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About this series
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
In Jesus’ day, kids didn’t matter. They were in the way. Even among His followers, do you remember? When the kids ran up to Him? What did the disciples say? “Get them out of here. They’re just kids. Kids don’t matter.”
What did Jesus say? “Stop. Bring one of the children to Me.” And He lifted up the little child and then He said, “Such is the Kingdom of God.”
See, children don’t bring anything to the party. They don’t earn any money. They are need-receptors. That’s what they are. You got something? They need it. You got time? They need it. You got money? They need it. You got an emotional tank? They need it.
And the more secular a culture, and the more hardened we become, children become less and less important and we’re living in that day. We’re living in the day where people don’t want to have kids. You know why? It cramps their lifestyle. Man, you can do a lot more on two salaries, without any kids in the way. We live in a day where people say, “You know what? I don’t want to raise my kids. I’ll stick them somewhere else and let someone else raise them.”
Kids don’t matter in our day. We have the highest poverty levels among our children in the history of our nation at a time when we have more affluence than ever before.
And the spiritual and emotional poverty that our kids have is way beyond the financial. And so, what’s God say? God says, the definition is, we give people, our kids, what they need most because we ask the questions that really count.
And the questions that a lover of his home ask, as a dad is, “How are my kids really doing?” Not just, how they appear. Not, they got As or Bs on their report card. Not, they’re doing so much on the team. But how are my kids really doing?
This is like the difference between the kind of guy who drives his car and he turns it on and regardless of what it sounds like, if it gets him from here to here and back, he’s saying, “The car’s fine.”
Well, there are some other people, a little bit more astute who occasionally lift the hood. And it may get you here or there, but they notice things like, there’s no oil in this deal. And the little smoke over here tells me something. And you know what? You check those little dipsticks and, my lands, there’s no power or transmission fluid going on here.
But instead of waiting until it wrecks, they periodically look under the hood. That’s what a loving dad does.
How you really doing? Not just the outward stuff but he’s looking for the inward stuff. Looks for the mood changes. Looks for the emotional withdrawal. Looks for the kind of kids they’re starting to run with. Looks at what they’re motivated by.
Second question a loving dad does is, “Do they sense my approval and acceptance?” Do your kids have a sense that you, dad, are for them? You are their blesser. You care about them.
I’ll never forget growing up with Glen Miller. And I watched his kids when they were small and I’ve watched him raise them and now he’s got twenty-seven, twenty-eight-year olds or whatever.
And I remember going over to his house and he’d grab his son, give him a little Dutch rub and pat him on the shoulder and goof around a little bit. And then, just in earshot he’d say, “Chip?” I’d say, “What?” He said, “That’s the delight of my life. That’s the delight of my life.”
And then he’d come by and give his little girl a hug and he blessed his children. He wasn’t their critic. He was their cheerleader. He did the hard things when he had to do the hard things.
But I picked up from him, we need to communicate with our words and with our touch and how we live, “I’m for you.” Man, your kids are going to get enough rejection out there. They ought to sense approval and acceptance. That’s, that’s, that’s a part of love.
Third question a good, loving dad asks, “Are we connecting at a deep level?” See, as your kids go through different stages, what do they do? See, they’ve not lived as long as you. This is not real hard to figure out.
And when they hit things that they don’t understand, what they do is, they draw back from you.
And as parents, when you start to probe when they draw back, what do they do? They stick their chest out, put their hands on their hips. They argue. They tell them, you know, I don’t know who they are but everyone else’s parents, I’ve learned, no matter how old my kids are. Everyone else’s parents in the whole world will let them do it. Of course, I won’t.
But what I found was, when I began to probe and connect with them, sometimes they didn’t want it. And you know the tragedy in our day among all parents, believers or not? Is when you start probing because you’re concerned, and they give you a little guff or they withdraw.
We have parents that are saying, “Oh, it’s a fad. They’ll get through it. I’m concerned about the kind of kids they’re running around with. I’m concerned about the attitude. It just must be the teenage years.”
