Read Deuteronomy chapter 6 as preparation for this sermon.
Sermon: “Fathers Teach Your Children”
It’s Fathers’ Day.
A little boy was asked if he knew what Fathers’ Day was. He said, “Yes, it just like Mothers’ Day … except you don’t have to spend as much!”
I have heard it said that children love their mothers but follow their fathers.
Some fathers take this responsibility very seriously … and some don’t. Just in my lifetime, I have seen a trend to diminish a father’s role. The sitcoms that my children watched were much different than the ones I watched when I was young.
In my day the fathers were strong leaders and … yes … enforcers. (well except for Ozzie Nelson of Ozzie and Harriet. He always kind of bumbled and fumbled his way through raising his sons.) But even Ozzie, bumbling as he was, was better than those that followed in the next generation.
Archie Bunker was at least concerned about Gloria and Meathead and tried to get them to be more like himself.
Al Bundy from Married With Children clearly didn’t want his children. His life was bad enough without having to deal with the kids too.
But today’s sitcoms have even further degraded the father figure. Think of the fathers in Modern Family or even worse The Family Guy (which, after watching a few episodes, I made sure to avoid ever-after).
We often use the analogy of God as a Father. For most of us, this is comforting. However not all fathers have modeled the love of God as He intended.
In my own life, I have been a father-figure for a lot of kids. Beside my own four children and two step-children, Ella and I have hosted a lot of Exchange Students. While they were here in the U.S. it was natural to call me “Dad”. When we started hosting, I really didn’t realize what a lifelong relationship would be formed. I was surprised when our first exchange student had returned to Germany and called “home to Iowa” to ask advice from the only dad that he had ever had. Those exchange kids have now grown into adults and some have started their own families and most still refer to me as Dad. That has been a surprise.
I need to tell you about my brother. He was seventeen years older than I and he had a violent temper . He was, at times, abusive to his kids. He mellowed with age and was a much more patient and loving grandfather. I tell you this because I was really surprised when several of my deceased brother’s grown adult children asked if I could be their dad.
Now here is the kicker, I was raised by a single mother. My father died when I was around four-years-old. I wasn’t alone in being fatherless. More than 20 million children live in a home without the physical presence of a father. Millions more have dads who are physically present, but emotionally absent. If it were classified as a disease, fatherlessness would be an epidemic worthy of attention as a national emergency.
I wasn’t totally without father figures. The three most prominent father figures were; my brother who was, as I said, seventeen when I was born. Then there was our next door neighbor, who I was too naive at the time to understand that he was my mother’s boyfriend. And the leader of the Boy Scout troop I joined. Unfortunately, I can’t remember his name.
These men impressed me in different ways. Russell, my neighbor would take me fishing. I learned the fine art of fishing with a cane pole and how to make doughball from cornmeal and water. I learned how to clean and descale carp, which is what we mostly caught. He also took me to the dump. Of the two, I think I enjoyed the dump the most. Yep, I was a “that” kid. We would take a load of trash out and I would bring a load back. Anything with lights, bells, buzzers or whistles would come home with me. I had lots of old non-working radios that I would remove their “skins” and exchange tubes, resolder loose wires and repair broken parts. That was Russell, my buddy. I learned that you can make friends of people of all ages.
My scout master, instilled in me the scout motto and pledge. I learned about camping and woodscraft. I learned how to be both self-sufficient and how to work as part of a team. I learned how to build a fire. Yes, I really do know how to start a fire by rubbing two sticks together, or with a magnifying glass. I learned to care about and care for the natural world from him also. However the most important thing that I gained from him was a sense of how to be an integral contributing part of society.
My brother, as I’ve already stated, was not a nice person. Because I was nearly the same age as his children, he was as abusive to me as well. However, I was NOT his child and I would fight back where his own children didn’t. I told him many times that one day I’d be as big as him and I’d kick his … well you know. I saw how he was as a husband as well as a father. He became my role model of what not to do. It was a conscious decision on my part to be different than him.
It wasn’t easy and I had my own problems with anger … which I guess … is why I, in my preteens would threaten this six foot eight inch full grown adult. By the way, when I returned from the Army, it was my brother who came to the airport to get me. The first thing he said to me was, “ guess I have an ass whoppin’ comin’.” While in the service, I became interested in and studied several martial arts, one of which was a Chinese form of karate or gung fu. I was in my mid twenties and in excellent shape. He was in his late thirties. Although at six foot two, I had not gotten as big as his six eight, I felt the fight would have been in my favor. However, as my reply to his challenge I did a high front snapping kick and kicked his hat off. Then I said, “Naw, I’m good.” Neither of us ever spoke of it again. It wasn’t until the last few years of his life, that we became at least friendly.
Fathers and father figures are vastly important to the healthy growth of children. As I said earlier there is an epidemic of fatherlessness in this country. There is hope though. In this day of absentee fathers leaving single mothers to do the work of mother and father also, there are conscience movements, particularly in the black communities which historically have had a higher percentage of single women raising children, to encourage and help men to become true fathers to their children.
