A Blueprint For Fathers

Title: A Blueprint For Fathers

Bible Book: John 3 : 16

Author: Mark Adams

Subject: Father's Day; Father; Parenting; Home; Family



Today is of course Father’s Day and this week as I prepared this sermon I compared the way we celebrate this day to the way we celebrate Mother’s Day. My comparative study revealed some very interesting statistics. For example, one thing I discovered is that Father’s Day is not the “cash cow” for the greeting card industry that Mother’s Day is. This may not be news to you but the fact is kids just don’t buy near as many cards for their dads as they do for their moms. They do buy their dads more ties however!

And here’s another bit of interesting statistical trivia. Like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day is a big day for long distance phone companies even though fewer calls are made today since not nearly as many people call their dads as they do their moms on the day we honor them. But here’s the interesting part-even though less people call their dads, long distance companies actually make MORE money on Father’s Day. You see, a significant number of the calls made home today are collect. So kids apparently want to wish dad a Happy Father’s Day but they expect him to pay for the call!

All this information about the “mistreatment” of dad’s day reminds me of an article from a recent issue of TIME magazine that pointed to the potential future DEMISE of fatherhood. The writer of this article seems to think that dads may just be the next endangered species and said:

“Between in-vitro fertilization and cloning, dads could become ‘dinosaurs’ [in the not too distant future].”

Now I know that none of you take all this seriously-because the fact is no one cannot deny the impact that a father can have on a child. Children need their fathers! Once successful man said, “I’m a self-made man, but my dad drew up the blue print.” And this man was right. Dads have a huge impact on the growth and development of sons and daughters. This is because, as studies confirm again and again, our children have needs that can only be met by their dads. James. L. Schaller writes, “The absence of a mature father-child connection creates a void in the soul, a residual, ‘father-hunger.’” Robert Bly says that due to the absence of many dads, this generation thirsts for what he calls “father water.”

Well, experts like these two realize that fathers give children for GOOD or BAD-what no one else can give them. I mean, consider for example the power say in a father’s WORDS when he says positive things like: “I believe in you Son.” OR “I’m so proud of you.” Or on the other hand when he says negative things like, “Why can’t you ever do anything right?” OR “Why couldn’t you be more like your sister?” These words will stay with a child for the rest of his or her life and they demonstrate the fact that a father IS indeed one of the most powerful beings on the face of this earth. You see, a man has the ability to shape the leaders and parents of the twenty-first century, whether he does so by his devoted commitment OR by his irresponsible absence.

And, unfortunately the fact is many fathers are not using their parental power wisely-which is probably the MAIN reason Hallmark and American Greetings won’t make as much money this month as they did back in May. You see, many men have lessened or even lost their roles as influential fathers, some by their own choice. Statistics bear this out:

The number of children who live with their biological fathers has steadily dropped since 1960.
In a recent survey of 1600 adult men, more than 50% said their fathers were emotionally absent from them while they were growing up.
In another survey only 34% said that they considered their own father to be a role model.

Now, why has this happened? Why have so many dads ignored their vital parenting role? In his book The Heart of a Father, Dr. Ken Canfield cites several factors:

1. First, in our culture there is a widespread loss of VISION for the future.

For years our society was focused on our POSTERITY, but no longer. Instead, IMMEDIATE happiness has become the all-consuming goal for many adults. More and more dads put their individual preferences ahead of the needs of their children. They care more about the PRESENT-about having a good time-enjoying their lives-than they do the investment in the FUTURE that children really are.

2. A second factor is a loss of PRIORITIES.

You see, men are especially prone to finding their identity through their WORK rather than their FAMILY and so they tend to focus on things like work achievements, high salary, and job title. As a result, many of us no longer adhere to the philosophy that says that raising great kids is a source of pride. We have forgotten how truly important this is in life. In his book, Man in the Mirror, Patrick Morley says that when his children were toddlers, he was always uptight about the new scratches which showed up daily on their coffee table. He writes, “This was a real point of contention with my wife, who could care less about such matters. My blood boiled when I spotted a new nick in the luster of the smooth-grained wood. Finally, Patsy couldn’t take it anymore and said, ‘You leave my children alone! I’ll not have you ruining a million-dollar child over a $300 table!”

Well, like Morley, many dads forget how precious-how valuable-their children are, especially in comparison to worldly possessions and pleasures. They’ve gotten their priorities mixed up.

