, guys! What’s the goal? The goal isn’t, how can we get out of something. The goal is what we can put into our kids that years and years and years we’ll say, “Whoa! Boy am I glad I did that!”

And so you do it informally, you do it formally. And you do it at times where, not just by the way of those, but you do it at times where they have a failure. That’s called a teachable moment.

They break up. That’s called a teachable moment. I’ve had a time where I came back and one son had lovingly propelled another son into the wall in a way that did damage to the wall. That was a teachable moment.

We’re educators. We’re teachers. And so the stewardship as teachers, God’s calling, is to transfer godly wisdom to the next generation.

Now, this next little section is a Chip Ingramism. It is not from God. It is a personal conviction, but I felt prompted to say it. Okay?

So you ready? I made a decision early on, this was when, I grew up in the era, my kids were coming up when Nintendo just came out. I made a, here’s the decision I made. I would not have video games in my house. None of my kids would have a TV in their room. And that during school nights, we won’t watch TV.

So, I have four children. They are, all four, voracious readers. Second, all four are musicians. Third, all four are initiators. And fourth, all four are communicators.

You know why? They got bored. They got bored. You know, in my house, you get your homework done, it’s eight o’clock, it’s eight fifteen. I mean, what do you do?

You’re not watching anything, you’re not playing any video games. You’re not going to a-muse yourself to death. “A” meaning “non.” “Muse” as in “think.”

See, we’ve got a world that is a-musing themselves to death – not thinking. So, you know, you get so bored… hey, you pick up the guitar. Go over, play the piano. Go work out. You ready? Read a book.

And amazing things happen. They learn to take initiative. They learn to think. They learn to be creative. Just a little thought. I’ll just leave that one with you. I’ll pass you right on. Are you ready?

Okay, dads, God’s got a great plan for your family. It starts with being a leader. Next is a priest. Third is the teacher or educator. And fourth, this is special. We’re to be a lover.

Definition of a lover is he gives people what they need most. Now, primarily, as you go through the Scriptures you find that that’s what God does. He’s an unconditional lover of our soul.

He gives us what we need most at great sacrifice. And so, what is it? It’s provision and protection. When you really think about love, that’s what you get. You get provision and you get protection.

You get material provision from your dad, spiritual provision from your dad, emotional provision from your dad, and relational provision from your dad.

See, love says, whatever they really need. If it’s a tender hug or being grounded. Done out of the same concern and motive, you give it to them. You care for them. You sacrificially, literally, give your life.

Interesting passage. Read with me Malachi 4, the very last two verses of the Old Testament. It says, “Behold, I’m going to send Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord,” speaking of judgment.

“And he will restore the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse.” Jesus told us that John the Baptist was the Elijah spoken of here. That he came to prepare the way of the Lord.

And one of the evidences is when people are living under kingdom rule, one of the primary evidences is when a culture, and when a home, are living the way God wants them to, you know what it is? It’s when there is an intimate, heart connection and concern from the father to the children and from the children back to the father.

The focus of a man is relationships. It’s hard to do that when you didn’t get it. But it can be learned. It can be learned. You just take little baby steps. It can be learned. It doesn’t mean it has to come natural.