Fathers Day Prayer
It was a long, long time ago, back in the 80’s, when I first noticed that something was a bit off. The usual practice was after supper, while my mom cleaned up the kitchen, my dad would make his way to the couch and and watch a little television. Having two boys in the house meant that he was never on that couch by himself. Every commercial break was an opportunity to tell him about our newest hair brained scheme or scuffle that we found ourselves in on the playground. But that’s not what I noticed that gave me difficulty.
The first time I remember it we were watching Family Ties. For those of you younger than 30, Family Ties was a show about two hippie parents who had three children. The main focus of the show was their son, Alex P. Keaton, who rebelled against his hippie parents by becoming a Young Republican. Alex’s dad was Steven and he was not as smart as my dad, or as confident, or as able. As a matter of fact there were shows where he was pretty much inane. While the mom had a little more going for her, it was pretty evident that the smartest person in the house was the teenage son.
I noticed it again with Cliff Huxtable, who was a smart man, but no match for Claire. Then came Tim Taylor, whose ineptness was only matched by the selfishness of Ray Barone. By the time my boys joined me on the couch the dads that we saw on television were even worse, if they were even on television at all. Disney shows have come a long way from the days of Ward Cleaver and Andy Griffith.
The struggle I have with the modern television dad is two fold: First, it is that society sees the role of the dad in the home as a glorified clown that is really struggling with the glorified part. Secondly, my and your boys are watching this garbage and storing it away. The modern dad has become more of a punchline and less of a model of our Heavenly Father.
Since today is Father’s Day I want us to celebrate Fatherhood and the men who are physical dad’s as well as those who are acting as spiritual dad’s. My original intent was for us to have a special service today and ask some of our older men to take 5 minutes and share with us one thing they tried to teach their children. But since my summer schedule is so hectic, we will need to do that next year. Instead I wanted to share something that I am trying to teach my boys.
Before Trafton was born I began to pray Luke 2:52 for him and then for Rylan, and apparently I have been praying out of the Easy to Read Version: As Jesus grew taller, he continued to grow in wisdom. God was pleased with him and so were the people who knew him. But it’s not just for my own boys, I pray this prayer for all of the kids in our church family here at Park Central.
My greatest hope as a dad and as a member of this family, is that my boys and all of our kids here at Park Central will be able to grow just like Jesus did. I am sure that you pray that with me; you want our children to grow: mentally, physically, spiritually, and socially. Luke, the physician, shows that Jesus grew a balanced life. This balance is a blueprint for what every Father wants for their kids.
Jesus grew taller
We tend to come to church and just talk about spiritual stuff so it might surprise you that physical health matters to God. Our journey of faith is not just a matter of the mind, there is a physical element to our faith as well. After all, in the garden God created our physical bodies and called them good.
If we are going to grow like Jesus we must be willing to use our bodies to do the things He did and value what He values. If you were to ask a child how they can use their bodies to make God happy, you will get all kinds of answers about what we are not supposed to do. If you want to make God happy, don't’ lie, don’t cheat, don’t steal! Is there any wonder that our churches have folks who are trying so hard to not do something, they have no idea what they can do.
In Matthew 25, Jesus shares that great parable about the sheep and the goats. If you know the parable you know that Jesus separates the people into two groups, the sheep on His right and the goats on His left. The goats are sent to spend eternity in the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels, while the sheep are invited to come into the kingdom that was prepared before the world was created. The difference in destination was not what these two groups refrained from while living on this earth. The difference in destination was based on what they did while they were here. The sheep get invited to come into the kingdom because they used their bodies to serve the people that God loves. Jesus said that I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me.
Jesus did not just grow taller so that He could tell us to use our bodies to serve, He lived a life of service. In John 13 Jesus and His disciples are in the upper room, eating the Passover meal. It was at this meal that Jesus got up and began to wash His disciples feet. While Peter objected, he never offered to take up the towel and serve his fellow apostles. Chuck Swindoll writes, “The room was filled with proud hearts and dirty feet. The disciples were willing to fight for a throne, but not a towel.”
Jesus grew taller, He used His body to serve God by serving others. My prayer for my boys and our children is that they will use their bodies to do the same. Our world is filled with people, who like the disciples, are filled with a spirit of criticism and competition. Our community is filled with people who use their bodies to position themselves in the best light and manipulate people and things for their own gain. This is counter to the example left for us by Jesus and what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6: do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God with your body.
We have tried to be intentional and teach the boys that their bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. I want them to develop healthy habits that will serve them well for the rest of their lives. That takes effort and personal discipline on the part of parents and grandparents. It is my prayer that not only will our children learn how to use their bodies to bring glory to God, but that they will see in each of us an example of what true service looks like.
Secondly, Jesus grew in wisdom
We place a pretty big premium on knowledge in our home. Trista and I were both raised in homes that valued education and that is something we value in the life of our boys. While that includes the things you can learn in a book or from a school teacher, it also includes an understanding of the world where we live.
I am sure that Mary and Joseph, were pretty normal in the fact that they desired for all of their children to learn and grow. I imagine if Jesus had brought a good grade home from the synagogue they would have displayed it on their refrigerator. Mary and Joseph probably took the time when they were traveling or working around the house to encourage, challenge, and make learning a priority. That is something that dad’s do, we take our responsibility to help our kids grow in their understanding of how the world works very seriously.