3. And then, these days there also seems to be a general loss of a sense of DUTY and COMMITMENT.

Many fathers no longer feel a responsibility to SACRIFICE for their kids. Steve May tells of a selfish young father who pointed at his infant son and said, “There goes my chance for ever having a boat. As soon as I get the hospital bill paid, he’ll need braces, and by the time I get those paid for, he’ll want a car. When it’s paid off, it’ll be time to pay for college. By then I’ll be too old to want a boat.” This young dad was probably kidding, but to a limited extent he was also speaking the truth. Being a father requires sacrifices on our part. There are some things we have to do without in life because we have a greater obligation to provide for our children. They must come first!

4. One final factor Canfield notes is a loss of COMMUNITY.

Individualism has run amok. Involved fatherhood has become a private matter, and fathers rarely communicate with other dads about fathering.

Well, in my mind all this goes to show that Henri Nouwen was apparently right when he predicted back in the 70′s that the coming generation would be known by its sense of father-LESSness.

And, this is a sad state for any society to be in for many reasons. You see:

Fatherless children are more likely to commit crimes and engage in substance abuse.

On average fatherless children score lower on tests and have lower grade point averages.
Children of father-absent families are five times more likely to be poor and ten times more likely to be extremely poor.
Adolescents in mother-only families are more likely to be sexually active, and daughters are more likely to become single-parent mothers.

But the poison spread by fathers that don’t take their parenting seriously goes even deeper. You see, as many as 75% of teen suicides and 80% of psychiatric admissions come from broken homes-families where the father just did not do his God-given job. Now, fortunately, in the midst of all this BAD news there is some GOOD news. Thanks in part to movements like Promise Keepers there is a growing awareness of the importance of fathers. I was thrilled last weekend to see over 10,000 men at the rally in Baltimore-supporting this movement that urges men to be Godly fathers. And there are rallies like this all over the U.S. This shows that more and more Christian men these days DO want to be effective fathers. They recognize their potential influence on their children and want to use it for good. But a key roadblock in more men recovering their positive power as dads is the fact that we lack complete and effective MODELS. You see, historically men learned to father by following the example of their own dads. They kept their eyes open and watched daily how it was done. Even TV used to provide good role model fathers-from Ward Cleaver to Heathcliff Huxtable but these days TV dads tend to be more on the level of Homer Simpson. The sad fact is many sons don’t have a good fatherly model to follow and since this is true, I think it would be important on this Father’s Day morning for all fathers present even future fathers as well as single-parent moms who serve as fathers, to commit to pattern their fathering after the only PERFECT model for a father there is: GOD. And-as you no doubt realize, in the Bible God is repeatedly described as our Father. In 2 Corinthians 6:18 God says, “I will be a Father to you, and you will be My sons and daughters…” In Matthew 9:6 Jesus taught us to begin our prayers by saying, “Our FATHER…” and the word “Father” is literally translated as “Abba” which means “Daddy.”

Well, today I want us to look then to our Heavenly Father as a model for our parenting as dads.

And the best place to look to find His example is in the most recognizable verse in the Bible: John 3:16. Let’s say it together.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Now, in this much-loved verse we read four ways that God relates to us. Think of these four ways as “specifications” that form a sort of blueprint that we can follow to help us be the kind of fathers God calls us to be. The first “spec” we find in this blueprint is this…

I. a father LOVES-unconditionally.

As Jesus said here, “For God SO LOVED the world…” and, as Christians we know that the way God loves the world is unconditionally. We don’t have to DO anything to EARN God’s love. There are no strings attached. God just loves us as we are. As Yancey says, “There’s nothing we can do to make Him love us any more and nothing we do makes Him love us any less.” God just LOVES us! In fact, Psalm 103: says that God is, “abounding in love” and that His love for us is “from everlasting to everlasting” and that, “He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him”

So, God’s love is indeed an unconditional love-and the moment we become FATHERS we begin to learn what it means to love unconditionally. Think about it. I’m sure you men love your wives unconditionally TODAY-but you haven’t always. You didn’t love her unconditionally when you first met her and began to date. I mean, if you’d discovered early in your relationship that she was a distant cousin of Osama Bin Laden working undercover to plot terrorist acts against the U.S., then more than likely your feelings for her would have withered away. But today, in spite of her faults, you love her with all your heart. And I’m sure she feels the same way about you-in spite of YOUR many faults! I’m saying your love for your wife is a love that, to a certain extent, she has EARNED over the years by being the wonderful person that she is. Well-many people think this is the way God loves us. They think He loves us more as He gets to know us-especially as we do things that are WORTHY of His great love. But it doesn’t work that way-and being a parent helps us to understand this wonderful truth. You see, we love our children the moment they come into the world don’t we! Those little helpless babies have done nothing to earn our love-but we love them anyway-just because they’re ours! And we keep loving them no matter what they do-no matter how much they wake us up at night-no matter how many diapers we change-no matter how much we spend on formula. This is UNCONDITIONAL love and virtually all parents have it. That’s one reason sonograms are so effective in getting a pregnant woman to decide not to have an abortion. The moment she sees that little person insider her-she loves him or her. So this human love we have for our children is the best example we have of God’s love for us. It’s not based on performance or merit. It’s based on the fact that we are His. I’ve never met a father who said, “I don’t love my children.” Of course they do-but this is where too many dads drop the ball. They love their kids but they don’t express it. They don’t say it enough. They don’t show it enough.

