Hello and welcome to this message from Pastor Skip Heitzig of Calvary Albuquerque. We pray that God uses these messages to reach people around the world, and we're thankful to hear stories of lives being transformed by His love. If this message impacts you, let us know. E-mail us at email@example.com. And if you'd like to support this ministry financially, you can give online securely at calvaryabq.org/giving.
In this special teaching, we celebrate dads and how their influence transforms our lives. In the message #DadLife, we see how Paul the Apostle is depicted as the spiritual father to a young church in Macedonia, and we learn what it means to be a great dad. Now we invite you to turn in your Bibles to 1 Thessalonians chapter 2 as Skip begins.
Happy Father's Day, dads. Happy Father's Day to you. So glad you decided to join us. We're going to be in the New Testament book of 1 Thessalonians this morning for a Father's Day message. 1 Thessalonians chapter 2.
We are celebrating, of course, Father's Day. What does that mean? Well, Father's Day is sort of like Mother's Day only you don't spend as much. That's what one person put it as. You know fathers and mothers are different from one another not just by gender, but they're different in their approach to life, in their outlook, in their style, in their priorities, and their expressions.
There was a young mother who delivered a child, and the baby was asleep in the nursery, in the baby's room. Mother was asleep, catching up on a few hours' sleep. She was sleep deprived because of that baby, and so she was asleep. And she woke up, went into the nursery to check on the baby only to find her husband, in complete silence, bent over the crib, taking it all in. She was touched by the fact that her husband was just obviously amazed by what he saw.
And she just thought, oh, that's so wonderful. Look at him. And so she walked over in that tender moment and grabbed his hand in her hand and said, honey, what are you thinking about right now? And he got up from that bent position, stood up, and goes, I just can't figure out how they can make a crib like this for only $89.95. That's a dad. That's dad's life.
But I'm glad that we can spend time honoring fathers, as we should, but also being challenged as men ourselves. I've loved being a father, but now I have a son who is a father. And I just love seeing those grandkids grow up. It's the joy of joys.
Do you know where Father's Day started? It actually started by a woman who had an idea on Mother's Day. In 1909, a woman from Spokane, Washington by the name of Sonora Dodd was in church listening to a Mother's Day message. Her own mother died when she was a young girl. She was raised by her father who loved and sacrificially raised her, and she thought, we ought to have Father's Day.
So in June-- June 19th of 2010-- was the first celebration of Father's Day in Spokane, Washington. Why June? Because her father's birthday was in June. But do you know it wasn't until 1972 that it became a nationally recognized day. During the Nixon administration, it became a national holiday, of sorts, Father's Day.
Well, 1 Thessalonians chapter 2, what I want to show you is that the apostle Paul likens the relationship he has with this young, growing church to a relationship of a father with his children. In all fairness, not just a father but also a mother. So you're not taken off guard.
Look at verse 6. In 1 Thessalonians chapter 2, the apostle says, "nor do we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, when we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children." But then he flips it, and he says, I wasn't just like a mother but also like a father.
Go down to verse 10, which is where we're going to look-- verse 10, 11, and 12. "You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe. As you know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you as a father does his own children. That you would walk worthy of God who calls you into his own kingdom and glory."
So Paul is pulling from common knowledge of the role of a father in a family in addressing this young church as a father figure. And this isn't the only time Paul does this. He wrote to the Corinthians, you may remember, when he said, you may have 10,000 instructors or guardians in Christ, but you don't have many fathers. I have become a father to you, said Paul, in the preaching of the Gospel. He also referred to Titus, when he wrote a letter to Timothy, Titus as being a true son in the faith. So this concept of a spiritual father is one that Paul used on a few different occasions.
But what these three verses-- verse 10, 11, and 12, those are the ones we want to zero in on-- what those three versus do for us is give us, more or less, a threefold description of what it means to be a great dad. I don't know how you remember your father. You may have good memories. You may have bad memories. You may have a combination of all of those.
But there was one little boy who was asked to write about his dad, and he said, my dad can climb the highest mountain. My dad can swim the biggest ocean. He can fly the fastest plane. He can fight the strongest tiger. My dad can do anything. But most of the time, he just carries out the garbage.
