So this morning, title “Visionary Fatherhood” for these 90 minutes. Now, visionary is a central word for us in our ministry. In fact, that’s what our, Amy’s and my, ministry is called, Visionary Family Ministries and the conferences that we do in churches around the country, around the world, visionary parenting, visionary marriage. So this is a word that fits for us. The word, of this word, visionary, it’s not complicated. It means that you’ve got a vision for the future. You’ve got a plan for what’s ahead. You can see a desired outcome and so you’re doing things today to say, hey, in five years, ten years, in eternity, we’ll spend a fair amount of our focus there today, that this is a dream and a desire I have. So I’m going to do some things today to pursue that vision, to pursue that dream and then fatherhood.
What’s the purpose of a father? You know, why would God entrust immortal souls to our care? There’s lots of things that go with being a dad, providing for our kids, protecting our kids, all of that kind of stuff, but this morning I want us to focus on what I believe is the most important aspect or the most important part of the mission of being a dad and that’s this: to build a love relationship with our children in order to help them build a love relationship with God. If you asked me to summarize what’s the mission of fatherhood, that’d be my best effort, to build a love relationship with our children in order to help them build a love relationship with God. There’s other ways to say it. Maybe more simply, mission of fatherhood, connect with our kids to help them connect with God, pursue a relationship with our kids to help them pursue a relationship with God.
So what I’m going to do this morning is I’m going to talk about the two parts of this one, how we can better connect with our children, how we can better build heart connected relationships with them and then the second part then, how we can help them connect with God, how we can help them follow Jesus and I want to start off with a couple of scriptures where we see these two fatherhood missions come together. The first one is Proverbs 23, a lot of the book of Proverbs is written by Solomon and in this particular chapter, Solomon is writing to his son and one of the things that we sometimes miss about Proverbs is we oftentimes think of Proverbs as God’s words of wisdom to us. Now that would be absolutely right, these are God’s words through the human authors. They are actually God’s words of wisdom to us, but they’re also a historical record when Solomon’s writing to his son, this is a real dad writing to a real son.
So he’s sitting down and he’s whatever. It’s not pen and paper. Who knows what he’s writing with the parchment or whatever, and it’s a real dad, just as real as you, taking time to write wisdom for his son and giving him something physical that says, son, I want you to have this. So look at the way Solomon writes to his son. So don’t think of this as bibley, in other words, that this is long ago and people we don’t know, but this is a real dad writing to a real son. He says this, “let not your heart envy sinners, but continue in the fear of the Lord all the day. Hear my son and be wise. Direct your heart in the way, that’s the way of following God”, and then this verse is a huge one in our family. My son, give me your heart and let your eyes observe my ways.
Solomon’s got two purposes here. His primary purpose is to help his son follow God and not follow the world, right? That’s his primary purpose and in order to help his son build a relationship with God, Solomon’s building a relationship with him. Look at the beginning of verse 26, “my son, give me your heart.” That’s a dad going to his son, son, give me your heart. Let me into your life and this is a predictable spiritual attack you can count on and sets your clock. Fourth grade, fifth grade, sixth grade, you’re going to get spiritual attack against the heart connection between you and your kids and when I talk about heart connection, what I mean there is the warmth, the closeness, the openness, the honesty, and the trust. I’ve got two kids graduated here from Wheaton Academy. We’ve homeschooled, they’ve got a homeschool partnership program. We have kids here full time. Sometimes, our JD is a senior and I’ve got two kids here right now. How many of you guys have have junior high or high school students? Okay, lots of you. You pick up your junior high or high school student from church, from youth group, from Christian school, some special event, and you say, how was school today? What do they say? Well, you had some special chapel event today. What’d you learn?
Nothing. Stuff. Well was it good? Whatever. And you kind of get these one word sorts of answers and you can sense the son, the daughter bristling a little bit under the intense interrogation, right? I mean after all, those are some pretty horrible questions you’re asking. I mean, how was chapel? What did you learn? Right? You’re a monster of a father for even asking that stuff. What you’re doing when you’re asking those basic questions is you’re trying to build a little bit of heart connection. You’re saying, not Solomon’s way, you’re saying, my son, give me your heart. You know, let me in. What was meaningful to you about your day or about that event at church or whatever it was, that church event, that school event, and immediately you can start to see the spiritual attack on the son or daughter not wanting to give their heart to you, not wanting to open up to you, one word answers and the spiritual attack also comes against the parent where we start to get discouraged at the lack of heart connection, the lack of relationship during those teen years. So a lot of us as dads, Dennis Rainey talks a lot about this, a lot of us as dads withdraw and we pull out from pressing in like Solomon’s doing, my son, give me your heart, pursuing the heart of the teenager and so during those teen years when they need us most, our relationship is actually at its most distant, at its most functional and a very high percentage of our conversations are about functional life, school chores, sports, and if there has to be a heart to heart conversation, it’s because they did some wrong.
