Saturday, June 17, 2017

Fatherhood the Father's Way - a sermon from Psalm 127

Psalm 127
Fatherhood the Father’s Way

Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.  It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,  the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

This is NOT intended to create undue guilt or hurt feelings, but our country is in the throes of a CRISIS… a FATHERHOOD crisis.  Everyday, families are breaking up… everyday, children are growing up without a dad.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 1 in 4 children under the age of 18 — a total of about 17.2 million — are being raised without a father and almost half of them live below the poverty line.

According to a recent article in the Washington Times, among blacks, that number rises to 54 percent. More than half of black children grow up without a dad in this country.

Is it any wonder, then, that our society is racked with so much strife, poverty, crime, sexual immorality, and emotional disfunction?  Is it any wonder that we are suffering an unparalleled opioid epidemic?

Parenting is hard… and those single moms who are struggling to do it by themselves - deserve our utmost respect and admiration.  I don’t know how they do it.  I cannot imagine the incredible load of guilt, burden, and fatigue they must carry.  The fear, the worry - it has got to be LOVE that drives them to get out of bed each day.

Abandoned by my father at age 9, there’s a special place in my heart for the single mom.  My little brother never met my dad.  Dad left before he was born.  And while I never once recall hearing my father tell me he loved me or that he was proud of me or that I was anything to him other than a burden - at least I HAD a dad for 9 years.  

My little brother didn’t.  And boy did it make a difference.

All of us struggled mightily - but HE has struggled the most.  To grow up feeling like your dad left because he didn’t want to be with you - to think that OTHER things mattered more to him than YOU - that’s a cross NO KID should have to bear.  But according to stats - fatherlessness has risen to critical levels in our society - and to be perfectly frank, I do not see any way our nation can survive this disintegration of the nuclear family.

As a pastor, when I pick up the paper and read about some nut-job on a killing spree, or college kids destroying property or committing assault in the name of free speech, I ask, “Where’s dad?”  

When I see the rates of teen pregnancy, abortion, and sexually transmitted disease in this country - I ask, “Where’s dad?”  

When I see men wanting to be women, teenage boys growing up gender-retarded - my first question is, “Where’s dad??”

Drug abuse… violence… crime… promiscuity - RESEARCHERS confirm - all linked to the absence of fathers.

Where are YOU - dad???  What kind of job are YOU doing?  

It ought to be different, you know, for those who claim to know the Lord.  The ONE PLACE that ought to get it right is that place that shapes its views of fatherhood according to THUS SAITH THE LORD.  And WHILE we will NEVER be perfect, in fact, many of the father’s IN the Bible were miserable failures - those who are committed to raising their families GOD’S WAY will not only be aided and rewarded by God, they give hope to a nation grasping for something / ANYTHING stable they can hold.

“What does a godly father LOOK like?”  That was MY question almost 29 years ago when we found out our lives would be changing with the birth of our first-born.  What are the things I should do to raise my kids in a way that honors the Lord??  I had no example.  I had no mentor to encourage me or direct me.

Thankfully, I had God’s word and passages like Psalm 127 to serve as my guide.  And in this Psalm, I find 3 important directives.  If you want to go about fatherhood the Father’s way, notice:

  1. First, the DUTIES of a godly father.  The psalmist describes three different roles of the godly father in this psalm:

First, the godly father is pictured as “a provider” when he speaks of “building a house.”

The thing about building is it requires an investment… planning… a degree of knowledge and skill.  I mean, you can’t just get a wild hair one day to build a house without knowing what you are doing or you will have - at best - a lot of problems you have to overcome - and AT WORST - a costly failure on your hands.

Fathers are to be providers.  It’s how God made us.  

Now I realize there are families who have worked out OTHER arrangements.  Please don’t take me as saying that it is unbiblical for a father to be a stay-at-home dad.  I’ll leave that to God.  But I WILL say, God made men to be the head.  And part of being the head of the family is to shoulder the responsibility of providing for your family.

But understand, your role as provider involves MUCH MORE than bringing home a paycheck.  You are to provide emotionally and spiritually too.  You, as the head of the home, are the spiritual pacesetter of the family.  YOU are the one who will answer to God for the direction, the values and commitments taught and held by your family.  

As a general rule - as the father goes, so goes the family.  Remember that.  

But you are MORE than a provider, you are a PROTECTOR in the word “watchman.”  The watchman had the important task of being aware of the dangers that threaten a city.  They were vigilant - any watchman who did not sound the alarm when enemies encroached was found guilty of treason and sentenced to death.  People put their trust in the watchman.  They can rest at night because they know someone they trust is protecting them.

That’s one of the reasons I, for the life of me, cannot understand why liberals hate our police and military the way they do.  I am GLAD we have people we can trust who are charged with the responsibility of protecting us.  I cannot image life WITHOUT them.  

Well, according to researchers - there are millions of families that have been stripped of their ‘protector.’  God placed the man in the home to watch over his family - to be aware of the enemy's presence and schemes.  And to be that first line of defense when danger invades.

And THIRD, dads have the duty of PREPARER - in the words - “as arrows in the hand of a warrior.”  

Arrows aren’t carried as fashion accessories.  They are for shooting - - - for warring with the enemy.  It is YOUR job, dad, to PREPARE your young-person for battle in a world that will be unclear and often, hostile.  You are to launch your children at the enemy.  You are to give them the necessary tools that will help them function in the world.  You should teach them MANY things -- from how to treat members of the opposite sex, to how to budget and handle money, -- from the importance of following Jesus, to the value of excellence in the workplace

… and EVERYTHING in between.  Prepare them.  