Well, dads do more than just carry out the garbage. That's part of the role, perhaps, but it's much more than that. And I want to make three observations that I want to show you in these verses. Three observations of what makes a great dad.
First of all, great dads live transparent lives. Great dads live transparent lives. Look at verse 10. "You are witnesses and God also. How devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe." See what he writes? You are witnesses. You have seen with your own eyes. You have observed in our life the spiritual authority, this role of being a spiritual father. You've seen it. We lived this way before you.
If it is true that the best preaching is a holy life, then Paul was a great preacher. Notice something in verse 1. I want you to look at the language of this chapter, if you don't mind. Verse 1, Paul says, "For you yourselves know, brethren, that our coming to you is not in vain." Second verse, "But even after we had suffered before and were spitefully treated in Philippi, as you know. We were bold and our God to speak to you the gospel of God in much conflict."
Look at the fifth verse. "For neither, at any time, do we use flattering words, as you know, nor a cloak for covetousness. God is witness." I'm putting that all together because I want you to see this. They knew this because they saw this. They watched Paul. Paul lived a transparent life before them, before God, and before men.
And he demonstrated this transparent living in three different ways. Notice his words in verse 10. Devoutly, justly, blamelessly. Now let's drill down in each word so we understand what he means, and how it is applied to fathers today.
First of all, we behaved ourself devoutly. What does that mean? It means we were pure. It means holy. It means sacred. That is, the way he lived formed the basis for what he said. What he said is mentioned in verse 11. How he lived is described in verse 10. We lived in a certain way before you, so that when we said something to you, you really understood it because of our lifestyle.
Here's a principle. Men, if you don't live it at home, you've got no message for your kids. If you don't live a holy, godly life in the home, you can't tell them about any moral standard. Your speech will fall short.
But if you do live it at home, your speech is enhanced. Now your words are powerful. Now your words are meaningful. Now they are credible. Otherwise, it's like that scene in The Wizard of Oz. You remember it.
When Dorothy and her dog-- what's the dog's name? Toto. Dorothy and Toto and their three new friends make their way to the great palace of Oz, and they're enamored by that huge mask on the wall. The great Oz speaking, smoke coming from his face. I am the great and powerful Oz.
But then Toto runs to a curtain and pulls back the curtain to reveal this feeble, little man pulling levers to make it all happen. The man behind the curtain. If we don't live what we say to our kids, they see the mask, but eventually, they'll see the man behind the curtain. And that will make a huge impact.
Men, you are the spiritual leader of your home, whether you realize it or not, whether you like it or not. And you are either leading your family closer to God or further away from God. And I wonder what our kids are seeing. Are they seeing a dad who seeks golf balls more than God on Sundays? Are they seeing a dad who seeks football more than fellowship? Fun more than the family?
We're told that in this generation kids who grow up-- by the time they hit college-- kids who grow up in church, that you can just expect them to leave the faith. It's part of the culture now. They may be raised in a church. You poured into them. You've done all that you can. Taking them to Sunday school, but by the time they reach college, and they're on their own, they will leave the flock.
It's not always the case, but is there any wonder to that? Because a kid is going to think, if God was not important to Dad, why on Earth should God be important to me? So Paul says, we live before you devoutly.
Look at the second word, justly. Justly means honestly or equitably or we were fair. We were fair. One thing I notice about kids, fairness is huge. If you have more than one child-- I was easy. I had one son, an only begotten son. But when you have more than one child, they're always worried, are you being as fair to me as you are to her or him? What about the other child in this equation?
That's not the only way fairness is seen. Sometimes you can treat a child one way one day and the opposite way the next day, under the same circumstances, and they see the inequitability of that, the inconsistency of that. It messes with them.
I was reading a paragraph by two Harvard sociologists who, after studying this, came to the conclusion that the number one-- there were several reasons-- but the number one factor in raising children-- the number one factor to prevent delinquency in a child was the fair, firm, and consistent discipline of a father. Firm, fair, and consistent discipline of a father.
