Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day

So here it is, Father’s Day again. The Bible has much to say about Christian fathers; particularly things they are to do for their children. Sadly, there are many men who claim to be Christians who don’t care much for being a Christian father. The Holy Spirit gives at least three things that Christian fathers should or shouldn’t do and I’d like to talk to you about them. Both Ephesians and Colossians have the verses I want to focus on.

Ephesians 6:4 And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

Colossians 3:21 Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.

The first thing is a should not. They should not provoke their children to anger or to wrath which is abiding and ongoing anger. Wrath often becomes depression and violence. How is this done? How does a father provoke, provoke a child to wrath and anger? Well, all the studies I’ve seen say that it isn’t being an easygoing or a strict father that provokes a child’s wrath. It isn’t either one. It’s being an inconsistent father.

The inconsistent father doesn’t discipline his children to their benefit to make them strong, Godly adults. He punishes them because they annoy or embarrass him. The inconsistent father comes home from work and is emotionally unavailable. He needs to relax. So he watches TV, maybe drinks a beer or has a glass of wine, and reads the paper. He can’t be bothered with paying attention to his wife and children except to tell them to be quiet because the Golf Channel has something interesting on it. After all, he’s had a hard day and, as you should know, it’s all about him anyway.

The inconsistent father regards the church down the street as not good enough for him but certainly good enough for his wife and children. So rather than be the spiritual man of the house he is called to be by God he sends them off while he stays home and watches those taped UFC fights on the SPIKE network. He’s too proud to sit under a preacher whose not perfect like he is and too much of a spiritual coward and sluggard to be a leader and show his children the way. Anyway, the preacher might hit one of his pet sins; like cigs, alcohol, that glass toilet in the living room, his foul 7th grade locker room mouth, or his godless musical tastes. Can’t stand for that.

The inconsistent father says “do as I say not as I do” while he sucks on a cigarette and tells his children what they better not be caught doing. He has one set of rules for himself and one set for everyone else. That’s okay as long as he doesn’t have to appear weak to himself. That wouldn’t be good. He’s usually got a bit of a narcissistic streak in him so he must not only be admired for being “the man” but he cannot tolerate being questioned in anything he says, any opinion he has, or any demand he makes. You see the narcissist is really afraid; afraid that his false Self will be exposed for the fraud that it is. So, whenever someone questions his hypocrisy he gets really angry and verbally or physically attacks. But, then he says he loves them. Remember, he’s inconsistent.

The saddest thing about the inconsistent father is that they often claim to be born again Christians. You know the “I can get to heaven as easy as you” type? They even can know the Bible and even recite verses and, BLESS GOD, even tell you who Westcott and Hort were and why the churches around wherever they are, are going to ‘Hell in a handbasket.’ The inconsistent father doesn’t really take God very seriously. He doesn’t really regard the Lord Jesus Christ as a person to be contended with. His Self is such a big man that it blocks his view of the Lord. He’ll lower his head in prayer and beg for mercy if things come to that but a relationship with the Lord, well, that’s for sissies and women.

The inconsistent father finds no joy in reading the Bible, doesn’t have much time for prayer, and since he doesn’t attend church himself doesn’t really get into witnessing for Christ. He doesn’t have much of a heart for the lost because, well, if they’re lost, it’s their own fault, isn’t it? Anyway, he can’t allow a preacher to convict him of his sins. It might make him mad enough to hit someone. He doesn’t understand that dogs bite and fight but they aren’t men so that really proves nothing but his own reprobation. The inconsistent father doesn’t know what a man is.

The second and third things these verses say are for fathers to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. A wise father will look at their children and imagine in their head what kind of people he would like for them to be. He’ll think of what kind of people he’d pray for his children to be. And then he’ll be that person.

A wise, Christian father won’t just depend on osmosis to raise Godly children. There are certain things he’ll do each and every day that it’s physically possible to do them. First, he’s got his own precious time with the Lord; reading the Bible through many times and praying often, maybe doing a Bible Study of some kind each day. Second, he’s got prayer time with just he and his wife on their knees bringing their praise, their thanksgiving, and their mutual concerns before God. Third, he’s holding family devotions where the children hear him and/or their mother read the Bible, explain what they’ve read, and then the whole family prays.

This wise, Christian man of God knows that it’s in times of prayer like this that he knows what burdens and cares are on his wife’s and children’s hearts. He knows then, in fact, what is in their deepest heart. Raising children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord is not a shallow, superficial thing. The wise, Christian father leads his family spiritually. He leaves Self outside and shows Jesus Christ to his family. Jesus Christ is who they see when they see their father, not some angry, burned out, frustrated couldabeensomebody who is mad at the world, and them. He doesn’t come home cursing about what some idiot driver or the boss did to him that day, but comes home praising God and telling them how God used him that day.

The wise, Christian father takes his family to church after diligently searching and finding a church that, while not perfect, as no organization consisting of people is, is a place where he feels that he can worship and serve the Lord and be an example to his family. The Christian father puts aside his ego and his desire to pick the imperfect things of the earth apart and humbles himself before God, glorifying and magnifying Christ, and showing his family an example to follow. He shows his sons how to be a man by how he loves their mother in front of them, never shouting and screaming, never hitting or threatening. He shows his daughters by how he treats their mother what a real man is like, not somebody who’s fast on the football field or tough in the boxing ring, but a real man of God who will love them as Christ loves the church, His bride.

So a Christian father does not provoke his children to anger and wrath, is not inconsistent, discouraging them and turning them from Christ, but raises them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, setting an example spiritually and physically of a man of God who loves God and has the Spirit of Christ, of God, dwelling in him. He loves the Lord and loves his family through that love for God.

I was not an example of a Christian father. I didn’t raise my children in a Godly manner. I went to church, yes, but had no day to day active and living relationship with a risen Saviour. I was saved or insisted I was, anyway. I believed. But pride and cowardice and laziness dominated me. Oh, and I mustn’t forget anger.

Finally, if you think what I’ve just said is offensive, unfair, or untrue, let me ask you something. I paid a terrible price for my willful failure as a Christian father. A child I loved dearly committed suicide. She hung herself with an extension cord from a tree in my backyard, playing a CD sound track from a godless movie with songs of hopelessness and the pointlessness of existence. My heart is shattered in a thousand pieces and will stay that way. Other of my children, whom I love and who have shown me love, not all, but some, regard Christ with indifference and disregard, perhaps not even believing in Him and certainly not trusting Him to get them to heaven.

What are you willing to give up? Look at your children and think, which one does God have to take from me to get me to look up at Him? Suicide? A car accident after a bout of drunken partying? AIDS? Prison? Drug overdose? What is it going to take for God to get you to look up at Him? Will you visit their grave like I do my teenage girl’s grave? Will you cry there as you pray for your other children to turn to God, your heart burning and tears flowing? Or will you one day write something like this, as I am and cry while you’re doing it, as I am.

It doesn’t have to be that way for you. Not now. Not ever. Pick up God’s Book. Start reading; let God speak to you through His words. Start praying; talk to God. Plead for guidance, for light, and for a changed heart and a changed life. Happy Father’s Day.

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