Too many times we only express our affection for our kids when they do something good like graduating from high school or getting a good grade on a test or something. And this leads them to believe that our love for them is conditional-well, dads, our kids need to know that we love them no matter what! So, to follow God’s blueprint we need to find ways to tell them that we love them frequently-in various settings-not just when they do something good. When my girls were little we had a game we would play. Different times in the day, when I dropped them off for school, or before they went to bed, or just impromptu as they were watching TV, I’d say, “Hey, you know what?” And if they remembered the game they’d say, “You love me dad!” But if they weren’t quick though, when I asked, “You know what?” They’d reply, “What?” And I’d say, “I LOVE YOU!” And they’d kind of grimace like I got them but I think inside they weren’t grimacing-because it’s always good to hear that your dad loves you-especially when you’ve done nothing to deserve that love.

And moms, you can help us dads in this. You see, we seem to naturally have difficulty communicating emotion-so put a good word in for us from time to time. For example you can tell your kids what their dad says about them behind their backs like, “You know what your dad said about you last night? He said, ‘I think that’s the smartest girl I’ve ever seen.’” OR “You should have seen the look on your dad’s face when you tried on that prom dress. He loves you so much.”

One of my favorite examples of a father’s unconditional love is found in the true story of a father named Smythe who lived during the Civil War. Smythe was a Quaker and of course Quakers are opposed to war. Well against his father’s wishes, Smythe’s son ran off and enlisted. Smythe didn’t hear from his son for almost 2 years and then word came that the boy had been wounded in a battle nearby. The father left the farm and traveled to where the troops were. He made his way to the commander and asked about his son. The commander said that there had been heavy action earlier that day, and that many had fallen wounded and still lay in the trenches. It was late at night, so the father lit a lantern and walked to the scene of the battle. As he arrived, he was filled with despair when he saw, by the dim light of his lamp, the number of wounded and dying. The father began calling loudly. “Jonathan Smythe, thy father seeketh after thee.” He would walk a little way and cry again, “Jonathan Smythe, thy father seeketh after thee.” Here and there, a groan could be heard. Several wounded young soldiers said, “I wish that were my father.” Mr. Smythe continued his search, calling for his son for several hours. Finally, he heard a faint voice, “Father, I’m over here.” And then the wounded boy said, “I knew you would come.” This is unconditional love-love that is expressed even when our children disappoint us-even when they disobey us. This is the kind of love God has for us for remember, “Jesus-GOD IN THE FLESH-came to SEEK and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10) And, if we are following His blueprint, then we must love our children in this way-which leads to the second specification we find on God’s blueprint for fathers. You see, as I alluded to a moment ago, one way a father communicates His love is when he…

II. GIVES-sacrificially.

And we see this in the next part of that familiar verse where Jesus says that, “God so loved the world that He…GAVE…His only Son…” Or, as Paul says in Romans, “God demonstrated His love for us in this. While we were still sinners Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) So, God gives-sacrificially. But His loving generosity doesn’t end at the cross. He continues to give, as He gives us our lives, our homes, our parents, our skills, our intellect. He meets our daily needs, answers our prayers. He is INDEED a giving God. As James 1:17 says, “EVERY good and perfect gift is from above coming down from the Father.”

Now, if you’re a father there are two primary things you need to give your kids: your money and your time. And most dads do a pretty good job with the former. Most of us make sure our children’s material needs are met. But the fact is, the thing our kids want us most to give them is the latter-OUR TIME. A group of elementary children were asked, “What’s a dad for?” and their number one answer they gave was, “A dad is for….SPENDING TIME with.” This shows that the “love gift” of our time means more to them than we will ever know. That’s what they want most men-not the newest video game or the hottest car or a closet full of trendy clothes. What they want the most in life is to spend time with us. Go figure!