So we behaved ourselves devoutly and justly. Look at the third word, blamelessly. Now hold on. Doesn't say perfectly. There are no perfect fathers, save one, and that's our Father who art in heaven. He's the only perfect father. Everyone else fall short.
But the idea here of blamelessly means literally without a charge. Now a charge may be leveled against, but it won't be able to stick. It's without charge, without blame.
The Word speaks of one who faithfully fulfills an obligation. Now I thank God for fathers like you who carry out, fulfill obligations. But we live in a country, we live in a culture-- you are surrounded by something very different.
Tonight 20 million kids will go to bed in a single parent family, 20 million kids. It's part of this culture. I understand that. What that means is 43% of US children live without their fathers, and that's according to the Census Department, 43%. You say, OK, Skip, that's our culture. What's the big deal? So what?
Here's the "so what." Fatherless daughters are 53% more likely to marry as a teenager. Fatherless daughters 111% more likely to have kids as a teenager. Fatherless sons are 300% more likely to become incarcerated. Fatherless children, in general, are twice as likely to drop out of high school. That's the "so what." That's the big deal. Those are the implications.
In the 1990s, there was a television show in Britain on the BBC. The name was striking. It was called "Men Behaving Badly." What a title, "Men Behaving Badly." Let's make a show out of men behaving badly. First of all, you don't have to go very far to find examples.
Second, they cast it as a comedy, but it's no laughing matter. It's not a joke. It became a joke for British television. But you know there is only one solution to men acting badly. It's other men acting godly, behaving godly.
And how about that? Let's raise up a generation out of this group of men behaving godly. That's the antidote to that. It's been said that a boy loves his mother but will follow his father.
So where are you leading them, dads? You're leading your children somewhere. Where is it? Great dads live transparent lives.
Here's the second observation. Great dads speak wholesome words. Now that's verse 11. Paul says, "As you know how we exhorted and comforted and charged--" every one of those is speech. Those are words spoken. "You know how we exhorted, comforted, and charged every one of you as a father does his own children."
That first word, exhorted, a better translation of that is we encouraged. [NON-ENGLISH] is to come alongside, or call alongside, and to encourage. And you know, I've discovered that kids are easily discouraged. Doesn't take much to discourage a kid. It can be the tone of voice. It can be the body language. It can be a certain word that you use, but they hear a little bit differently. They become easily discouraged, and they can quickly lose hope when they do, especially if they're always told what's wrong with them, and what they could do better to hit the mark you have set for them, rather than what's right with them.
In Proverbs 15, it says, harsh words stir up-- what? Do you know the verse? Stir up anger. Harsh words stir up anger, but a soft answer turns away wrath. I bring that up because did you know that in the New Testament there's only one verse of scripture that tells parents how to raise their children? One direct peace of teaching.
It's found in Ephesians 6 verse 4. You know what it says? "Fathers--" it's addressed to fathers-- "Fathers, don't provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and the admonition of the Lord." That's the single verse given to Christian parents on how to raise their children. Fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath.
That is, don't irritate them, a better translation. Fathers, don't exasperate your children by coming down hard on them. So Paul says, we encouraged you as a spiritual father to spiritual children.
The second word in verse 11 is we comforted them. Now this is a strange word. I say strange, because the word comforted means to console, to soothe, or to calm. We don't typically associate that as dad's role. That's mom's role. I remember coming to my mom for consolation and comfort. She would soothe me. She would calm me down.
I'd go to dad, and he'd say, go to your mom. What do you think I am, a mother? I'm your father. He just didn't buy into that.
Here's what I think it's saying to us. Dads, show your tender side. If you don't have one yet, let's develop one. Show your tender side. You've got a tough side. We know that, but now show your tender side in the midst of-- show that you're tough and tender. Show that you're strong but also sensitive.
The last, really, decade I've found myself tearing up more. There are certain things that I'll look at in life, and I'll just get misty eyed, and it was never part of my profile before. I was just too cool for school to do that. But the last decade, I find myself crying over little things.
And here's what I discovered. My family likes it. Look, he's crying again. You should check it out, and they think it's just so cool. I'm not all that excited about it. It just happens.
