(Opened with a "Shaggy Dog" Movie Clip taken from ScreenVue.com)
Being a dad is one very rewarding job, but it is also the toughest gig in my life. Balancing work, life as a husband, ministry to a congregation and investing in the lives of more than 100 students at Indiana Wesleyan’s Lexington campus, all while making a nine year old and a 12 year old feel like the most important thing in my life. Being a father, a good father is one of the most unsung, unpraised, unnoticed, and unappreciated heroes in all humanity.
One woman noticed that back in 1909. Sonora Smart Dodd of Spokane, Washington was listening to a Mother’s Day sermon when she came up with the idea of having a Father’s Day. You see, after Sonora’s mother died, it was her father who raised her. So she wanted her father to know how special he was to her. It was her father that made all the parental sacrifices and was, in the eyes of his daughter, a courageous, selfless, and loving man.
Her father was born in June, so she chose to hold the first Father’s Day celebration in Spokane, Washington on the 19th of June, 1910. Then, in 1924 President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day.
One time a little boy was asked to define Father’s Day and he said, “It’s just like Mother’s Day, only you don’t spend as much on the present.”
Did you know that the greatest number of long distance phone calls are made on Mother’s Day, and the largest number of collect calls are made on Father’s Day!
A survey was conducted to determine what children thought were their dad’s favorite sayings. They came up with this top 5:
- Go ask your mother!
- Just wait ‘till I get home!
- When I was your age…
- I used to walk to school in the snow!
- I’m busy right now.
Dads can get a pretty bad wrap. There was a little boy who was caught swearing by his teacher. "Jeffrey, you shouldn’t use that kind of language," she said. "Where did you hear it?"
"My daddy said it," he responded.
"Well," explained the teacher, "you don’t even know what it means."
"I do so!" Jeffrey corrected. "It means the car won’t start."
Another young boy was looking through the family album and asked his mother, "Who’s this guy on the beach with you, with all the muscles and curly hair?"
"That’s your father," said the mother.
The boy seemed astonished as he said to his mom, "Then who’s the old baldheaded fat man who lives with us now?"
One more? A teacher asked her class, "If you had one dollar and you asked your father for another, how many dollars would you have?"
Bobby raised his hand and answered, "One dollar."
The teacher shook her head. "You don’t know your math."
Bobby replied, "You don’t know my father."
Being a dad can be a tough gig. In fact, Father’s Day preaching is even a tough gig. On Mother’s Day, people expect the moms to be recognized, flowers, and a nice pretty sermon reflecting an appreciation of women and moms. I have never heard anyone suggest that the topic of motherhood should be avoided in the church on Mother’s Day.
But I have read many articles, and heard many people comment on how difficult Father’s Day is, and how we maybe should not even preach “Father’s Day” sermons because for many people the memories or treatment of their father is too difficult to have to deal with.
And we wonder where the men have gone in the church of today, or why men fail to step up to the role of Godly leadership in the home.
Just think about how men are portrayed on TV anymore. Ray Romano. Ray’s dad. Remember Tim the Tool Man Taylor. Insensitive oaf always blowing something up. Even back in the good ol’ days, Pa Ingles and Pa Walton were hard nosed, gruff men, who didn’t always join the family for church or model warmth and affection.
And the truth be told. If you really read the Bible, it can be mighty difficult to come up with a strong model of a Godly father to emulate. In the New Testament you have wisdom and direction on parenting from Jesus, Peter, and Paul. But not any autobiographical examples of what it was like for them to live and breath and balance life as a dad.
And in the Old Testament? Forgive me, but David was far from a candidate for Father of the Year. Goodness. One of his sons rapes one of his daughters, and he does nothing. Another one of his own sons battles him for the throne.
Adam had to deal with murder within his own family after giving into the temptation of a snake and his wife. Abraham launched a lineage of men who had a hard time being honest and avoiding deception in their dealings with others.
Read through the history of the kings and see how often you find the words, “And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father had done.”
But if we search hard enough, I believe we can find some faithful fathers to serve as models and examples to fathers today. And one such example would be Joshua.