And this is good news because it means we don’t have to be wealthy or incredibly talented to positively impact your kids-we just have to spend time with them. But the shameful fact is many dads these days give little or no time to their kids. According to one expert, more than 40 percent of American adults have no weekly contact with children at all. Perhaps this is because, many dads commute an hour or more every day to work. Some leave at 5:00 or 5:30 in the morning before their children get up in the morning and often don’t get home until 7:30, just in time to watch their kids go to bed. Another study was done to gather information on this parental issue. Psychologists attached microphones to the shirts of kids to record actual parental interaction. The results were shocking. The average amount of daily time each Dad spent with his kids was 37 seconds, an average of 2.7 daily encounters of 10 to 15 seconds each. Compare these 37 measly SECONDS to the 4 to 7 HOURS per day that kids spend watching TV not to mention the hours they spend in school or listening to music or on the computer and we see who is really the father to our children.

Dads, if we are to positively impact our children we must love them enough to find a way to give them our time. And you know, the scary thing about time is the fact that time slips through our fingers. It disappears never to come back again. We can never get back time with our kids. Let me show you what I mean. If you have a 12 year old., two thirds of your time with you is gone-never to return. And by the time they are 12 they would rather be with their friends than you anyway, so really 85 to 90% of their time with you is gone. Give time to your kids NOW dads because you never get it back again-and as I said a moment ago, that is what they need and want most from us-TIME.

This week I came across the story of a father who came home from work late AGAIN…tired and irritated. He found his 5-year-old son waiting for him at the door. He looked up and said. “Daddy, may I ask you a question?” The dad replied, “Yeah, sure…what is it?” “Daddy, how much money do you make an hour?” The dad got mad and said, “That’s none of your business. Why do you want to know?” The little boy said, “I just want to know. Please tell me, how much do you make an hour?” The dad, wanting to sit down and relax said, “If you must know, I make $20 an hour.” The little boy sighed and bowed his head. Then looking up he asked, “Daddy may I borrow $10 please?” The father flew off the handle and said, “If the only reason you wanted to know how much money I make is so that you can hit me up for some cash to buy some stupid toy, then you march yourself straight to your room and go to bed. You’re so selfish! I work long, hard hours every day and don’t have time for this.”

The little boy quietly went to his room and shut the door. The dad sat down and started to get even madder about the nerve of his little boy. How dare he ask questions only to get some money. After an hour or so, the man calmed down, and started to think that maybe he was a bit hard on his son. Maybe his little boy really needed the money for something important. So, the father went up to his boy’s room and opened the door and asked, “Are you asleep son?”

“No daddy, I’m awake.” replied the boy. “I’ve been thinking, maybe I was too hard on you earlier. It’s been a long day and I took it out on you. Here’s the ten bucks you asked for.”

The little boy sat straight up in bed beaming, “Oh thank you, daddy!” he exclaimed. Then, reaching under his pillow, he pulled out a wad of crumpled up bills. The dad, seeing that the boy already had some money, started to get angry again. The little boy started slowly to count out his money. The dad, now ticked off again, demanded to know what was going on. “Why do you want more money if you already have some?” The little boy replied, “Because I didn’t have enough but now I do. Daddy I have $20 now and I’d like to buy an hour of your time.” Dads, would your kids have to BUY your time-or do you intentionally SPEND it on them? God’s blueprint calls for us to do the latter!

Okay-let’s review, when we follow the example of our Heavenly Father, as dads we love, we give…

III. and then third, a father REQUIRES.

Look back at our text. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the World that He gave His only Son-that WHOSOEVER BELIEVES in Him…” In other words, WE have a role to play in our own salvation. Our Heavenly Father requires us to respond to His love by believing in Him. We don’t have the capacity to be perfect-we can’t pay for our own sins but we do have the capacity to BELIEVE and this is what our Heavenly Father REQUIRES of us. Well, in a similar sense, a good earthly father has certain expectations for His children-certain requirements. In other words he doesn’t do everything for his child. Don’t misunderstand. He isn’t unreasonable-he doesn’t require more than the child can give but like our Heavenly Father he does require a certain level of responsibility from his children.

John Grisham’s book, The Testament, begins with a story about a man who succeeded in business beyond what most people could imagine, amassing a fortune of eleven BILLION dollars. Along the way, he married three times and fathered seven children in those marriages. He provided for all of them financially but he was an emotionally absent father and never EXPECTED or REQUIRED much of them. He gave each child five million dollars on their 21st birthday and each kid squandered the money. Eventually each child wound up deep in debt, resentful of their father, eagerly waiting for him to die so they could collect their share of his will. Even though this man was a success in the eyes of the world, he was a failure as a father and his children paid the price.