When I look at so many young people today, I see kids who aren’t prepared.  Dad didn’t give them the tools they needed to be successful.  Young men… young women who are wounded because DAD didn’t prepare them.

God put you here to prepare  - protect - and provide  for the next generation.  THAT is your God-given Duty.

But not only does this text show us the Duties of a Godly father,

  1. We ALSO see the DEPENDENCE of a Godly Father.  After all, that is the whole point of the text, isn’t it?  We need the Lord DESPERATELY if we are to do our job with excellence.

You can’t be the protectors, providers, and preparers God would have you to be - WITHOUT Him!

If you want to do this job well… if you FEEL the weight of responsibility - to raise up a generation that not only survives, but THRIVES - you can’t do it without a growing relationship with God.  

You might be a good man.  You might be a VERY good man.  But Your focus in life must ALWAYS be to become a BETTER man… a godly man, a SPIRITUALLY-BALANCED man.  One his kids can look up to.  One like his sons want to become - possessing the qualities his daughters look for in a mate.

Society would have you focus on building your career - on being the very best (whatever-it-is-that-you-do) person out there.  But GOD would have you be a better man.  It isn’t stuff that gives you significance.  It isn’t all the awards and respect you receive because of how great an employee you are - or how much money you have in the bank.  It is God in you and through you that makes you a REAL man.

How is YOUR walk with the Lord?  There are two things here I want to emphasize:

Be engaged - an active participant - in your spiritual development.  Through faithfulness to church, through bible study and prayer, through fellowship with other Christians and being involved when these opportunities come your way - be actively engaged in your spiritual development.  

Christ likeness doesn't happen by chance or coincidence.  Hook your wagon to a more seasoned Christian - get you a mentor, who not only models the life, but will also have the courage to stand up to you when you are wrong.

You ALSO need to be engaged verbally - TEACH your wife, TEACH your children - SHARE the things you are learning - talk about the Lord.  Deuteronomy 6 commands us to make the LORD the topic of conversation when we get up, when we go to bed, when we leave for work, or when we come home.  It should be the NORM for you to actively engage your children spiritually.  It’s your job.

Oh, but there’s one more truth for us to discover in this text.  Not ONLY are we reminded of the DUTIES and the DEPENDENCE of Godly fathers…

3. We also see their DELIGHT.  The DELIGHT of the godly father, when it says, “Blessed is the man" ...and... "He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.”

That word “blessed” has more than one meaning.  It can mean “happy” or “content.”  As if to say, “Happy is the man” who raises his kids God’s way…
  • He will be proud of what they become.  
  • He will see his efforts pay off.

That makes sense, doesn’t it?  Because life is short in the whole scheme of things, we often don’t get to see the results of all our sacrifice as parents.  It’s HARD WORK to be a good parent.  And often, you don’t really know if you’ve done it right until YEARS LATER when they are grown and gone…  when it's too late for change.  Time  will prove if we have done it right.  We may yet see the people they become - the values they hold - the direction they lead their families.

If your kids are small - trust me - there isn’t much more gratifying than to see your grown children serving the Lord, loving Him, living faithful, honorable lives.

In that sense, I am very blessed.

But I think this statement means so much more than being happy or content as a parent. The context seems to suggest that children who are raised by Godly fathers leave a legacy -  shaping one generation after another - year after year, decade after decade.  To put it simply - What you do matters.  You are shaping your family tree.  You are making a LASTING impact on the generations to come.

Eternal destinies are being changed.  There will be souls in heaven that WOULD NOT BE THERE had it not been for your daily investment in the lives of your family.

Blessed… indeed… is the man who does fatherhood the Father's way!

I know I’m showing my age, but I used to listen to Paul Harvey on the radio EVERY day.  I loved his program.  He would give bits of news, solid advice, and thought-provoking stories.  One Father’s Day he shared THIS little gem:

What are Fathers Made Of?

A father is a thing that is forced to endure childbirth without an anesthetic.

A father is a thing that growls when it feels good--and laughs very loud when it's scared half to death.

A father never feels entirely worthy of the worship in a child's eyes. He's never quite the hero his daughter thinks, never quite the man his son believes him to be--and this worries him, sometimes. So he works too hard to try and smooth the rough places in the road for those of his own who will follow him.

A father is a thing that gets very angry when school grades aren't as good as he thinks they should be. He scolds his son though he knows it's REALLY the teacher's fault.

Fathers are what give daughters away to other men who aren't nearly good enough so they can have grandchildren who are smarter than anybody's.

Fathers make bets with insurance companies about who'll live the longest. Though they know the odds, they keep right on betting. And one day -- they lose.

I don't know where fathers go when they die. But I've an idea that after a good rest, wherever it is, he won't be happy unless there's work to do. He won't just sit on a cloud and wait for the girl he's loved and the children she bore. He'll be busy there, too, repairing the stairs, oiling the gates, improving the streets, smoothing the way.

Fathers… are you doing fatherhood God’s Way?

If you are honest with yourself, and that honesty causes you to feel conviction - don’t leave here today without spending time before our HEAVENLY FATHER - Who will not only forgive you, but will empower you to be the dad you ought to be.

You are never going to be perfect - but that fact should never be an excuse for failing to change.

If God is speaking to YOUR heart, why not come pray about it??  Let’s stand...