No. It must be your kids are going down the tube and someone needs to be courageous, and man enough to step up and say, “We’re not going there. Those relationships are out of bounds for a while. And you know something? I don’t know what we need to do but you and I are going to have breakfast, once a week, and I’ll sit quietly and listen, or we’ll stare at each other. But guess what – I’m your dad, I love you, and we’re going to be connected whether you like it or not.”
And they’ll hate your guts for it for a while and then they’ll love you.
The focus of a man is relationships. And by the way, I know what I just said. 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.
How do you pull this off? Look at number one. Am I beating a dead horse here, or what? Have you noticed that to be a leader, to be a priest, to be an educator, and to be a lover of your home, it all begins with doing it. Model it. Model a love for God. Model a love for your mate. By the way, even if your mate doesn’t live in the house anymore.
Be very careful what comes out of your mouth, and the attitude you have, if you’re divorced. Because telling bad things about your mate to your kids – you know, it’s poison.
You need to treat your mate the way God treats you. Have you ever blown it? Yes. Does God love you unconditionally? Yes. Does it mean everything is wonderful all the time? No.
But it means you deal with it in a way where you say, “Hey, I’m going to model the way God loves me to my mate. Even if there’s some very bad history there.” And that’ll do your kids a ton of good.
The second there’s no substitute for is time. You know, you can read that quality stuff until it’s coming out your ears. I’ll tell you what your kids want is you. And when you’re there, you need to really be there.
Third, is providing tender love unconditionally. Jot down Psalm 103:13, will you? When God wants us to understand how He’s like, He reaches out of Psalm 103 and He speaks and He says, “For just as a human father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on us. He’s mindful that we’re dust.”
He says when a human father is functioning in the right way, he’s tender, he’s caring, he’s approachable.
Let me give you three ways, in the margin, to be tender with your kids. Number one, with words. Say, “I love you,” will you? I mean, just get it out.
Over the years, we started this and it’s not like some code and oh, did we forget to say it? But, when I get off the phone when I’m talking with any of my kids, end the conversation, “I love you Eric.” “I love you Jason.” “I love you Annie.” “I love you Ryan.” “I love you too, Dad.” They need to hear that. I’ll tell you what. I need to hear it.
But it’s not just words. Touch them, okay? Touch them. Put your hands on their shoulder. Give them a hug. Come up from behind them. Dads, when they’re little, wrestle, wrestle, wrestle, and then wrestle some more.
You know why? Because it’s a safe way. They want to be connected to something strong, and masculine, and powerful. And wrestling is a great way to do it. And, men, as your daughters hit those preteens and then teenage years, don’t back away.
They need to know what it looks like to be non-sexually touched and loved. And put your arm around them and you hug them because your daughter will pick a safe, good man if she learns that there are safe, good men.
And if you get a little nervous because she develops in front of your eyes and it makes you a little uncomfortable and you remove yourself from her, she’ll go find some affection somewhere and you won’t be a happy camper because of where she’ll look. You really won’t. We’ve got to touch our kids. We’ve got to love our kids.
Third, is special moments. Special moments. Make birthdays big. That’s one day, you know, it’s like, when they were born. Make it big.
Second, you know the special times like games, or if they get an award, or at graduations. Man, celebrate. Really celebrate that. I don’t mean buy them a car and stuff. I mean, just celebrate.
When they hurt. Boy, that’s when they need tender, unconditional love. When they hurt. When they go through their first breakup, I mean, they’re fifteen and they’re sure they’re as in love as you could ever be in love.
And three months later, I mean, they’re depressed. They’ve got feelings going on inside. They don’t need a lecture, “Well, I told you not to get that involved with a kid like that anyway and he was no good from the…”
Just sit across the bed and listen. And hurt with them.
When they have a big decision, be tender. Let them make some big decisions. Be tender with them. Listen a little more than give all the advice. What you’ll find, if you do that, they’ll come back and start asking for advice, which really works better.
And then, finally, is when they fail. There’s probably a time, no greater or more important to be unconditional and tender.
