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Friday, June 14, 2013

Who is an Exemplary Father? What Depicts Exemplary Fatherhood?

Once again father's day is here. As always, we desire to encourage fathers and families all over the world to live righteously for the incredible benefit of many generations to come. I am blessed to have a great father, not perfect, who taught me a lot of lessons as a powerful man. His power was not reflective of his physical strength alone (always enticing to a young lad or gal), but his fortitude in all situations even with life on the line in dangerous situations beyond his control. His stern images of courage against deadly opposition, humility in service to others, gentleness in baiting a fishing hook, esteem in the midst of dignitaries, and fearlessness to grab an escaping porcupine with his bare hands while we hunted (absolute truth) are all deeply engrave in my soul forever.

It is frequently said, and I applaud, “The world would not exist without mothers.” Praise God the Father for His omnipotence and omniscience because neither would the world exist without fathers. You see, I am of the opinion “While mothers give life through birth; Fathers breathe life into us by their purposeful presence.” A significant representation; God the Father breathe life into His creation (man).
                Genesis 2:7
Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.

But stop and take a look around (our homes, neighborhoods, & communities), the lack of fathers suffocates the family, community, the state, the nation, & our world.
  • states 25% of Caucasian homes, 40% of Hispanic, and upwards of 65% of African American homes are single parent homes.
  • 96% of those single parent African American homes are fatherless homes
  • 75% of teenage pregnancy, 65% of suicides, upwards of 60% of incarcerated individuals are from single parent homes.
  • US Census Bureau Household demographics broken into five levels of annual income ($11K, 28.6K, 49.3K, 79K, 170K), 83% below poverty line (11K) are single parent homes. 80% of highest earners (170K) are married family homes. Do the simple math!!
  • Think internationally, “Gospel for Asia”, child sex rings, human trafficking, etc. the biggest culprits/perpetrators are men, and many of the victims are from fatherless homes.
Journey with me for the next few minutes as we explore the word “FATHER”:

F – Faith  A father must establish a life of faith in God, firm and committed. Regardless of the how the secular world feels there are many great dads who do not know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, fathering without faith in God is a grave mistake.
  1. Psalm 78:4-8 – Expresses a multi-generational blessing to be sustained because of a father's faith in God.
  2. Romans 4:2-3, 13 – Portrays that our fatherhood is justified by faith (incredible chapter for man & father to read)

Too many fathers believe their accomplishments and human efforts justify and vindicate them as excellent fathers. Faith in God and the Lord Jesus Christ is the vehicle by which yours and my fatherhood is justified (Rom 4:23-24). It began with the father of righteousness long before you and me, and is proven for generational upkeep. Do not expect it to change for you and me!

A – Abide  We must learn to abide (dwell, remain, stay, nest, nestle, etc.) in the Lord as fathers so that our dependents (wives, children, etc.) may abide in us.  When we abide somewhere or in something, we plan and desire to stay within indefinitely. Only after we have learned and understood the reality of abiding in the Lord can we truly create a similar haven in which others can abide.

Let me steal from Oswald Chambers to make this point:

I must take time to realize what is the central point of power. Do I give one minute out of sixty to concentrate upon it? "If ye abide in Me" – continue to act and think and work from that centre – "ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you." Am I abiding? Am I taking time to abide? What is the greatest factor of power in my life? Is it work, service, sacrifice for others, or trying to work for God? The thing that ought to exert the greatest power in my life is the Atonement of the Lord. It is not the thing we spend the most time on that molds us most; the greatest element is the thing that exerts most power. We must determine to be limited and concentrate our affinities.

"Whatsoever ye shall ask in My name, that will I do." The disciple who abides in Jesus is the will of God, and his apparently free choices are God’s fore-ordained decrees. Mysterious? Logically contradictory and absurd? Yes, but a glorious truth to a saint.

What am I getting at here, for men especially?

A man who abides understands the responsibility of being “Priest of his home”. Far too often we want to point our children to adore or idolize some famous athlete or historical figure, rather than the great men (their fathers) they see every day. The problem with that is education comes in the intimacy of life’s greatest lessons when we are most vulnerable. Our kids will never see those famous individuals in their most vulnerable moments, and as such that learning process is not authentic. However, they will frequently see us in our most vulnerable moments if we are authentic and seek righteous living. Abiding, in those vulnerable moments, provides the credibility we seek and need!

T – Teach  I was a freshmen in high school and really began to garner national notoriety for my basketball ability. In arrogance that summer I made a choice of fooling around with my academics. My academic capability was nothing short of the top two students of my class. My father taught me a stern lesson by refusing to allow me to play for large club teams who had noticed me and were craving such young and promising talent. They came and pleaded with him frequently to allow me to play, and so did I. He said "No"! He inspired me to approach my responsibilities with greater personal accountability by his firm stance.