I grew up with a dad who was-- he was tough. He was strong. World War II, Army Air Corps guy, set the standard, toe the line. He wasn't warm. He wasn't a tender man. But every now and then, every now and then, he would show a bit of tenderness. It would leak out, and when it did, it was magical. It was memorable, because it was so rare that it happened.
And if those moments were less rare and more the norm, what a difference that would make in the home. A Gallup youth survey of 1,000 teenagers conducted over a 24 hour period revealed some striking things. It revealed that 42% of these teenagers had not received any words of praise during the 24 hour period in which they were tested, from their father. Not a word.
One half got no hugs, no kisses. And 44% never heard the words, I love you. Those are words that should flow constantly, all the time. You see a person you love, I love you. It might be the last time you say it to them.
So we exhorted. We comforted. Now look at that third word in verse 11, something he said. And charged, now this is a different word. This is the strongest word of the three mentioned in verse 11. It's a word that means to teach and instruct, but it carries more weight. It means to insist when you teach and instruct, or to require when you teach or instruct.
And the idea here includes testifying of your own experience to your kids. Something I've discovered, kids really aren't interested in hearing. At least, I wasn't when my dad would say, when I was a boy. And my eyes would roll around in my head, and I knew what he was about to say. I could finish the monologue. I could have scripted it. I'd heard it so many times, but I needed to hear it again. And he made sure I heard it again.
He would testify of his own experience, and the idea here is that a child should be charged. It should be insisted. It should be required. And when you do it, you testify of your own experience, and here's why. Because you've walked the road, dads, longer than they have, and you know where the ruts are. You know where the bumps in the road are.
And you can help them not fall into those ruts and get hurt on those bumps. That's where testifying of your own mistakes and where you have fallen and what you have learned all comes to play. So let me quote that verse to you that I just mentioned a moment ago.
Ephesians 6:4, "Fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath--" that's just the negative side. "but raise them up--" or bring them up-- "in the training and the admonition of the Lord." I've seen too many fathers who have sort of washed their hands of child raising. That's my wife's job. It's the church's job.
But when you come to stand before God, He will lay the responsibility and the accountability on your shoulders. Some men don't want to hear that. In fact, they hear that, and they get really a little bit irritated and mystified, because they go, ah, what would I do? How could I teach them? What am I going to teach them? I'm glad you asked.
A hint is to go back to the book of Proverbs, on your own, sometime, after today. Go back to the book of Proverbs, all the book, but just look at the first two chapters. Let's start there. It's essentially the words of a father to his children, instructing them. My son, my son, my son-- he's giving him instructions.
And he gives practical instruction. How to honor God. How to fear God. How to pick good friends. How to be financially responsible. How to stay pure morally. All of that is the instruction of a father to children. Read through those two chapters. And get that advice, and tell them that. Tell them that.
Now others are hearing this. They say what I'm saying. They see me making a big deal out of dads. And they're wondering, why does so much responsibility lay on the shoulders of a father? Here's why.
First of all, because a child's view of God is largely dependent on the relationship that child had with his or her physical, earthly father. And it's simple to understand why. When you learned how to pray, how did Jesus say pray? When you pray, say, our Father who art in heaven. Anybody who says the word father will immediately, in their mind, play a word association game that takes them back to the only experience of a father they have known on the earth, and that's either good or bad, which will enhance or taint their view of God, for good or bad.
There's another reason why much is made of dad. Dads, your daughters are going to grow up and marry men someday. You need to show the standard to your daughter of the men they are to marry. That's the concept that they should walk away with. They need to know what to look for.
I've discovered something about dads with daughters. I've had a son so, in that sense, it was easier. But I've seen men just bristle at the idea that they're going to have to give this princess away to some buffoon someday. Over my dead body. I've heard him say, it was like fighting words.
One father admitted at a wedding-- he said, I get the feeling that I'm giving a million dollar Stradivarius to a gorilla. So set the standard. Show them the man you want them to marry by being that man.
