Out of the Toybox #2
You know, any guy can be a Father, that’s just a matter of biology but it takes a special kind of man to be a Dad. And being a Dad or a Mom for that matter, is No Trivial Pursuit. As we continue our series “Out of the Toy Box” that’s what we’re going to look at; what it means to be a Christian parent and Christian Dad.
Mom walks into the kitchen, and sees Dad cooking. Dad smiles proudly and says, “Hi, honey. I decided to surprise you by cooking dinner tonight.”
Mom says, “Well, that explains it. We were just wondering where that delicious aroma was coming from.”
Just about then, their daughter, burst into the kitchen and said, “There’s nothing dead in the basement, Mom. Maybe a skunk got caught in the air conditioner.”
Dad’s must all be related to Rodney Dangerfield, it seems no matter what we do, Dad’s get no respect. It doesn’t even make any difference if you’re a preacher. I remember an incident that took place shortly after going into the ministry. We were driving from the farm in southern Missouri to visit my folks in St. Louis. It was about a four hour drive and that can get pretty boring, especially if you are only five or six years old, like our son Paul was.
We had been in the car for a little over an hour, when Paul asked that inevitable question, “Are we almost there yet?” I said, “No, we are still about 150 miles away,” hoping that the sound of distance would have more meaning for him than time. But Paul asked, “Well, how long is that?”
So, I told him, “Well, it’s about three more hours.”
Paul didn’t say anything for a few minutes as he tried to figure out just how long three hours might be. And then all of a sudden he leaned forward, making sure he could see Mary’s face and said, “Mom, is that as long as one of Dad’s sermons?”
See what I mean? Dad’s don’t get any respect. Now I know that’s not always true. But it seemed like a pretty good place to start. Here we are on Father’s Day no less, and we’re all trying to brush up on our fathering and parenting skills. We’re trying to brush up because no one ever gave us a guidebook.
None of my kids came with an Owner’s Manual. There’s no remote control. There aren’t any visible buttons to program and reset (though we know that our kids each have buttons which get pushed from time to time). Most guys hardly even consider fatherhood when they get married. Most of them have just barely gotten used to the idea marriage. But then along come the kids and all the questions about fatherhood begin. So what makes a good Father? What makes a good CHRISTIAN Father?
Paul give a little insight in Galatians 3:23-29 (NRSV)
 Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed.
 Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith.
 But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian,
 for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.
 As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
 There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.
 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.
Paul says we are “Heirs according to the promise.” As heirs we are called to pass on the inheritance. And believe me, that’s No Trivial Pursuit.
I. IT’S TOUGH:
A. The first thing we need to realize is that being a father is tough. It’s hard work. It’s not a job for sissies. And that’s Biblical. Adam’s boy Cain was so jealous of his brother Abel that he murdered him. Abraham’s boys, Isaac and Jacob didn’t get along at all. And Jacob, the mama’s boy of the family tricked his old man and cheated his brother, Isaac, out of his inheritance. King Solomon’s sons plotted against him. The Bible is full of stories of fathers who had a hard time with their kids. The only son who honored his father in all things, was Jesus who was obedient unto death. But even HE struggled with that decision. In the garden of Gethsemane, on the night he was betrayed by Judas, Jesus struggled so hard that he sweated great drops of blood in his agony to make the right decision.
Today, part of the reason being a father is so tough is that the role is changing. In the past, the role of the father was pretty well summed up as provider, protector and trainer. The nurturing aspect of parenting was left to the mother. But with the change in the family structure, there has been a change in the traditional role of fathering. Now that there are so many variations of the family, two income families or one parent families; parents must share the responsibility of providing both the necessities and nurture or they provide the sole support and nurture by themselves.
B. Recently I heard discussion on one of the talk shows about identifying the donors of artificial insemination. Apparently there are some adult children who have accused their parents of living a lie. Well, I want them to know that they’re “WRONG!” The biological connection does NOT a father make. It goes way beyond a few genetics. Love is what makes us parent and child. Love is what makes us family. Not biology. And nowhere is that seen more clearly than in the Christian faith. It is not OUR blood which makes us heirs to the promise but the Love of God and the blood of Christ. We are heirs by our shared relationship and our shared love.
II. IT’S DISTINCTIVE:
A. That’s what makes being a Christian Father so Distinctive. We were all created in God’s image. And technically we are all offspring of Adam, but the bloodline has been so thinned out that there are no longer any direct descendants. But through Christ we are once again made heirs of the Kingdom. The Apostle Paul writes in Galatians 3:29, “If you belong to Christ, then you are heirs according to the promise.”
And being “heirs according to the promise” is what sets the Christian father apart from the average ordinary run of the mill father. We are set apart by the acknowledgment and profession of Christ as our Savior and the lifestyle that we lead because of that profession of faith. That profession of faith has implications. It comes with certain built in expectations that impact HOW and WHY we live the way we do before our spouse and our children. The very term CHRISTIAN Father proclaims a distinct set of beliefs and values. It proclaims a deep sense of commitment to Christ.
B. Commitment doesn’t always come easy but it is very important. And there is a difference between commitment and belief. To illustrate this sort of point to his son, a father asked the boy this question, “Three frogs were sitting on a log, and one decided to jump off. How many frogs were left?”