They know as they get older: “This was right. And I did this.” They need to hear, “I’m not real happy with the decision, but you can’t do anything. I love you. We’ll work through this. I’m for you. I accept you. That behavior. There’s going to be a price. I’ll work with you. You’ll have to own that. But, man, I love you. I’m for you.”
Second thing along these lines is, you’ve got to provide tough love when necessary. If Psalm 103:13 you wrote down, above write here, Hebrews chapter 12. Verse 11 is the summary, “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful but sorrowful. Yet, those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.”
Your kids are always asking two questions. This is my parenting for fathers and mothers in a nutshell. Your kids are always asking two questions. “Do you love me? And can I have my own way?”
The answer to number one is yes, yes, yes. The answer to number two is no. And so, what tough love is, is, “I love you so much that there are boundaries, that inside our home, these attitudes and these behaviors won’t be tolerated. Now, I’m not going to go berserk, I’m not going to act like a fool, I’m not going to let it go and then jump all over you, I’m going to very calmly, under control say, ‘That doesn’t happen here. And when you, that does, then the car doesn’t get used. And when that does, this happens. When that does, this happens. And you know what? You can make this as hard on yourself as you’d like. I don’t budge.’”
I had one son, for three and a half or four years made me nuts. I mean, when he was at the supper table, when he was in the house, as far as I know, he didn’t go outside the big moral boundaries, but he had a rebellious attitude and he made our family miserable. Particularly me.
And it got to the point, I mean, it got to the point, got to the point, got to the point where, “Son,” I mean, you don’t bluff this kid. We sat down and I said, “Son, I love you. And there’s nothing you can ever do that’ll change my love. And you know what? All that jazz you’re talking about? Your mom and I got a track record with you. But I’m going to tell you something right now. Here are the boundaries. Here’s the box. You live inside of that.
“There are not many rules at all around here. But the right attitude and the right behavior or it’s probably time now, if you can’t do that, that you find somewhere else to live.” And I don’t suggest you ever go there unless you get led by God to go there and you know there’s no other alternative.
And he went into his room and hibernated for about three and a half days, I guess to think it over. And then he walked out one day, I still remember brushing him in a hall and his countenance was changed and the next month he lived like the kid I had four years earlier.
Now, he was a real manipulator so I, I wasn’t too excited. I thought, it’s an act. You know, he’s going to get me later. Alright?
But, so after a month, I’m feeling like, this might be actually real. And I said, “Jason, do you mind? What happened?” He said, “What do you mean?”
“Son, I’ve gone through four years of hell, what do you mean, what do you mean? I mean, we’re like this all the time. What do you mean?” He said, “Oh, I just wanted to know where the boundaries were.” I think I hit him.
He said, “Dad, you know, I’ve grown up, I’ve heard about God all my life, I’ve seen what’s happened in the church, and I know it’s really true. I know you and mom really, really love me. But, you know, just part of me, I wanted to go off, do my own thing. I wanted to do a bunch of stuff that was wrong. I knew it was wrong. You wouldn’t let me do it. And it made me really mad. And I stuffed it all down inside and so I kept pushing, pushing, pushing. See how far you’d go, and I found out.”
He said, “I know it’s not worth it.” He said, “I’m rebelling against God and rebelling against you, I need to just live my life the way I’m supposed to. I had a good talk with God about it.”
I mean, it would have been very unbiblical but I just wanted to take, you know, you know, right here!
You know, I changed more in that four years than any other time in my life. I needed God more. And that same son, God’s great sense of humor, he’s in Nashville writing music and traveling all over the country preaching the gospel through song.
God’s got an amazing sense of humor and you know what he says? “Dad, thank you. Thanks for not letting me have my own way.”
Moms, dads, give your kids what they need, not what they want. And as my old prof, Howard Hendricks – it changed my life, in my parenting – you’ve got to know Prof Hendricks. He’s something else.
“[Sniff], listen to me! The question you need to ask [sniff] is do you want your kids to love you next week or do you want your kids to love you ten years from now?”
