Sunday, June 19, 2016

Father’s Day

John 14:8 Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father and we will be satisfied."
I have thought long and hard on just which role is the hardest to fulfill in life. I have come to the conclusion that the most difficult thing to be in this life is a father.
It could be in part due to the fact that generally fathers are more logical and less emotional than the average mother. Perhaps this leads fathers to find it harder to express themselves or make the small talk necessary to build and maintain close relationships. Or maybe it’s just the fact that unlike a mother, a father cannot know the bond that comes from having a child grow inside their womb or suckle their breasts, drawing every ounce of life from that dependent relationship.
Nonetheless fathers are rightfully given the ultimate responsibility to provide for, protect and defend the family while often left with a sense of being out of the real family loop unless and until the family needs provision, protection or defense. Fathers naturally begin the relationship with their children at a great disadvantage and many never manage to make up the distance no matter how hard they try. Perhaps the most misunderstood and least appreciated runner in this race of life is the father.
Fathers come in all three sizes:
Sorry, but they don’t come in perfect! At least earthly fathers don’t …
Not everyone here today can put themselves in the shoes of a father nor see life from a father’s perspective. However, every person who has ever or will ever live can see from the perspective of a child. Perhaps this is one reason why many of God’s first and strongest words concerning fathers are written to children.
I don’t know if it is possible to be a good father, but I do know it is impossible to feel like a good father, unless you have the support and respect of your wife and children. Respect is essential to fatherhood.
For this reason I am so grateful that my mother demonstrated the virtues of a Godly woman by both showing and demanding our father be honored and respected in our home. Though all of the years I and my 3 siblings were at home, it was unquestionable who the head of our house was and how our father was to be treated, spoken to or spoken about.
This was true without regard as to the many stresses and difficulties of life placed on our family by my father’s alcoholism. My mother and each one of us children carried extra burdens because of my father’s decisions and through it all were taught great and Godly lessons such as patience, kindness, faith, love and forgiveness.
As a result, when my father quit drinking in the mid 70’s, over 2 years after the last one of his children left home, there were no irreconcilable differences or heated arguments or harsh words to get over – we were all able to immediately embrace his new found sobriety as a blessed family.
In all of the years I remember from my childhood and young adulthood, two things never lacked: My father never lacked the honor and the respect that was due him as my father and; Neither I nor any member of our family ever lacked the provision, protection or defense of a father when and if we needed. My father died a proud man, proud of his wife, his two sons, his two girls and the 9 grandchildren he loved so much. He also went to his heavenly reward, although suddenly and without warning, nonetheless knowing that every member of his family was proud of him. He knew this because we left nothing unsaid … instead of it being all his responsibility to make up the gap life can sometimes leave in relationships, we each learned that it was our responsibility to keep those gaps bridged.
I’m so glad my mother demonstrated in life and taught me to believe and embrace the Word of God as my individual responsibility without excuse. Here are a couple of scriptures my mom gave me in times she knew both I and my dad needed more than life expected us to get from our relationship.
The first scripture she taught me right out of the Ten Commandments
Deuteronomy 5:16 Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may be well with you in the land which the LORD your God is giving you.
She also read me the same scripture out of the New Testament to give me a continuing respect for God’s will.
Ephesians 6:2 "Honor your father and mother," which is the first commandment with promise:
My mom let me know that without regard as to what anyone else did or did not do, I was still responsible to God for what I did and I could either make things better or I could make them worse. Life was my choice - my choice.
Like most children I wanted my father’s approval and I wanted him to be proud of me. No doubt my mom saw this yearning in me and so she took extra time with me to help me deal with some disappointments I felt growing up with the added pressures we faced. However, in all the time we spent together I never once heard my mother utter any unkind or critical word about my father. She respected him and so I did too.
Through the early years of my adult life I know I made some decisions that my father could have considered stupid however, even after he quit drinking and started paying more attention to family, he never made me feel stupid – he just loved me and gave me his wisdom on anything I asked him about. All in all, it turned out to be a pretty good relationship. However, it would never have survived on a ‘one way’ street.
It’s the same this morning concerning our relationship with our Heavenly Father. Our relationship with God will not endure nor will it grow to become all it is meant to be if it is only a ‘one way’ relationship. Certainly God is our Father and it has to be the most difficult role in the universe.
God stands ready to fulfill His responsibilities to provide for us, protect us and defend us. At times He must feel somewhat outside the loop of our other relationships and it may even seem to Him that we only include Him when we need provision, protection or defense.
I know that others around us can seem so much more close to us than does our Heavenly Father at times. However, in truth – He is as close to us as we will let Him be. And, He is never more than one prayer away.
Without regard as to the bad decisions we make or even the sin in our lives, God is proud of us and when it is all said and done, He wants an eternal relationship with each and every one of His children. Sure we might not always understand His actions or at times we may feel that He could have or should have done something differently – however – we must never allow ourselves to speak a critical or unkind word about God either in our own hearts or to others.
A second scripture my mother made sure I knew came from the Gospel of John. I think it may have her favorite book of the Bible.
John 14:14  "If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.
My mother wanted me to know that I had a responsibility to pray about those things that disappointed me, even when it came to times when I was  disappointed with my dad. She told me that I could ask God for anything … she was right.
I don’t only credit my prayers for the dynamic change in my father’s life and how he became such a strong and powerful witness for the Lord and a source of wisdom and support for me when I pioneered my first Church, which I built on land he made available to me. It may not have been my prayers alone that changed the course of his life but my prayers for him were certainly a part of my daily communion with God and His answer.
Interesting to note that the last phone call I received from my mother before she went to be with the Lord was her giving me orders to make sure I continued praying and make sure I prayed in the name of Jesus! I simply said, “Yes Ma’am”, and she reminded me how I had been raised to respect the Lord, and with that she hung up the phone.

I am very thankful that I learned early and often in life to honor my father because he was my father and that I was also instructed and encouraged to pray for him and let God work on those things which only he and God could change. It ends up that my dad was a good dad … I’d even say a great dad.
Unlike earthly fathers however, God is not just good, or great, God is perfect in all His ways and in all His decisions. We cannot expect our fathers nor our families to be perfect but we can treat them with respect and pray for them. When we need help understanding or coping with the all too common pressures of life we can go to God’s Word and always find that He loves us and has a wonderful plan for our life. Don’t ever give up on a father … (account of the hitchhiker from Australia I picked up)
So, what can we take with us from today’s message on Father’s Day? I trust that you will realize that:
·        You are responsible to do your part without regard as to whether anyone else does or not.
·        God expects us to honor our earthly fathers and to not disrespect them or their memory.
·        Relationships cannot endure a “one way” street.
·        Don’t forget to pray for those things only God can change.
Perhaps we all would benefit from once again viewing life as God intended from the eyes of a child.
I’ll close today by wishing all of you fathers, along with God and my dad who is in heaven, a “Happy Father’s Day!”