That’s something that I caught myself with and as we counsel parents of teenagers, we see a lot, you know, asking yourself what percentage of meaningful conversations with my teenager are negative and when I say meaningful, I don’t mean you know, please pick this up at the store and please pick up your room or whatever. I’m talking about meaningful conversations and sometimes if we’re honest, a very high percentage are negative because we’re having to confront this or confront that. Now in this next verse, look at this, “my son, give me your heart” and then Solomon says to his son, “let your eyes observe my ways.” So part of the way Solomon’s going to connect with his son, part of the way Solomon is going to train his son is to say, look at my life. Look at the way I’ve done it. Now in the next few verses, what Solomon’s going to do is he’s going to warn his son about sexual sin. Solomon’s going to warn his son about sexual sin. He’s going to say to his son, son, look how Holy and righteous I have been in this area of sexuality and I want you to do it just like me.
Thank you, right? If you know your history, you know way it doesn’t sound quite right. Okay? Solomon is not the one we’re going to hold up as the Paragon of virtue when it comes to sexuality. So here’s what he’s saying. He said, when he says, let your son observe, my son, let your eyes observed my ways. He’s saying don’t do it like your dad. Do not follow my example in this area because I know what I’m talking about when I’m warning you about these things. Pain and suffering are ahead and this principle from Solomon here I think is such a vital ingredient in having a real discipleship relationship with our kids, that as they get older, junior high and high school, we become more and more vulnerable about the areas of brokenness, struggle and failure in our lives. Now obviously we need to ask the Lord’s wisdom with when we tell our kids about some of the darker chapters. So with my 22 year old son and 17 year old son, all right.
I have laid out in detail, you know my porn addiction from the age of 13 through the middle of college, right? How it started, how it continued, the lies, the secrecy, the spiritual damage it caused in my life and being able to look them in the eye and say, I don’t want this for you. Do not do it like your dad. Some fathers will tell me, well, I don’t want to share that stuff with my kids. Whether it might be just bad choices with sexuality or drugs or alcohol or whatever it was because I don’t want to come across that, well, it must be okay then. Well, dad, if you did it then it must be okay. Now, I think a lot of it just depends on how we approach it. So let’s say it’s drugs and alcohol. You go to your kid and you say, hey, go back when
I was your age, you know I did some stupid stuff. I was drinking and crazy times, man, it was bad, it was bad stuff, crazy, crazy times. You shouldn’t do that. Now, if that’s the way you do it, I think that actually might be a little alluring for them if that’s the way you present it, but if you’re coming to them with an honest heart, with a humble heart, with a repentant heart, they understand that. Sometimes children will say this to parents, and I even had one of my boys talk to me, say this to me when I was going through my confession time with them about all this sexual stuff. They said, well, dad, you turned out okay and I said, no, I didn’t. No, I didn’t. I mean, God’s put the broken pieces back together. Yes, he can do that, but there’s a lot of suffering.
There’s a lot of pain. There was a lot of brokenness in my relationship with God and my relationship with people. I want my kids to know and I’d like you to callously plagiarize this if you like this, okay? I want my kids to know that as I look back on my life, every single time as I look back on my life, I see disobedience to God’s word, I regret it and every single time by God’s grace, I was faithful and obedient, I’m so thankful without exception and if you agree with that, tell your kids that, look them in the eye and say this. Every time I strayed from what God told me to do, I now regret it and every time by God’s grace He helped me, I’m thankful without exception. Let me show you another scripture on this is Ephesians chapter six and verse four, really one of the keynote passages in the New Testament for fathers.
It says, “fathers do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” So here’s this morning’s conversation in one verse. Fathers don’t provoke your children to anger. This is all about your relationship with them. Don’t embitter them toward you. Don’t arouse anger in their hearts towards you. Don’t drive them away from you with your harshness, with your anger, with your disconnection. And what’s the problem with that? What’s the problem with like a hard-hearted conflictual, angry relationship with our kids? Because it keeps us from our primary mission. What’s our primary mission? Bringing them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. My daughter Lissy, she’s 20, graduate here at Wheaton Academy. She spent this last year doing a book project. It’s called “The Heart of Your Teen” and she’s writing about the parent teen relationship from the teen’s perspective, okay? And one of the things that she did, she interviewed about 40 teenagers from very diverse families around the United States and around the world and I want to show you one of the testimonies that she’s got in this book because it fits exactly what Ephesians 6:4.
This person said, this is a high school student, “I got super annoyed when my dad tried to disciple me spiritually because it didn’t feel like there was love in our relationship. Whenever he told me about biblical things, it just made me mad and I’d tell him that I didn’t want to hear it. The weird part was that reading them, now this would be like reading the scriptures or the devotional on my own, they were actually meaningful to me. The state of my relationship with my dad made it really hard for me to accept anything he had to say even if it was actually helpful.” I mean this is a teenager just encapsulating perfectly the Ephesians 6:4 principle. The father, through anger, through disconnection had exasperated her, had aroused anger and bitterness in her heart. So then when dad is trying to bring her up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, she’s not going to have anything to do with it. So, the mission of the dad connect with our kids to help them connect with God, build a relationship with our kids, to help them build a relationship with God, pursue them to help them pursue God.