Joshua is 110 years old when he summons the leaders of Israel to Shechem for a farewell address. He charges them to obey the Lord who has fought for them and given them an inheritance. He warns them of the danger of apostasy, saying, “Choose you this day whom you will serve…”
Joshua 24. Joshua 24:14 (read through verse 18). Look at the place Joshua has chosen for this address. Shechem. Alive with sacred memories such as Abraham’s altar, and Jacob’s well. In fact, just 25 years earlier, a tremendous dedication service had taken place there.
And as Joshua spoke, he did so with authority of experience, for he had walked with Moses for 40 years and then led Israel into the conquest of Canaan for another 25 years.
And of course, he reinforced his appeal with the power of a good example - “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
There are a lot of things we could say about Joshua, but this morning I want us to just reflect on two. Two qualities that he possessed that all fathers would do well to emulate.
First, and this is a reality that has all but disappeared in the 21st century...
I. JOSHUA RECOGNIZED HIS ROLE AS PRIEST OF THE HOME
He recognized his role as priest of the home, and that meant acknowledging a few things about his life. First…
He acknowledged his responsibility for the spiritual life of his family. As far as we know, he didn’t take a public opinion poll throughout the household. He declared, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” He spoke for his family as the spiritual leader of the family. He declared their intent. Words that would be seen as overly authoritative or even chauvinistic in today’s society. But as the priest of the home, he was ready to take responsibility for the spiritual life of his family. “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
And men, this is so important to hear today. A priest cannot function the way God intends and desires unless he is in close contact with God. You see, according to the Bible, the family was designed to be the basic educational unit. Not the school systems. Private or public. The home. The family.
Ephesians 4:6 says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger,” and I have heard many a wife and child remind their husbands and fathers of that verse, but that is only the first half of it. The second part says, “But, don’t provoke them, but instead, bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
It is the father’s duty, then, to make sure his children know how to be saved and how to walk in the ways of the Lord. But in order to teach and model that as the priest of the home, the father must be in close contact with God. Devoted to growth in his own spiritual walk. Committed to serving the Lord as a model to the rest of his home.
I truly believe that the greatest thing a father can pass on to his children is the love of God. There was a little boy, frightened by lightning and thunder, who called out one dark night, "Daddy, come. I’m scared." "Son," the father said, "God loves you and he’ll take care of you." "I know God loves me," the boy replied. "But right now I want somebody who has skin on."
We need fathers who will make that their mission today. As you deal with your children, as you dwell in your home. Above all else, be God’s love with skin on. Another thing that Joshua did in his role as priest. . .
He acknowledged that children usually follow a parent, especially the father.
Someone has said, “A boy loves his mother, but will follow his father."
This past week I read a list of Ten Ways to Fail as a Father -
1. Have fights in front of your children. Then when guests come, turn around and act affectionate toward one another.
2. Stifle your children’s questions by saying, “Don’t bother me now; I’m busy.”
3. Take no interest in your children’s friends. Let them run around with whomever they choose.
4. Never discipline your children; try to use psychology instead.
5. Nag them about their schoolwork; never compliment them on their achievements.
6. Demonstrate your love for them with material things. Give them everything their little hearts desire.
7. Never discuss the facts of life with them. Instead, let them learn about sex from their friends, public school, or pornographic literature. (plug books)
8. Set a bad example so the children will not want to grow up to be like you.
9. Absolutely refuse to believe it if you are told that your children have done something wrong.
10. Let your children make their own choices in the matter of religion. Be careful not to influence them in any way.
You know what. That last one is impossible. They will not make their own choices. At least not if we are talking choices free from our influence. No matter how independent they declare themselves to be, they are acting under the influence of those that they watch, and follow and emulate. It is just a matter of what manner we chose to influence them in. A third way that Joshua was the priest of the home was that. . .
He acknowledged that the Godly father is also a man of prayer.
A man that goes to God often on behalf of his family, asking for wisdom and courage for himself, and protection for his wife and children. Look at how the book of Job begins. Turn there with me (read Job 1:1 through 5).
What an example. Interceding on behalf of his children. Continually.
(Describe my personal passion to grow in prayer – leading to IHOP Conference)
Joshua recognized his role as priest of the home. And. . .
II. JOSHUA HAD A PLAN FOR HIS FAMILY
Being priest of the family is not enough. The godly father must also have a plan for the spiritual life of his loved ones. Joshua had said, “We will serve the Lord.” It was a done deal. The plan was in place. He was ready to enact it. And. . .