And see, there’s a lot of us that don’t step up and provide boundaries because our kids turn us off and they say, “I don’t love you anymore. And everyone else gets to do it.” And they sulk. And so, we give in.
And our kids are great students of us. We say, “Oh, you’re grounded.” And they turn to their friend, they say, “Oh, they said a week. It won’t last more than two days.”
And they’re right. And your kids ten years from now will love you, if you, when you say a week, it’s a week. When you set the boundaries, you keep them. Under control, lovingly, and God will change them.
The stewardship in the home, really we’re talking about, dad, is the issues of the heart. The leader guards the moral responsibility for the family. The priest guards the spiritual climate.
The teacher says, “I’m going to impart wisdom and build character.” And the lover says, “The issues of the heart in my family, beginning with me, have got to be done God’s way.”
[44:46] I have four specific steps I’d like you to take and then I want to read the most phenomenal email I’ve ever received since I’ve been here so that if you’re a man who thinks, I just don’t think I could do this. If this guy can do it, you can do it.
But let me give you the four steps of application because I think many of you, if you’re like me, I didn’t grow up in a Christian home, I didn’t read the Bible until I was eighteen, a lot of this is foreign.
Application. Four points. How to become the dad your kids need you to be. Number one, It must begin with your thinking, so you start to think the way God thinks about being a father instead of how you were raised.
Second, it only becomes real with support. Trying to do this on your own, you’ll fail. Find a group of men. Do something as couples – however. But find some people who can covenant with you.
And it doesn’t have to be official. And you don’t have to go through the church office. Find three or four guys and say, hey, you want to do this? Yeah? You’re struggling? Yeah. Okay. Good. You qualify.
Three, it requires supernatural grace. You know that modeling, modeling, modeling, modeling? If you are not a Christian, you’re here and you hear this stuff. If you’ve never asked Jesus to forgive you, come into your life, cleanse you, and empower you by His Spirit, do it today.
Do it because you need it, but do it because your kids need it. You can’t do what I’ve talked about here apart from the supernatural grace of God.
And if you’re a man here and honestly before God only you know – Christ is not your Lord. I mean, He’s not really. I mean, you know the story. You’re pretty sure, you know, you’re going to go to heaven. He’s your Savior. You’re in.
And somehow you’ve got it in your mind, like, Well, like, later when I get done with this or this or this I’ll kind of get serious about my faith. Get serious now. And say, “God…,” because the resources are not available to carnal Christians.
You’re going to have to get right with God, because you’ve got to live this out. Because what, you can make a zillion mistakes. Love covers a multitude of sins. But if you will model this, your kids, by and large, will catch it.
And then, number four, it’s sustained by pondering the future. And this may sound a little bizarre but I do this, I mean, I literally do this a lot. I picture myself in my late seventies, early eighties. I do.
And I lean back in my easy chair and it’s my birthday and I picture who’s there. And I picture what’ll really be important then. And I just, I have a hard time getting really excited thinking, Wow, everyone will be impressed with how much money I have. How big my house is. What kind of car I drive. How many people ever reported to me.
And then I realize, late seventies, early eighties, the things that’ll matter are: will any of my kids come to my birthday party? Will they even want to be there? Will their grandkids be there?
Will I be able to look back and say the real legacy of my life was I gave a higher focus and a higher intentionality to raising kids who walked with God. The ups and downs, the struggles, the failures. I did that first, even before my work.
And I’ve got this sneaking suspicion as I talk with older men. I’ve got this sneaking suspicion that I’ll end up a very, very blessed man, if I do what I’m talking about. Because it’s hard. It’s tough to balance. It takes unbelievable courage.
You’re going to, you’re going to run into a lot of barriers and conflict. But you’re, by the grace of God, if Jesus doesn’t come back, the way this life expectancy that you’re going to, you’re going to live to your late seventies. You’re going to live to your early eighties. Maybe beyond. And what are you going to have? You’re going to have whatever you’re investing your life in now.
So, where are you? What of those four steps do you just need to say, God… and it’s never too late. You qualify to be transformed by God.