The boy answered, “Oh, that’s easy, two.”
But the father quickly corrected him by saying, “You weren’t listening. Once again now. “Three frogs were sitting on a log, and one decided to jump off. How many frogs were left?”
When the answer finally dawned on the boy and he said, “Three frogs were left. Because one had only decided to jump, he hadn’t jumped.”
Commitment isn’t easy. It requires more than a decision. It requires more than belief. It takes movement and action. So a truly Christian Father is one whose faith is not just spoken, but is distinctive in that it is proclaimed through a lifestyle and lived out through every relationship.
III. IT’S EMPOWERING:
A. Christian Fathers protect, teach, model, instill values, empower and provide leadership by example and encouragement. WATCH
B. Christian fathers also know when and how to comfort their families. I remember when my oldest son Paul was around three or four years old, we went to the St. Louis Zoo while visiting my parents. We went into the monkey house and we were making faces at all the monkeys and talking about how they look like people we know. Paul was walking about ten or fifteen feet ahead of us, playing Mr. Independent. But not getting too far away. As we were walking over to see the Orangutans, something or someone got the monkeys all stirred up. One of them started screeching and within a split second they were all screeching. Paul spun around with eyes as big as dinner plates. And in one flat footed leap, he had a strangle hold on my neck; shaking like a leaf. I don’t think he could do that again if you put a million dollars in front of him and said jump and it’s yours.
He was scared and needed comfort. That’s part of a father’s job. We learn how to do that in relation with God because sometimes in our lives, we hear the screech of the monkeys, or the booger bears of life and it scares the whey out of us and fills us with anxiety. It’s in those times, that we turn to God, our heavenly Father, for deliverance. And it’s in those times when we receive comfort that we are empowered to comfort our family.
IV. IT’S MEMORABLE:
A. The Christian father is also in the business of making memories.
Calvin and Hobbes was my all time favorite comic strip.
One day, Calvin runs up to his Dad and says, “I wanna horsey ride!” Dad who is busy stirring paint, says “I’m busy Calvin.”
And then Calvin says, “You know, Dad, it won’t be long before I’m all grown up. One day you’ll wake up and wonder how all the years slipped by. You’ll look back and say, ‘Where has the time gone? Calvin’s so big. It’s hard to remember when he was small enough that I could give him horsey rides…’ But those days will be lost forever.”
In the last frame Calvin is on Dad’s back. Dad looks absolutely worn out as they gallop toward a fence. It’s obvious to the reader that Calvin has been milking the situation for all he can get and in the end Dad says, “I think I’ve worked through my potential guilt now.”
But Calvin hollers, “No, no! Jump the fence!” (4)
It doesn’t always have to be something big that makes those memories. It can be something quite trivial which turns out not to be so trivial. WATCH
I’m not saying that all of the memories we make will be good ones, but that’s our goal. You see, the memories we have of our parents are etched in our very being, influencing our sense of self. They are what we as sons and daughters remember about our father’s teaching us. They were there from day one instructing us how to ride a bike or shave or flirt or gut a fish or entertain guests at a pretend tea party or start a lawn mower or shag flies. They taught us how to “be a man” or “act like a lady.” Those memories color not only our relationships with our parents, but with every other human being as well. Those memories surface again and again in the way we act as a parents with our own children.
If your father was a Christian father, then go ahead and emulate and idealize him, live like he lived or lives so that your children can see what it means to be a Christian in the world today. Show them what a Christian father is like.
If your father wasn’t a Christian father, then live so that you can be all the things your father wasn’t for your children. Show your children what a Christian father is like. Show them what it means to truly be “heirs according to the promise.”
In his book FATHER CARE Charles Paul Conn tells about his two-year-old daughter Vanessa who was given a helium-filled balloon at Sunday School. It was bright blue and seemed almost alive as it danced and floated on the end of her string as she ran through the halls of the church pulling it along behind her. But the inevitable happened. The balloon bumped into the sharp edge of a metal railing and popped. With a single, loud “bang” it burst and fell at her feet. She looked down and saw what had been her beautiful balloon, now a forlorn wad of wet blue rubber. It took her only a moment to regain her buoyant mood, however, as she picked up the remains of that balloon, marched cheerfully to where her father was standing and thrust it up to him. “Here, Daddy,” she said brightly. “Fix it.”
What do you say? That’s a pretty tall order even for a Super Dad. Unfortunately, fathers can’t fix everything. We may not be able to fix everything in the world but we can be the best fathers we can be. By putting our lives in the hands of Christ, we can be great fathers.
Great fathering. Great parenting requires four things: being there, being aware, being real and being Christian. Everything else is dessert.
Being there, wanting to be there, committing oneself to being there, being proud of being there, putting up with the messes and the disappointments and your own shortcomings, and still choosing to be there for the children and the family; that’s what Christian fathering is all about. That’s how “heirs according to the promise” live their faith. And that is NO Trivial Pursuit.
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.
1. Stanford Observer, October 1973, p. 4.
2. “Calvin and Hobbes,” by Bill Watterson, San Jose Mercury News, June 25, 1987.
3. Father Care (Waco: Word Books, 1983),
Other References Consulted