Proverbs 2:1-6 portrays a father's advice to his son in search of discernment, knowledge, and wisdom from the Lord. Remember, teaching is a critical element of leadership!

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”
William Arthur Ward

H – Heritage (or Legacy)  With heritage and legacy come a bestowed responsibility! Fathers (and mothers), there will be a family legacy left by design or default. In seeking to define family legacy, it is a term that is seldom used by family building professionals of our era. Yet, it possesses incredible significance at so many different levels of our existence. I am amazed at the neglect we portray for this critical bedrock of our communities as a people. The purest depiction of the transfer of family legacy I can offer is nestled in the beginning of mankind as detailed in Genesis 1:26-28. God the Father transfers His legacy to us and He expects us to usher it forward to each generation. Here is a list of the attributes which are present in His request. They are creation, propagation, authority, cultivation, occupation, blessing, empowerment, instruction, & reproduction.
Throughout the ages the name of God the Father, or the effectiveness of His word has stood the test time unlike anything we can conjure up. His legacy or brand is a very recognizable one. What has been your contribution to its eternal value?

a) Disappointing Legacy & Tarnished Brand

b) Gratifying Legacy & Vibrant Brand

Romans 8:15-17 states we have a rich Pedigree to protect.

15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery[g]leading to fear again, but you have received [h]a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.

E – Exemplary  Exemplary fatherhood is immeasurably powerful even for disobedient generations, & ones unseen by you and I. King David provides us excellent evidence and example. 2 Chronicles 17:3-5 reveals for us King Jehoshaphat, the descendant of David, that the Lord blessed him because he followed in his forefather's footsteps. God even blessed generations who were blatantly disobedient after David simply because of his (David's) faithfulness as stated in 1 Kings 15:1-5. Are we exemplary enough that God would do the same for generations who follow yours and mine existence?

Take note of David as a FATHER men (and women). He had all these attributes in strong alignment:

a) He had absolute “faith” in God the Father

b) He knew how to “abide” in God the Father. Heck he even danced…

c) David the leader “taught” his dependents, mighty men, and nation to seek the heart of God the Father.

d) David transferred a powerful “heritage” and legacy of responsibility before God the Father to his dependents.

e) David lived and portrayed an “exemplary” life in God the Father before his dependents, and they caught the vision. They were blessed even when disobedient.

f) David understood the “role” he filled in the much, much greater lineage of God the Father.

R – Role  As fathers our role is to stand in the gap between the enemies of God the Father and our dependents (wife, children, etc), communities, state, nation, and world. How far are you willing to go, even to the point of shame, disgrace, or imprisonment, for the righteous protection of your dependents. Don't deceive yourself thinking it is yet to come because it is already happening. Our world and laws are at such a place right now where I have a seen a father (excellent home) jailed because of his desire to discipline a son who stole from another family. The father possessed a desire to deter a child who will no doubt end up as a prison statistic. Shocking; but true!

Luke 15:11-32 – The father in the story of the “The Prodigal Son” provides us some incredible fatherly characteristics to emulate. Allow me to present a couple of different perspectives to this parable.

A son’s (child’s) perspective

a) Vs. 11 – Allow our children to fail and learn through adversity, more likely in latter teenage years and early adulthood. This son needed to learn by experience what I am sure was said to him countless times audibly by his father.

b) Vs. 17 – A father of undoubted stability; the young son understood the security and dependability of his father

c) Vs. 18 – The young son trusted in his father’s desire and ability to forgive. He had Wealth (a father's trust and compassion), even when he burned all his material wealth!

d) Vs. 22 – A young son is remorseful of his foolish error and returns in “reckless” humility; “make me a slave”. Most of us would have returned not only expecting but demanding our “rightful” place at the dinner table.

A Father’s perspective

e) Vs. 20 – A father who is confident of the work he has done in his son expectantly awaits his return with bountiful compassion and joy (not happiness).

f) Vs. 23-24 – A father steep in forgiveness and excitement, despite the humiliation he may have earlier felt, loved on his son. He did not say a single time to his young son “I taught you better than this son!” or "I told you what would happen!"

g) Vs. 25-32 – A father grounded in heavenly wisdom.

        i. Pleads with, not scream at older son in arrogance

        ii. Honors and re-enforces the service and dedication of the older son, acknowledging his presence and joint ownership of all he possessed.

        iii. Solicits the partnership of the older brother in the restoration process of the younger son which has begun.

Live well, live righteous, be strong for the sake of many to come after you rather than for selfish reasons. For such is the nature and calling of our role as fathers. Amen!!

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