A. A plan includes God’s help for family unity.
When Joshua spoke his voice rang with the sound of unity: “me and my house.” There was togetherness. And I believe that the reason that unity was there was due to his godly character, his example. His faith was genuine, authentic and as a result his family said, in essence, “Whatever you say, dad, we will agree.”
(Example of taking entire family together to IHOP Pastor’s and Leaders Conference)
The most basic plan for family unity is the marriage vows that we make. When these vows are kept, and the couple is devoted both to the Lord and to each other, there is no more powerful statement of family unity. I love the fact that my children attend a church where people are celebrating more than 50, 60, even 70 years of marriage. It is model of unity, and it is part of God’s plan for the family.
B. The plan also includes endurance when trials arise.
When the family is united, it will endure the trials that come its way. Joshua pressed a godly determination to persevere with his family. He was prepared to stand alone with his family if necessary.
You know, I haven’t pieced together the genealogical history, so I don’t know it for a fact, but 65 years earlier Joshua would have been about 45 years old. That means he may very well have had a wife already. Children even. Maybe was already living the life as a model of a Godly father.
Why is that significant? Well, because 65 years earlier at Kadesh-Barnea, Joshua stood apart from the majority and gave the minority report along with Caleb. He modeled that trials will arise in life, but you stand your ground and do what is right. What you know in your heart and your spirit.
Debbie and I have endured many trials in our 17 years of marriage. Jamie has been along for 12 years worth of those. Allie for 9. And I believe they are learning, observing, seeing what it means to be faithful to your call, faithful to God’s plan even when trials arise. They may not know that now, and probably don’t. Probably just think we are stubborn or stupid much of the time. But now that I’m pushing 40, I can see on the other side what they will see when they get 25 more years down the road. Thirdly. . .
C. The plan must include the devotional life of the family.
And I’m not near as satisfied with my impact and fulfillment of this role as I would like to be. But every evening before he goes to bed, Jamie pulls out his One Year Bible and reads. Then he pulls out his Credo magazine and does another daily devotion. Allie saves up her money to got LifeWay and purchase daily devotional books for girls, and gets up before school to read her Bible beside her mom.
And while I haven’t led the devotional life of the family like I would ideally envision, I do believe that those habits in my children’s lives are not coincidental. They have come from modeling, discussing, and attempting to live out individual and family plans of worship and devotion.
Joshua was determined at least to establish a spiritual oasis with his family knowing that in such an oasis, spiritual giants are grown.
More than 30 million copies of the book “In His Steps” by Charles M. Sheldon have been sold. And in it Sheldon gives this testimony –
“In a log house on the prairie my father taught me to love the Bible. After breakfast every morning, the family would have a devotional time in the parlor. Each of us had a Bible of his own. Father would read two verses out loud from the chapter of the day. Then mother would read two verses and each of us would read two. Before five years were over, we read the whole Bible five times. I think I am the only man alive who has heard the whole Bible read five times. We never skipped, not even those long lists of worthies who begat one another. The minute we finished Revelation, father calmly turned back to Genesis and we went at it again. I want to repeat that my father taught me to love the Bible as the greatest book in the world.
“After we had read the Bible passages for the day, we would sing a hymn and then all kneel down while father offered the morning prayer. We are Scotch-Irish, and naturally father prayed as long as he liked. And he would often pray for us by name.
“When I finally left home to go down East to college, I would often be tempted to do what some of the college boys did — swear, gamble, go to the bars, etc. Just as I was about to give way to my desires, I would hear my father’s morning prayer in the log house. It was enough to keep me from falling away from God.”
(ICHTHUS Testimony – Jamie & Allie)
Men. Husbands. Fathers. Recognize your role as priest of the home. Moms, if you are fulfilling that role for your husband, lovingly encourage him to step into it. And by all means, if he is ready to take it. . .get out of the way, and let him fulfill his Biblical role as spiritual head of the home.
Have a plan for your family, and make it a high priority of your life to put the plan into action.
Single moms. The need for a father does not disappear when the man leaves, dies, or simply removes himself from the leadership and responsibilities of a dad. The children still have the same needs. And through God’s power, you can develop a spiritual plan for your household, and fulfill the role of priestess. I’m not suggesting it is easy, but neither is it optional. Our children are just too important.
(Video – Slide Show to Phillips, Criag and Dean’s "I Want to Be Just Like You")