Sunday, June 17, 2018

Sunday Praise & Worship Message - Start Them off Right

Today we celebrate Father’s Day. It is a day we set aside to recognize the men in our lives that we call father. They are the ones who teach us about life and guide us into adulthood. In my own life, I had the best example of a God-fearing man, my father, who instilled in me the importance of service to my family, friends and strangers. He nurtured the desire to serve all those in need without regard for personal gain or praise. His most important lesson was to love God totally and completely and to sing His praises. I thank God daily for my father. 

After my father went on to be with the Father in Heaven, God provided additional men in my life who continued to guide me along the path of righteousness. Each left an indelible mark in my life that I would never forget. Let us look at Proverbs 22:6 to get a better understanding of the responsibilities of parents to ensure that their children have a great relationship with the Lord. “Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.” Even though both my father and mother have gone on to be with the Lord, their lessons and directions still guide my steps along the right path. There have been times when my faith was shaken to the core and I have moved away from the Lord. I, however, would return to the faith that my parents instilled in me, a faith that my father exemplified each and every day of his life.

Fathers and mothers have an important responsibility to direct their children in the ways of the Lord. As spiritual leaders of the household, it is the responsibility of men to ensure that their children learn not only important life skills but also to respect their mothers, give to the poor and needy, love their neighbors and, most importantly, to love God with all of their heart, mind and soul. In short, men have a duty from God to provide guidance. Children of a godly household are taught by their parents to fix their thoughts on “what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable” and to “think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise”.  This is what a godly man will teach his children and, in time, the children will teach their children. Each generation learning the way of righteousness and to serve the Lord wholeheartedly.

Parenting and being a father are tremendous responsibilities that should not be taken lightly or for granted. Let us look at Joshua 24. As Joshua addresses the children of Israel, he tells them that they should return to the one true God and not worship the gods of the other people around them. “14 So fear the Lord and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord alone. 15 But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.

Joshua challenges his people to make a decision to either worship God or worship the dead idols of those around them. In one statement, he sets the tone for his family, “But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” It is that declaration that only the spiritual leader of the household can make. Like Joshua, fathers can choose to turn away from the Lord or they can declare in a strong, bold voice their dedication as well as their family’s’ dedication to the Lord. 

It is not an easy thing to do. It requires that fathers also understand their other responsibilities to their families. In Ephesians 5:25, Paul tells husbands to “love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Continuing into chapter 6:4, Paul also counsels fathers not to provoke their “children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Once again, we clearly see why fathers have tremendous responsibilities to not only their children but also to their families. It is not an easy burden to carry, but fortunately men do not have to bear it alone. God, the Father, is always there to guide them by providing them with the wisdom necessary to lead the family through the dry and weary lands to a higher plane and greener pastures. 

Even after the children are grown and have gone to live their own lives, fathers still have the responsibility to continue teaching. Let us look at Deuteronomy 4:9. “But watch out! Be careful never to forget what you yourself have seen. Do not let these memories escape from your mind as long as you live! And be sure to pass them on to your children and grandchildren.” With all of the things that can easily distract our children and lure them away from the path of righteousness, fathers must be on guard to make sure that their children and grandchildren remain firmly planted in their faith and continue their daily walk with the Lord. 

This world can easily lure children away from their faith. In the past couple of years, the Pew Research Center has noted a steady drop in church attendance. Children have been leaving the path of righteousness for the things of this world only to find themselves empty and wanting more. When they remember the teachings of their parents specifically their fathers, they realize that what they miss is that special relationship with the Lord. Soon they begin to return to their faith, the faith of their fathers. 

I, like most children, wandered away from my faith and soon realized that I felt something missing. There was a big void in my soul that could not be filled and a hunger that could not be satiated. I looked to different philosophies and ideas to fill that void, but nothing seemed to really work. Like the prodigal son, I soon returned to my father’s lessons of righteousness and felt a peace that this world could not provide. I knew that only God could provide that peace. 

As I became a father, it was my responsibility to raise my daughter in a godly manner and to provide her with the best example of being righteous. Did I get it right every time? No, but I looked to God to provide me with guidance and help to be the best I could. I sometimes failed, but in the end, I know that I had nothing to worry about. My daughter understood the meaning of love and what it meant to care for others.

The best example I could provide you with is one day when I was feeling low about my illness. I had gone through yet another intravenous treatment. With all of the other problems we were facing, the world seemed like it was closing in on my family and myself. I felt alone. As I talked with my daughter, I began to weep uncontrollably. I felt so alone and powerless to do anything. My daughter gave me something at that very moment that, to this day, was the best gift of all. She gave me a hug and held me in her arms. 

As her father, I should have been the one consoling her during her time of trial and trouble. Here she was doing what I should have been doing for others. As I think about that moment, I remember the last part of Proverbs 22:6, “When they are older, they will not leave it (the right path).” The lessons that I tried to instill in her life guided her along the path of righteousness and her heart was filled with the love for family, friends and strangers. That one moment and hug meant so much to me and continues to mean more than all the worldly wealth combined. She gave me comfort as I had given her comfort when she was growing up. I truly understand Proverbs 6:22 and know that she will be able to continue her walk with the Lord along that path of righteousness.

I encourage each of you today to visit or call your father and let them know just how special he is and how much you appreciate what he provided. You could not give them a better gift. Just your words alone will move him to tears of joy. To the fathers, I ask that each of you ask God to continue to bless you with wisdom to direct your feet along the path of righteousness and to give you the strength to lead your family in accordance with God’s will. When we thank our fathers and our Heavenly Father, we can rest assured that we can stand firm in His grace.   

May the Lord bless you and protect you. May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace. 
~ Numbers 6:24-26 New Living Translation (NLT)

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