Sermon delivered June 17, 2000 by Pastor Donald J Gettys

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Biblical quotations are from the New International Version NIV unless otherwise noted.

Fathers: Extensions of God

An Atheist teacher asked a young boy to go look outside and look up toward the heavens. When he came back she asked, "Did you see the sky?" "Yes." "Did you see the sunshine?" "Yes." "Did you see the clouds?" "Yes." "Did you see God?" "No." The teacher said, "Then God does not exist!"

The classroom was silent for a moment and then a young girl jumped up and asked permission to question the same boy. The teacher agreed. She asked him to look around the room. Then she asked, "Do you see the blackboards?" "Yes." "Do you see any books?" "Yes." "Do you see the teachers desk?" "Yes." By now the boy was getting tired of questions. But the young girl continued. "Do you see our teacher?" "Yes." "Do you see her brain?" "No." "Then that is proof that our teacher does not have a brain!"

We cannot see God. I've never seen Him. But may I suggest something bold to you today? I believe that our loving Heavenly Father, invisible as He is, fully desires to be seen through the vehicle of the modern father. You fathers are an extension of God. You really are. Our youngsters may have a limited knowledge of God through you men. I think that's why He is called the "Heavenly Father." That's a big burden on us. Your kids can observe what you're like and they get an impression of what God is like by looking at you. One way that God the Father displays His character to every boy and girl alive is through the Christian father. You Fathers are ambassadors. You are representatives of God in your home. You are the high priest in your family just like Jesus is our High Priest. You represent the heavenly Father to your congregation, your family.

I was counseling with a College age girl who was having a very difficult time understanding God. Whenever someone called Him the heavenly Father, she was repulsed. Eventually I found the reason was that her own father had abused her over and over as a young girl. Her yardstick of the heavenly Father was her earthly father. Because he was not good, she could not comprehend a good God. I felt very sorry about that. She thought that God was like her earthly dad and it turned her away from God. Fathers, you represent God to your children and you need to realize that. It is an extremely serious responsibility to be a father in today's day. It always has been. "God" walks the hallways of your house in your shoes. To your child, God is similar to you. If you are loving and kind and tender then your child has a good concept of God. But if you are grouchy and yell at your kids and kick the dog...what does that say about God?

A Teacher asked a question (teachers are good at that), "What is it that comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb?" A little girl raised her hand and said in all seriousness, "Daddy!" Do you think that her mental picture of her heavenly father is accurate? I doubt it. What magazines do your kids see you reading? Imagine God reading your publications...are they fit material?

Here's advice for every one of us, but there's an interesting clause in this scenario of verses. EPHESIANS 4:32 - Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

You are just as God. People are looking at you. God's Word says that we should be like God in respect to kindness and tenderness and forgiveness. To your children, you are about as close to God as they will ever see this side of eternity. That's a scary thought. To your child, God is kind if you are kind and gentle. God is mean if you go around yelling and vociferating.

Discipline is not thundering and screaming at your kids and beating them. God does not practice child abuse and neither should fathers who are His extensions. If you are an army general, barking out many harsh orders, your kids could think God is like Adolph Hitler. You need to be gentle if you want your children to think God is.

An Adventist home, our home, without Christlike kindness and love is just frosty frozen real estate. You are among the frozen Chosen! A home without the gentleness of Jesus is more like a dormitory than a place of warmth and love. Make your home reverberate with happiness.

How do you train your children? Well, how do you train a clematis vine or a tomato plant? You train the very gently, don't you. They break easily. If you don't get out there every few days and train them when they get fairly long you can't bend them back again. It'll break and snap off. Training children is like training a tender plant. Effective disciplining happens by little attentions which are often repeated. Affirmations of your children. Complimenting your children. In dealing with your children, follow the method of the good gardener. By gentle loving touches, seek to fashion their character after that of the Master--Jesus. (See Desire of Ages, p. 515 - EG White.)

Look at II Kings 14: says Amaziah son of Joash king of Judah began to reign. And what kind of a king did he become? Verse 3 says: ...In everything he followed the example of his father Joash. That's heavy. Your kids are going to be just like you. If you are an alcoholic, what are your kids going to be? What chance do they have? If you are a faithful Christian your kids are going to be faithful. You need to be faithful. You fathers, you mothers, you uncles and aunts, you adults are examples to the tender flock. Lead on in Christ-likeness. Your kids ar going to be just like you, so let Jesus control your heart, your life.

It is better not to punish at all than to punish when you are all steamed up and ready to explode. Slapping them in the face, shaking them, yelling at them are actions seldom if ever justified.

Proverbs 17:6 (KJV) says: ...the glory of children are their fathers. That's the glory of the children: their fathers. A father had prayer with his son and put him to bed and told the boy to stay there and get to sleep. "Okay, Daddy. I love you." "I love you, too. Nighty night. Don't let the bed bugs bite. Don't let your toes get in a fight. Sleep tight." That's what my mother always used to say. Oh, we didn't have bed bugs, by the way.

