By PJ Smythe Prayer: Heavenly Father, pls re-engineer current and future fathers, and help us all to relate better to our earthly fathers, and most importantly to our Heavenly Father, Amen.
Intro - If we want to learn about fatherhood, then where better to learn from than how our Heavenly Father treated Jesus? So, I am going to draw several lessons of fatherhood from the short account of Jesus baptism in Lk 3:
When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased." (Lk 3v21)
A LOOK AT THE ULTIMATE FATHER… 1. He was a present father
He got to his kids baptism, the school concert, the graduation, and he was home for dinner. He was present for the key events in his kids life.
RT Kendal (Westminster Chapel) wrote book In pursuit of His glory, and a latter chapter is entitled ‘If I could turn the clock back’. In this hauntingly honest chapter he writes: “Oh how I wish I could have a second chance to spend more time with our children. To read with them, to play with them, to tell stories to them. To be less harsh in discipline and to cry with them when they were hurting. I write these lines to emphasise this matter again with the hope of saving some younger person’s family – or perhaps that of a church leader. If you read these lines, here is my recommendation:
Do not dismiss their feelings of hurt over the way their friends or teachers treat them.
Make the meals at the table last longer – and encourage them to talk.
Don’t leave them when they are afraid to go to sleep or need a bedtime story.
Set time to be with them and keep your appointment as you would for the most important person on earth.
Watch out for the following enemies of being a present father: Enemy 1: The lie of ‘tomorrow’: Play with you lata. 2moro we’ll have time. Next w’end.
Dads, we have a few short years when they want us around. After that u will be running after them for attention.
Age 3-15: ‘When u coming home, Dad?.....Age 16: ‘When u coming home, son?’
18yrs = 6570 days. 10 yrs only 2930 left. Only so many opps to go fishing, play catch, read a story, say prayers. Drink coffee & listen to music with your teen…hear whole song!
Enemy 2: Self-imposed busyness: I am aware of the real pressures of deadlines & targets, but beware working long hours irrespective of need. Does it really need to be done now?
Enemy 3: Not working smart: When we had kids, my work-smart ethic and delegation skills improved over-night – had to because I needed to stop taking work home at night or on the weekends. E.g. George: deadline 8am next day for report. All day he procrastinates, tolerates interruptions, coffees, urgent b4 important, and not done by 5pm. Get’s home grumpy and stressed and unable to engage saying ‘you have no idea how busy it was today, and I can’t play as I have to work’. George isn’t as busy as he thinks. He just doesn’t work as smart as he shd, and it’s not his boss that suffers, it’s his kids.
Enemy 4: TV: Survey: 3 mins talking to kids and 3 hrs of TV.
Enemy 5: Cell Phone: The day you were in the delivery room watching your first child being born, phone rang and u didn’t answer it. Just left it vibrating away in pocket. Your phone, stunned and rejected, vowed that this would never happen again, and began a campaign to ring just as story is getting exciting; board game climax; middle of some crucial convo with teen; history project; sitting down to a family meal, and it always whispers ‘urgent and won’t take long’. 9 out of 10 calls can wait 30mins, or till next day.
Dads, when the 18yrs are up and the home is quiet, you will take out the family photo album and flick through, chuckling at the lack of photographic skill – some pics have whole heads missing – but enjoy tracking unmistakable journey this family had made together down the years. Toddler with broad smile and no sense of embarrassment about their toothy grin. Playing on the beach. The nativity scene that even kindest critic described as low budget. Mum with the 3 kids (smiling, squinting, pulling face). Christmases, aunties, zoos. Flick back to the start and see self as a thinner, younger man proudly holding kid in hospital. Flick to last page with the pic of your on stage being honoured as Businessman of the Decade. If you don’t play these years right, you will whisper to yourself, ‘I would trade it all in for another shot at those years.’
Dates in diary that are important to the kids e.g. B’days, schools concerts, matches
Designate a ‘TV free’ evening
Phone off for hols and family time
Read stories to them out loud.
If you have to be away, make them know that you would rather be with them and then when at home don’t let anything disrupt and distrub.
Apply your leadership and creative gift to the family. Brainstorm how to have fun:
How? ‘Beloved’ – to Jesus and US! Dove, a symbol of peace and tenderness. Tenderness means strength under control. It means being affectionate. Remember, children measure their Dad by putting a measuring tape around his heart, not his brain or his biceps. Enemies of tenderness:
Enemy 1: Shouting: Someone once said that shouting to make your children obey you is like using the horn to steer your car, and you get about the same results.
