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2023-06-18 Father's Day

Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen!

A father of five children had won a toy at a raffle. When he got home, he called his kids together to ask which of them should get the new found gift. “Who of you is the most obedient?” he asked. “Who never talks back to mother or stresses her out? Who does everything she says with no jibber-jabber?” After a long pause, five small voices answered in unison: “Okay, Dad, … you get the toy!”

Happy Father’s day to all those obedient dads out there! You are the King of your Castle, the Head of your House – and your wife said it’s OK to say that! Just like in our Mother’s Day message we had back in May, we hear again Paul’s words about parents: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honour your father and mother’ (this is the first commandment with a promise), ‘that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.’ Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:1-4). Honour, respect and love. That is what we owe our Fathers. That’s what the Lord teaches us in His Word. This is the message we proclaim to an unbelieving world.

And the unbelieving world is getting worse and worse by the day. Anything that is anti-Christian, anti-church, anti-family is promoted and endorsed. Lies and corruption exist all around us. People are turning from the faith of their fathers back to paganism, secularism and hedonism all the time. What the world needs now more than ever is Fathers. Christian Fathers who will teach their children the Christian faith and right from wrong in accordance with God’s Word. We need a few good men like Abraham who believed the Lord and it was counted to him as righteousness.

Father’s Day wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t talk about father Abraham. He’s truly the guy, the man of faith, who started out life wanting to be dad but had no children. No heir. No family tree. No dynasty. And yet from that downtrodden, childless circumstance, God makes him a promise: “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be” (Gen 15:5). The promise of everything Abraham ever wanted is made. He could have been skeptical. He could have turned away from God’s Word. Instead, he believes. He is faithful to the promise. He believed God through faith. And here we are today. We are all children of that promise, descendants of faith, numerous like the stars of heaven!

One of my pastoral theology classes back in Seminary was to do an inner-city immersion trip to Calgary. On this trip we encountered many different experiences that inner city pastors may run into. We went to a Mosque, a Hindu temple, talked to a Buddhist, visited a Messianic Jewish Synagogue, and we talked with several different church groups. One guy was an Alliance pastor who was starting a new church in Calgary. His research led him to believe that if you were able to get the dad of a family involved in the church, you got the whole family. So they started a church completely geared toward ministering to men.

This shows us how important fathers are in the growth and life of the Church. They set the tone. And if they are faithful, like Abraham, great things happen. Countless Bible verses preach the role of the Christian Dad. Our Old Testament reading from Proverbs keys into this: “My son, keep your father’s commandment, and forsake not your mother’s teaching. 21 Bind them on your heart always; tie them around your neck. 22 When you walk, they will lead you; when you lie down, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk with you. 23 For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light,and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life” (6:20-23).

This passage is about keeping our faith in the number one spot of life. Bound to your heart; worn like a necklace! When you walk, when you lie down, when you are awake. It’s a paraphrase and language connection back to Deuteronomy 6:“4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” How often did we or do we talk with our kids about the faith? On average, I think people today talk with their kids about 30 minutes a day. Of that 30 minutes, how often are we talking about Jesus? Salvation? Forgiveness? Baptism? Right and wrong? And yet God’s Word says we should be diligently teaching our kids God’s Word, when we sit down, when we walk, when we lie down, when we get up, in our hands and between our eyes, even on our doors and gates! The Gospel of Christ and His commands should be as air to us! Especially as Christian fathers! Boy, have we failed.

It’s amazing how fast this has changed in our world. We’ve gone from a society where everyone went to church and had basic morality in common to a society that is completely fragmented, shares nothing in common and embraces immorality at every turn. The same thing happened to God’s people after Joshua. Remember him? He fought the battle of the Jericho and the walls came tumblin’ down. Even though God did mighty things through Joshua and allowed the people to win huge victories, as soon as Joshua was gone this happened: “they abandoned the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them. And they provoked the LORD to anger” (2:12). The Lord stopped the victories. He allowed His people to be plundered. And they were in terrible distress.

The bottom line is, when Fathers fail to be the Christian leaders God has made them to be, when they fail to teach the Lord’s ways and His commandments to their children, when they shirk their fatherly duties, the results are catastrophic. We’re seeing many of these results right now in our lawless and ever-more-pagan society. It’s as if all discipline has been thrown out the window. And this is the crux of the issue. You can’t have a disciple without discipline. Our Hebrews reading touches on exactly this as well: “It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (12:7-11).

As the Lord our God shows us His discipline, we see the purpose. To “yeild the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” This is what is lacking in our utter clown world. Yet our God is a God of grace and mercy. As our Heavenly Father, He knows us. He knows our sin and failings. He knows our struggles. He promises His Divine help, strength and forgiveness through His Son Jesus Christ our Lord. His cross shows us His forgiveness for our failings. His resurrection from the grave shows us power to help us in our struggles. The Holy Spirit promises to be the Helper of fathers, and mothers, in the task God has given.

A little boy was caught swearing like a trucker at church in the potluck line up. “Young man, where did you learn to talk that way?!” said the boy’s shocked and embarrassed mother. The little boy looked over at his father and said, “Well, Dad, should I tell her!?” Dad sets the tone. Sometimes it’s good and faithful. Other times, not so much. We have no perfect Fathers except for our Heavenly Father. But like Abraham, we can look to His Word in faith. We can believe the Lord and it is credited to us as righteousness. Despite our fatherly failings, or those of our fathers, God’s Word still remains: “Honour your father.” Love and respect him. As a Father, it’s great to know that our Heavenly Father is gracious. He is always with us, just as He was with Abraham and Joshua. He gives us the strength we need for every day of our lives. His Word fills us with the hope and the help to be and to do this vocation of Fatherhood. Certainly, we have made and we will make mistakes. Yet the grace of God continues to help us in our shortfalls as we trust our Lord and His Word to us and to all Fathers. Thanks and praise be to God! And, Happy Father’s Day. Amen!

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