After a half an hour the father heard noise in the direction of his son's room and he thought, "Oh my! My son is up." He went quietly into the room and he could see his son making his way back to his bedroom. He had been somewhere. He had disobeyed his father. The father said, "That is flagrant disobedience. We can't have that around here. I want my kids to obey me." That father disciplined that son heavily. He applied the rule of instruction, the board of education to the seat of knowledge. He reacted with swift, precise, and appropriate discipline. After his steam was vented on his son the father put his boy back in bed again and he told the son in no uncertain terms, "You stay in bed!"

Finally after an hour or more of watching to make sure the boy stayed in bed this time, the father got tired and went to his own bedroom to get ready for bed. It was there that he found the reason for his sons disobedience. On his pillow was a hand drawn picture his son had secretly drawn for him and the boy had signed it..."Daddy, I love you."

That broke the father's heart. The father wept. How he wished he had been more kind and had communicated with his boy to find out the reason he was up. It is very hard for a busy impatient man to be a perfect father. Oh that we had the patience of the saints.

I Thessalonians 5:14 ...Be patient with everyone. We ought to be patient people, shouldn't we. Impulsive hasty fathers create fear in their children. The kids find it difficult to believe that God is patient. They are afraid that God will lose His temper and lash out and punish them for some minor action. Often they grow up as legalists in the church.

If they cannot trust you, then in their mind, God is not trustworthy either. If you fly off the handle all the time they think God probably will, too. A little child can't contrast too well. He can only compare. And they compare you with their heavenly Father. It is a rare little child who will think more of God than he thinks of his own parent.

If you want your children to go to church, then you need to attend faithfully yourself. Here is a shocking study: A recent study revealed that if both parents attend church weekly, seventy two percent of kids will stay faithful! Wow!!!! If only dad attends church and mom doesn't, only fifty five percent will stay in the church. If only mom goes to church and the dad never goes, only fifteen percent of the children will be faithful to God later in life. If neither the mother nor the father attend church at all, six percent will be faithful to God.

Do you see the difference in this study? The father's church attendance has a forty percent greater influence on the children's faithfulness in later years than the mother's does! Father, your kids are going to be like you. If you skip church, what's going to happen to your kids?

Father: If you care less about getting to church on time and you don't wish to go to Sabbath School, or you come late all the time, then who will follow in your footsteps? Your little girl or boy will not put God first either. If you never go to prayer meeting, how will your children ever pick up the habit? Are you listening?

Children are natural mimics. They act like us in spite of all efforts to change them.

DEAR DADDY:
When I'm a great big man like you,
I want to do just like you do:
I'm going to go just where you go,
I want to know all that you know;
I'm just a growin' awful big.
I'm walkin' in the tracks you dig,
I'm gettin' just like you, fast's I can.

Fathers, you need to be just what you want your kids to be. Just because you are a fifth generation Seventh-day Adventist it doesn't mean your child will be a sixth generation Adventist.

God can enable you to break that downward spiral. Fathers, it is time to get back to the real experience of a living dynamic life in the home with God. Our children need to see the faith of their fathers!

I'm worried about America. It seems we are becoming a fatherless nation. Sometimes I wonder why the women's liberation movement survives. Why do women want the stress that men have had? Why are so many women taking over? Where are the men? Why do women have to lead out in prayer at the table? Why do women have to do the duties of a man?

You probably will not like my answer, but at least think about it: Could it be that most women really don't want to take over...But they are compelled to do so! Maybe women still really do desire strong husbands and strong Christian fathers for their children, but the men have turned their back on God and His church.

We're living in a nation that's going down the tubes. I don't know how much longer this world will last, do you? We've had the hottest spring by three degrees since weather men have been keeping track of the weather in all of history. Things are changing in the world. I don't know when the end will be. Maybe it'll be soon, maybe not. I feel it will be. Well, we are going down the tubes as a nation. We need to get back to God before it's too late. Hardly a month goes by but Pastor Crutcher or myself don't get approached by a young single lady who makes the request somewhat like this: She will say, "I have been praying that god will lead me to a fine Christian young man, a strong man, a person of prayer, a person of convictions and Christ-like values. I want to date somebody who is not interested in supporting the movie-house, skipping church, and violating my virginity." That request happens over and over again. And who do we send them to? We can only pray with them that God will show you and lead you to that type of person, and there are some. But there are strikingly few. We need to be men of character.

Tomorrow is "Father's Day." I want our home not to be fatherless. I want us to make our homes all that God would have us to be. May I rephrase a statement from Education p. 57 (EG White):

"The greatest want of the world is the want of fathers - fathers who will not be bought or sold, fathers who in their inmost souls are true and honest, fathers who do not fear to call sin by its right name, fathers whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole, fathers who will stand for the right though the heavens fall."