And there's a third reason why much is made of dads. Because your son is going to marry a woman one day, and you need to show him, model for him, teach him how to be a man. How to treat his wife. How to love his wife. How to love those children. Dads, it's much easier to build a boy then to repair a man.
Take it from someone who's been in the business of repairing men and women because of broken relationships with a whole staff of people who counsel them week in and week out. It's much easier to build a boy then to repair a man.
Great dads live transparent lives. Great dads speak wholesome words, and here's the third observation. Great dads will see rewarding results.
Verse 12, "That you would walk worthy of God who calls you in His own kingdom and glory." Unfortunately, I just can't isolate that verse. It's really all part of a sentence. So if you don't mind, let's read all three verses together so you get the flow of the thought.
"You are witnesses, and God also. How devoutly, justly, and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe. As you know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children. That--" or so that, or in order that, or here's the result we're looking for-- "that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory."
This is a father's goal. Now let me rephrase that. This is a great father's goal. A great father wants to see son or daughter saved, serving the Lord, walking with the Lord. Oh, yeah, we want to see the kids grow up and make it on the team and go to college or go to the best school or get accolades in whatever their status is in life. All that's good.
But more than anything else, we want to see them go to heaven, because 100 years from now, it won't matter what house you lived in. It won't matter what car you drove. It won't matter if they got on that team or that dance circuit. What will matter is did you give the world a child like this, who walks worthy of God who calls you to His own kingdom and glory.
The other day I was at the car wash. I was getting my car washed. That's deep, isn't it? And I had been there two weeks before getting my wife's car washed. And two weeks prior, I had noticed that the manager of the car wash was wearing a sling. And two weeks later, when I brought my car in, the sling was gone.
So I walked up to him and just said, hey, I noticed a couple weeks ago you were wearing a sling. Did you have surgery? What happened? He goes, well, it's a really sad story. A customer came in one day, here to the car wash, got out of the car and assaulted me. I said, well, why did he do that? Because there's not much to assault when you get out of the car. You haven't even seen the guy.
He goes, that's the thing. We don't know why, but he came after me with a knife. Got it on video. Police went after him. He got arrested. But this man got out of the car and came after me, and he hurt my shoulder pretty bad. I'm going through therapy now.
He said, but Skip, you know what the saddest thing was? His son was in the car and got out of the car with his dad and saw the whole thing. My heart broke. I knew that was not the only time a son watched his father that violent. But let me ask you, do you think that boy will grow up walking with the Lord? Barring some miracle out of heaven, not going to happen.
Sad confession of one father, he wrote this. I took my children to school, but not to church. I taught them to drink, but not of the living water. I enrolled them in Little League, but not Sunday school. I showed them how to fish, but not to be a fisher of men. I made the Lord's day a holiday instead of a holy day.
Dads, share the gospel with your children. They're not too young to hear it. They're not too young to hear it. They are just like their adult counterparts. They need the same thing that we all need. We need to know that we're sinners, separated from God at birth, that we need God's salvation, that Jesus paid it all.
And they need to be taught. They need to be discipled on how to live for God in a world that is totally opposed to that and at every turn will fight them on that. They need to know how you navigate that in this culture, in this world. And how you serve the Lord, because a father is simply a partner with God in making disciples of his children.
One of the greatest characteristics about God, to me, is that He is a father. It's one of the great char-- I've always loved this. I love that, of His royal titles in Isaiah chapter 9, one of them is He is everlasting Father. I love that the Psalms say He is a father to the fatherless.
I love that Jesus said, when you pray, say our Father in Heaven. Because this is something that, to me, I always made a point of instilling in my son as he was growing up. I wanted him to know that he has another Father, not just me.
And I'd tuck him in and I'd say, I'm your father, but Nate, you have another Father. And when this father's role is done and I'm not with you anymore, and I can't see where you are, I can't see the choices you make, there's somebody, another Father, that you're accountable to. And it would be my greatest joy for you to submit to Him and His rulership.
Now I want to close on a higher note. First of all, I really do want to honor and thank you, dads. There are so many great fathers in this congregation. Some-- just a few of them-- we've shown on this little video clip. But thank you for what you've done.