Enemy 2: Machoism: cowboys don’t cry etc. Cuddle.
3. He was an affirming father
God the father verbally expressed his unconditional love for his son Jesus. One of the main roles a father plays is to give his children identity and security. Fathers should affirm their children at every stage of life. Affirm them in their boyhood and girlhood, in their teens, and as men and women.
E.g. Daily that I love them / E.g. Nightly affirmation: whisper age-appropriate things in their ears. Sam is now 6, and I often say to him things like, ‘Sam, I am so glad you are in our family. You are a brilliant family member and an amazing Smyth boy. And, you’ve got muscles like steel.’/ E.g. Capitalize onb’days: 1 min speech.
Here’s the point: it is no good thinking it, you’ve got to say it.
Catch em doing something right: ‘Helping visitors feel at home’ ‘not yelling at ref’ Don’t fuss too much about untidy rooms: Stumble into Jacks room and first thought is to ring the police…burglar in! Glance under bed and regret it…various life forms existing there. Think see something move and get out!
Affirm ‘em with a sense of destiny
For Life PJD: Thomas Cook / Columbus / Wright Bros / Graham Churchill / Ps 139 / Jer 1 / Special / 6m / stage of life / SofD into young heart – steward life well. Impart a sense of destiny deep into their young hearts..
Arrows!!!! Ps 127
For Parenting: We often say to each of our sons things like ‘your wife is going to be so lucky because you so kind (or ‘cuddly’ or ‘strong’)’ or ‘I can tell that you are going to be a great Dad…do you think that you will have sons or daughters?’
4. He taught his son obedience (Heb 5v8)
Prime biblical command to kids is to obey (Eph 6v1; 1 Tim 3; Titus 1; Everywhere in Old Testament). Obedience is the cornerstone of all other godly characteristics. Here’s how Ash and I are trying to raise obedient kids:
We are confident in our god-given parental authority:God has set parents in place as the authority figures in the lives of children. Hebrews 12 speaks of how discipline is actually a privilege of being a son. Don’t fear that your child will resent your discipline, on the contrary they will soon realise that it is a sign of your love for them.
Beware a child-centred home.When kid(s) set tone and agenda of the home. Unrestrained crying. Interupting adult conversation. Sulking. Schedules and routine built around kids. Don’t teach them that the world revolves around them!
We never count to three: The counting-to-three routine undermines your authority and places your child in the driving seat. You are training him that essentially obedience is a negotiation and he can determine the timing of his obedience. Train them to say ‘I must obey straight away’.
We model it ourselves to authority figures in our lives:Several times a year there is a clash between what my ‘boss’ is asking me to do and what my family and I would like to do. I always seize these opportunities to explain to my boys that ‘I must obey my boss straight away and with a good attitude’, and that although I would much rather spend Saturday morning with them, I must obey my ‘boss’ and rather go to that meeting.
We try not to exasperate our children (Eph 6v4).Avoid petty rules. Pick your battles. Be merciful and compassionate. When you are in the wrong say a sincere sorry to them. Also, make sure that you are giving them sufficient attention so that they are not compelled to rebel just to get some time and attention from you.
We use appropriate forms of punishment.We discipline mostly for three D’s: Disobedience. Disrespect. And Destruction (of property…or your brother’s nose). Punishment must be proportional to the offense, and also proportional to the stage of life of the child. If it is not then you will find that you exasperate a growing child. Also, the mode of punishment must be what will best help the child. Different parents have more ‘faith’ for some forms of punishment than others, and different children respond differently to different forms of punishment. I acknowledge and respect that, although we have had continued success with the primary biblical form of disciplining children with a wooden spoon on their chubby bottoms.
We are convinced that it really is worth the effort.The joy of parenting increases dramatically when you have obedient children, and most importantly, you are equipping your children with the vital life-skill of obedience, which will stand them in good stead in their obedience to God, and life and at school and in the workplace.
A word for Single Parents and Divorcees:Where the ideal is lacking, grace abounds. Parent as best you can. Get all the help that you can. Trust God for the rest. Many of the world’s greatest leaders and many of Godfirst’s finest are from Single Parent homes.
5. He loved his son with unconditional love
Think about it, Jesus had not done any fancy miracles yet, he had just lived an unknown, ‘normal’ life as a carpenter. And yet, his Heavenly Father was totally in love with him just because he was his son. We love our kids because they are our kids, not because they behave well.
I love you when you are good. I love you when you are naughty. I love you all time. Nightly; espec after discipline because they need to be reminded that failure is an event not a person.
Unconditionally’ is how God loves us!