Now, even though this is a work of fiction, it reflects the truth. Grisham’s novels are all that way. There’s always a moral. The one in this book reminds me of the Old Testament story of Eli. Remember? Eli was a man of God, a priest who served in the temple. He was faithful as a priest, he was a failure as a father. I say this because his sons had no respect for the law of God. They defiled sacrifices, extorted from those who brought offerings to God and they slept with the women who served in the temple. Eli knew about their behavior but did nothing about it. He didn’t REQUIRE his sons to behave in a Godly manner-and as a result God judged Eli. You see, a father has a God-given responsibility to set the standard for his children-to say, “This is the way we ought to live and nothing less is acceptable.” A father requires his children to behave-to grow up-to become godly men and women. And Dad’s the fact is, if we follow Eli’s example and refuse to discipline our children it proves we don’t love them. As Proverbs 13:24 says, “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly.”

Okay…the final specification we see in this blue print is this…

IV. A father PREPARES his child for the future.

As John 3:16 clearly says, God has made it possible for us to have a glorious future-ETERNAL LIFE in Heaven with Him. Well, if we follow His example then in the same way earthly fathers need to do what they can to direct the future of their children. Let me briefly cite three ways we should do this.

First, a father should prepare his kids to develop healthy RELATIONSHIPS:

Dads we need to teach them how to choose the right kind of friends-and more importantly how to be the right kind of friend. We need to teach them to respect adults-to treat their elders with honor. We need to help guide them to date right and even to marry right. They should be able to look to us when it comes to learning how to relate to other people.

Second, a father should help his child to prepare for his or her CAREER:

We need to help our kids identify their gifts, skills, and interests so they an discover the work that is best for them-after all we know them better than they know themselves. We watched them grow up and develop and mature so they will look to us to tell them things like, “You have a real knack for helping people” or “You’ve always loved to be around animals.” Or… “I’ve watched you grow up and you have always been able to fix anything.” or “You are great with little children.”

But the most important way we prepare them for the future is by helping them to grow and develop SPIRITUALLY:

Dads, its our job to bring them up in a Christian atmosphere. We need to read the Bible to our kids and tell them about our relationship with Jesus. We need to encourage them to decide to become Christians themselves and then help them to grow in Christlikeness. And dads, I must point out that the best teacher in this area is your example. You see, the Christian faith is not so much taught as it is caught, so ask yourself, “Is my spiritual life worth imitating? Do I have a natural enthusiasm for things such as prayer, Bible Study, church activities and caring for the needs of others?” And, hear this dads. Spiritual guidance cannot be delegated to others. Our kid’s SS teachers and youth workers aren’t the ones entrusted with the responsibility of making our children followers of Jesus.

That is our job!


So-God IS the perfect Father for us to emulate because: He loves His children unconditionally; He gives to His children, sacrificially; He requires things of His children; and He prepares His children for the future. Wouldn’t you like to BE a parent like that? Or think of it in another way-wouldn’t you like to HAVE a parent like that? If you are here this morning and are not a Christian, then hear this: God wants to be your Father. He loves you as you have never been loved and wants to claim you as His own.

In her story, The Whisper Test, Mary Ann Bird writes: “I grew up knowing I was different, and I hated it. I was born with a cleft palate, and when I started school, my classmates made it clear to me how I looked to others: a little girl with a misshapen lip, crooked nose, lopsided teeth, and garbled speech. When schoolmates asked, “What happened to your lip?” I’d tell them I’d fallen and cut it on a piece of glass. Somehow it seemed more acceptable to have suffered an accident than to have been born different…..I was convinced that no one outside my family could love me.

There was, however, a teacher in the second grade whom we all adored. Her name was Mrs. Leonard. She was a short, round, happy, sparkling lady. Every year we had a HEARING TEST. Mrs. Leonard gave the test to everyone in the class, and one year I went last. I knew from past years that as we stood against the door and covered one ear, the teacher sitting at her desk would whisper something, and we would have to repeat it back–things like “The sky is blue” or “Do you have new shoes?” I waited there and listened and then I heard words that God must have put into her mouth, seven words that changed my life. Mrs. Leonard said, in her whisper, “I wish you were my little girl.”

You know, to every person deformed by sin, God says, “I wish you were My son” or “I wish you were my daughter.” If you are here and have not experienced this sonship then I urge you to ask Jesus to come into your heart and life and thereby come to experience the truth of 1 John 3:1 firsthand, where it says, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!”

If you decide today to become a child of God….by your profession of faith in His Son, I invite you to make that decision public by walking forward and sharing that commitment with me. Others of us may have other decisions to make today….to commit to being more like God in our parenting. Some of you may feel led to join this church family. Any decision you wish to make public, I invite you to do so by walking forward as we stand now and sing.

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