Fathers need to teach their children. It is one of their biggest duties. However, many men need to be taught how to be fathers before they can teach the children.
That is where the scripture reading comes in.
Our scripture reading from Deuteronomy has some points that will help fathers how to teach the love of God. You can’t go wrong with the Ten Commandments.
1. There is only one God.
2. No idols.
3. Do not use the name of God lightly or profanely.
4. Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy
5. Honor your father and mother
6. Do not murder
7. Do not commit adultery
8. Do not steal
9. Do not bear false witness
10. Do not covet what belongs others
I have boiled down the Deuteronomy scriptures as follows.
These are the commands, laws, and rules the Lord your God commanded me to teach you.
· Obey them. Obey them. This should be self evident. These are not the ten suggestions or the ten recommendations. These are laws governing how we interact with the Lord our God as well as with other people around us..
· As long as you live, you, your children, and your grandchildren must fear the Lord your God. As long as you live. There is no “Graduation Day” where you have mastered all of the commandmenst and then get to ignore them. If we claim to be children of God, we must strive every day, in every way, to be good children. He is our Father … He is also our Lord … He both loves us and expects our obedience.
Coming from the background that I did, I made a decision to use corpral punishment only in extream events. One, if the child’s behavior was a threat to their or other’s lives. Two if they were willfully disobedient. We had a “one swat” rule at our house. If you needed to us a swat on the butt to reinforce what you said, it was only one swat. One swat would let the child know how serious you were about it. More than one swat was just a way for the parent to vent their, fear, disappointment, or anger. One swat rule.
· Listen, The Lord is our God. The Lord is the only God. God demands to have your respect above all other things, places, or people in and around your life. He is the center of your life or he is not really YOUR God. Do not let money, power, self satisfaction, people, or anything become more important to you than God
· Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.
These verses are the Shema “Hear, Israe, the Lord is our God, The Lord is One. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” These words serve as the center piece of Jewish morning and evening prayers. You may recognize them as what Jesus quoted in Mark the twelth chapter starting at verse 28, “One of the teacher of the law came and heard them depating. Noticing tha Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked of him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” The most impostant one, answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel; The Lord ou God is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your sould and will all your mind and with all your strength.’ Jesus then went beyond what the teacher of the law had asked and said, “The second is this; ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
· Take to heart these words that I give you today. Understand how important these words are! In just two sentences, Jesus had boiled down the whole of the Law and the Prophets. If you want to be an honest follower of Christ, then internalize these words and let them guide your thoughts, your words, and you actions.
· Repeat them to your children. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Dispite some of the modern teaching models, children learn and retain best those things that are repeated. Repeat them until your children say, “You already told me that!” Then you know that they have heard. And just to be sure, say it at lease twice more.
Talk about them when you’re at home or away, when you lie down or get up. he When is the best time to teach your children? Now!
· Write them down, and tie them around your wrist, and wear them as headbands as a reminder. Devout Jews take this litterally. They have a tiny handwritten scroll of the Shema that is worn on their bodies. I have no problem with Christians doing the same, though a more modern answer might be to have it as the background on your desktop, tablet and smartphone.
· Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. Again the strict Jews do this litterally with small scrolls on their door frames. They will kiss their fingers and tap the scroll as they pass through the doorway. If you want to follow their example that is fine. Perhaps scriptural sayings throughout the house in little signs, or cross-stitched on cushions or worn on t-shirts or hats, is a modern equivelent. In our trailers, we have “With God all things are possible” and “As for me and my house, we will follow the Lord” as wall decorations. Whatever keeps the Word of God before your eyes and in your heart is a good thing.
Let me state it one more time in one more way:
· The Lord your God will bless you with things you neither earned of deserve.
· After you have all that you want, be careful that you don’t forget the Lord,
· You must fear the Lord your God,
· You must serve him,
· You must take your oaths only in his name.
· Never worship any of the things worshiped by the people around you.
· Never test the Lord your God as you did at Massah.
· Be sure to obey the commands of the Lord your God and the regulations and laws he has given you.
· Do what the Lord considers right and good.
And then teach them to your children. The gospel of father (and mother) will have more impact on your children’s lives than the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
Now I’ll close with this poem written by Anonymous. I’ve read a lot of his writtings, He’s really good. Grin
WALK A LITTLE PLAINER DADDY
"Walk a little plainer, Daddy,"
Said a little boy so frail.
"I'm following in your footsteps
And I don't want to fail.
Sometimes your steps are very plain;
Sometimes they are hard to see;
So walk a little plainer, Daddy,
For you are leading me.
I know that once you walked this way many years ago,
And what you did along the way
I'd really like to know:
For sometimes when I am tempted
I don't know what to do
So walk a little plainer, Daddy,
For I must follow you.
Someday when I'm grown up
You are like I want to be.
Then I will have a little boy
Who will want to follow me
And I would want to lead him right
And help him to be true.
So walk a little plainer, Daddy
For We must follow you."