Thank you that you have sacrificed. Thank you for the fact that you, by your sacrifice and love, have made your family, this church, this city, a better place to be because of that. You are to be honored today, and we thank you for that.
Second, I am realizing more and more the brevity of life. I stand on a platform with steps on it, and it was just a few years ago I remember my son, Nate, standing on these steps to see how many steps he could clear before he hit the floor. These steps-- it was just the other day, it seemed like. And then he'd jump, and he'd feel good. And he'd run down the aisles.
And people would even come up to me and say, your son shouldn't run in church. I said, why not? I don't want to look at church as the most boring place on Earth. I want him to know that he had a little leeway. Enough people get pushed into that mold, including myself. I said, this is just a building. You're the church. Let him run around, have a little fun.
But now, I've got grandkids who also love to jump from those same steps onto the floor. And so when I watch them, I'm comparing who did it better. They're doing better than their dad. That's really great. Best part of being a father-- don't tell Nate this-- best part of being a father is being a grandfather. If I would have known it was this good, I would have had grandkids first.
But I came across this little funny piece, and it shows a family who used to get together a lot. And this is from a grandchild's perspective. It was after a Christmas vacation. The teacher asked the students to write about their holidays. So here's a boy who wrote about visiting his grandparents in a retirement home with lots of retired folks.
This boy writes, we always spend Christmas with Grandma and Grandpa. They used to live here in a big, red house, but Grandpa got retarded. And they moved to Florida. They live in a place with lots of retarded people. They live in tin huts, and they ride big, three-wheeled tricycles and go to a big building called a wrecked hall. But it's fixed now.
They play games and do exercises, but they don't do them very good. There's a swimming pool that they go to. They get in it, and they just stand there in the water with their hats on. I guess they don't know how to swim.
My grandma used to bake cookies and stuff, but I guess she forgot how. Nobody cooks. They all go to fast food restaurants. As you come into the park, there's a dollhouse with a man sitting in it. He watches all day so they can't get out without him seeing them.
They wear badges with their names on them. I guess they just don't know who they are. My grandpa and grandma worked all their lives and earned their retardment. I wish they could move back home, but I guess the man in the dollhouse just won't let them out.
This has nothing at all to do with my message. I just really wanted to read it, because I want to say this. As somebody who is closer to retardment than I used to be, I'm now at a place where I want to leave a gift to my grandchildren, my son, and daughter-in-law, and their kids. I want to leave a gift, and it's not a sermon.
More than all of the sermons I've preached from this place, I want to give them a gift of a life well-lived. Greatest gift I know to give them is a life before God well-lived. If I can do that, that's success.
Hey, would you stand please? We're going to pray together as we stand, and then we'll close in a song. Father-- how we love to say that, Father-- though you are mighty, God, though you are omniscient and omnipotent and all the fancy, theological terms we've learned-- Father in heaven, we come to you as kids who fall down and get back up and fall down again and get back up. And you teach us how to walk. And you're so patient with us.
But we come to you as a Father, wanting to reflect as dads to our children and grandchildren, our families, what's it like to be an imperfect person saved by your grace, learning to get it right and passing that on. Would you help us? Would you instruct us so that we might instruct them? Can we find your forgiveness so we can ask it freely from those that we wrong? Bring reconciliation, Lord.
I know that I'm dealing with people this morning, many of whom have a very bad relationship with their dad. Some haven't contacted that one for years. There's brokenness. I pray, Father, for healing. And Lord, apart from the other party, whether it is our father or we are the father, and they're children, I pray that, even at this stage of our life-- if we've raised children already, if we're grandparents already, we've blown it. If we just say that, and ask Your forgiveness and theirs, whether they receive it or not, the issue is we've done it. We've tried.
I pray, Father, for that healing. In Jesus' name, amen.
Even if your own dad did not match up to these characteristics, you can be the kind of person who makes a positive impact. How will you put these truths into action. We want to know. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
And just a reminder, you can give financially to this work at calvaryabq.org/giving. Thank you for joining us for this teaching from Skip Heitzig of Calvary Albuquerque.