That's the kind of father we need. We need strong Christian Fathers. They just might turn around this great country of ours. America will be no stronger than her men.

How fortunate the prodigal son was to have a great father. He had just about given up. Luke 15:20 "So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him." That's the kind of fathers we need.

The Prodigal probably thought he had a bad father when he ran away, but he had an ideal dad at the end. He learned a lot over those years, didn't he.

three hundred sixty nine High School boys and four hundred fifteen girls were asked to list the ten desirable qualities in the ideal father. You won't like their selections. The second highest was: "Respecting his children's opinions..." Others were: "Never nagging his children about what they do," "Making plenty of money," "Owning a good-looking car," "Not being strict but giving freedom."

Well, you can read the Bible and fathers are responsible for their families. And religion does not run in the genes. It must be acquired, and that happens by environment, by association. The example of the father is powerful.

Romans 14:7 (KJV) For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. You don't live to yourself. You're not a hermit. People are watching you. Your Children are watching you. What do they see? The answer separates the effective from the ineffective fathers. Good Dads know every moment they are with their kids is a chance to make a positive impression for the purpose of character building and spirit development. But bad dads don't see this. Their perception of the family is that they simply live together and find the home to be little more than a meeting place in which to eat, sleep, and have a little fun. The example is poor.

The best safeguard for the younger generation is a good example by the older generation. Fathers, your example is the most critical of all. II Kings 17 describes the downfall of the Israelites, God's chosen people. They turned to idols. They did all sorts of terrible things. II kings 17:40 and 41. They would not listen, however, but persisted in their former practices. Even while these people were worshiping the LORD, they were serving their idols. To this day their children and grandchildren continue to do as their fathers did. Generation after generation after generation they did as their fathers did. If you get on drugs you are poisoning your family, and not just your body, for maybe generations to come. If you are a faithful man of God you are enriching your family for generations to come. Do you see how that works? You must be faithful. It's paramount that the father be what he wants his children to be. When a father sets a bad example the family falls into a deep ditch filled with quicksand that sucks the family down for generations to come.

Homes are in a crisis in America. Even Adventist homes are in crisis. The invention of the automobile took the family out of the home. And to make matters worse, TV, the Internet and videos have planted the world right into the middle of the home! Today's fathers are fighting a battle in the most critical time of all history. And harder to do.

No bookstore sells a book called, "Ten Ways to Raise Evil Children." You don't have to learn how to raise bad children. There are lots of books on how to raise good children. If you don't do anything, they're going to be bad, probably, because they manage to be selfish all by themselves. So fathers, and Uncles, and Grandfathers must try their best to make a positive difference. We must pray for the fulfillment of MALACHI 4:5-6-- the Restoration of the hearts of the fathers to their children and vice versa. It must start with the fathers heart!

Fathers have a weakness. We do well when things work well but when one of the kids gets sick the mother is called on. Have you noticed this? It has been happening for centuries. II Kings 4:18, 19. One day when her child was older, he went out to visit his father, who was working with the harvesters. Suddenly he complained, "My head hurts! My head hurts!" His father said to one of the servants, "Carry him home to his mother."

RAISING TEENAGERS:

Christian fathers need to be involved in Raising the kids. Raising kids is like raising a garden. Just as the seed disappears for a while in the ground (the teenage years) you fear it is gone forever, and that all your efforts are lost. But not so! If there has been a faithful sowing of the seed during the long days and nights of childhood, a harvest of healthy personhood will likely emerge. Not as a carbon copy of you. But a person able to cope with life.

Never has the need been greater for Godly Fathers than now! An Especially critical time is when your children turn 13! In fact, all fathers are firm believers in heredity until their children become teenagers. And then you hang on and pray for all you are worth.

The Teenage years are scary for fathers and for their teenagers. Mark Twain gave advise on how to raise teenagers: When they reach thirteen put them in a barrel and feed them through a hole. When they reach fifteen, plug up the hole. It's hopeless! But not so! With Christ there is hope for your family.

Don't give up on your children. The faithful father did not give up on the prodigal son. And the boy eventually came home again. Sometimes our teenagers have to fall flat on their backs before they will look up. The prodigal son learned that the greener grass does not grow in pig pens!

The hundreds of prayers and sleepless nights paid off, and the faithful father was rewarded when his son came back home.

Fathers, Be what you want your children to become. Jesus loves your children more than you do. Give them to Jesus every day. Give your own life to Him. And trust the rest to our loving heavenly father.

Hymn of Praise: #15, My Maker and My King
Scripture: #826 Responsive Reading
Hymn of Response: #304,  Faith of Our Fathers

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