Solomon, the wisest man to ever live, begins the book of Proverbs by saying: Knowledge begins with fear and respect for the LORD, but stubborn fools hate wisdom and refuse to learn. (Proverbs 1:7) All of us carry the collective wisdom passed on to us by the people who’ve been most significant in our lives. We’ve picked up knowledge from parents, friends, teachers, leaders, relatives, and barbers. We gain knowledge from everyone we encounter. But not all knowledge is worth having, some of the stuff we know just takes up space in our brains. While Jesus possessed the same collective wisdom we all share, that is not the growth that Luke is describing in our text. Luke tells us that in His balanced approach to growth, Jesus demonstrated an unusual grasp of spiritual matters.
If we were to go back and read the text before our text this morning we would see that Jesus is found in the temple sitting among the teachers who are stunned by His insight and questions. His wisdom is seen in His respect and devotion to God. Knowledge begins with a healthy understanding of who God is and grows from that point. While we are never told when Jesus first understood His role in the kingdom or if He always knew that He was the incarnate son of God. We do know that wisdom and understanding was a process for Him because He grew in wisdom.
Thirdly, Jesus grew in favor with God.
Mary and Joseph made God and His Word the center of their family. There is a theme that runs through Luke’s description of Jesus’ childhood. Over and over again Luke writes about how Mary and Joseph acted “according to the law of Moses" (22) ... "just as it is written in the law of the Lord" (23) ... "according to what is stated in the law of the Lord" (24).
In verses 25-35 we read about Simeon’s prophetic praise of Jesus. They were able to meet Simeon and Anna because Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple to perform what was customary under the law (27).
By the time Luke reaches verses 39 - 40 he writes a small summary for this entire section. When they had completed everything according to the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The boy grew up and became strong, filled with wisdom, and God’s grace was on Him.
If you go back and look through Luke’s description of the childhood of Jesus you can see a definite pattern. Mary and Joseph were dedicated to following the directive of Scripture. They were determined to nurture Jesus in the word of God. They understood, that if Jesus grew taller, but did not love God then everything else they taught Him to do was pointless.
Joseph and Mary pointed Jesus in the right direction. When Jesus was twelve, they took him to Jerusalem for the Passover. Luke wants us to know that this was not a one time event, this was their pattern. Luke says in verse 41: Every year His parents traveled to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival. This trip to Jerusalem was a part of their heritage, and their history. It was their practice and custom to make this trip, because there were determined to provide a climate where spiritual development was the norm, not the exception. Joseph and Mary did everything within their power to see that Christ experienced God as he was growing up under their care. Their prayer was that Jesus would grow in favor with God and they provided a climate in which growth could happen.
Finally, Jesus grew in favor with men.
We all want our children to grow up to be kind, compassionate, loving human beings. No right thinking parent wants to raise selfish, hateful, mean-tempered kids. That’s why we are parents first. My dad used to tell me I’m your dad, we can be friends later. He was, and now we are.
More than anything else I want my boys to be known as someone who will love the people that God loves; and that’s quite difficult. Regardless of what you think about yourself, no one is easy to love. There are some folks that we get along with, there are some people that share our same interests, and there are some folks who are quiet and never cause a fuss. But there is no one who is easy to love all the time.
God doesn’t call us to love the people that are easy to love, or the people that please us, or the people who agree with us. We are called to love the people that God loves. Jesus grew in favor with man, because He loved everyone; tax collectors and zealots, moms and prostitutes, Judas and Peter. He did not love just the folks who were easy to love or who agreed with Him, He loved everyone.
Today Jesus still loves everyone and wants those of us who wear His name to do the same. He loves IRS agents and those who are invested in a political party. He loves the homeless and the prostitutes. He loves the transgendered and the homosexuals. He loves the proud and the arrogant. He loves the liars and those who abuse others. Jesus doesn’t celebrate or condone the brokenness in our lives. He still says to us the very same thing He said to the woman caught in the act of adultery, go and sin no more. It was His love that allowed Him to grow in favor with man and it was His love that caused the people to flock to Him.
We have a constant conversation with the boys and with the young people in the youth class, that people will only remember the good you do in their lives. We forget the folks who were selfish, or classless, or hateful. But we remember the folks who poured love into our lives. If we want to grow in favor with man we must learn to love people because they are created in the image of God. And that is always something that is lovable.
I pray that my boys and that the children of Park Central will find the same balance in their life that Jesus found. I pray that we as a congregation will provide an environment and climate that will encourage and promote godly growth in our young people. We need to passionately and persistently seek the Lord’s help in growing wise, healthy, loving, spiritually minded kids. Being a dad is not easy. Parenting is not easy. But it’s worth the effort when we see our kids turn into young adults who are taking up the task of being Christ in our community.
Almost 30 years ago, Dr. Ira North told churches that if we are going to last through the next generation we must “Go all out for our young people”. If we are going to be the church that Christ died for us to be our Children must be our priority not window dressing or something that get’s in the way.
I like the story of a little boy who was asked if he believed in God. He answered emphatically yes I do. When asked why, he said, “Well, I guess it just runs in the family.” My prayer is that our our young people have more reason than that for their faith. We want their devotion to God to be personal. But on the other hand, it’s not altogether bad that it runs in the family. I hope it does. I hope you will live long enough to see your kids and grandkids reproduce in their lives the faith, hope, and love that gives your life direction and meaning.