A FEW GOOD MEN SERMON SERIES
HEIR CONDITIONING – ABRAHAM AND ISAAC
HOW TO BECOME THE ULTIMATE DAD
JUNE 19, 1994
Very often my daughter, Lee Beth, will rush up to me, look up at me with those big brown eyes and ask the following question. “Daddy, will you carry me on your shoulders?” Now what father can refuse a request like that? I say, “Sure honey.” I pick her up, put her on my shoulders and walk her around. After I get tired, I place her down. And the minute her feet hit the carpet, you guessed it, my two year old, EJ, comes running up and EJ asks me, “Daddy, up, Daddy, up”? That is his way of asking the same question. So I pick up EJ and carry him around for awhile. When I feel the weight of my children on my shoulders, Dads, I am reminded of the weighty responsibility I have being their father. They look up to me, they take their cues from me, they watch me. And while I am walking I am very conscious of the fact of making proper decisions in regard to footing, in regard to doorways and ceiling fans, because they are so precious to me. And your children, Dads, are precious to you.
Most of us don’t realize it, but decisions we make today affect the destiny of our children. Dads, when we are long gone our children will still be thinking about the kind of man their father was. What kind of a father was he? So it should be our agenda to be just like the Lord, because our children want to be just like us. Dads, I am a goal-oriented person and a goal oriented father. It is my desire to become what I call an ultimate father. I think every man here would echo that statement. And the great news is, God wants all fathers to become ultimate Dads and we can if we learn how to make the right decisions. If we learn, Dads, how to make the right decisions. God’s Word tells us precisely and in a very succinct manner how we can make the proper decisions.
There are six major decisions that every father faces. I want to encourage you, not discourage you. I also want to stand along side you instead of above you. Don’t think for a nanosecond that these are your problems, your decisions, your dilemmas and not mine. I am right there with you. I also want to challenge, motivate and stimulate you to be a better father, better than just normal, just average. I don’t want you just to blend into the scenery, I want you to stand up and become a difference maker.
Let’s jump right into the first decision we face. Presents vs Your Presence. Gifts vs time. Trinkets vs moments. It is so easy for us, fathers, to fall into this trap, to do the presents thing. It is too easy for us to spend large blocks of time, energy and effort in providing for our family so we can shower our children and our wives with the phenomenal, unbelievable, Neiman Marcus type gifts. And we justify our workaholism by saying that we are providing for our family in a mighty way. Dad, many of us take that mentality to an extreme. I have never met a family that was better off because of the gifts they have received. I am not saying gifts are bad. Gifts are great. But when they become the substitute, when presents become the substitute, Dad, for giving your children what they really want, your presence, then it really messes things up. That’s why the Bible boldly proclaims in Ephesians 5:15-16, “Be very careful, then, how you live…” There is something sinister occurring and it involves the market place vs the home. Fathers, we have got to make a choice. We have got to make a call today, because the marketplace screams for our attention. “Ah ha, ah ha, come this way because if you follow the marketplace you will have parties, perks and promotions. And you will get raises and you will be able to climb the corporate ladder and you will be able to really be someone.” The marketplace screams for our attention. And most men because we get our self-esteem from the marketplace, we just kind of inch our way closer and closer to the marketplace and then we just dive in. Being a great father, being a difference-maker dad, does not provide one with any parties, perks and promotions. But I am going to tell you something, your reward and awards here are perishable. Being a difference maker dad, that is imperishable, it lasts for eternity. And that is what I am talking about when I say heir conditioning.
The Bible continues…”Be very careful, then, how you live….making the most of every opportunity…” There is nothing, nothing, Dad, that you can substitute for you. There is nothing there except you. You are it. I remember back in school, when a teacher couldn’t come to school, they would bring in a substitute. And substitutes were never, ever the same. You can’t have a substitute play this role for you. So give your children what they want, what they need, what they desire. It is you. Here is your homework. State, “I will give each child a present of my time this week.” That is your homework. I will give each child a present of my time this week. Take each child and do something with them. Enter their world. You see, we mess up, Fathers, when we say this. “I am spending quality time with my son,” but then we drag him to the driving range. That is what we want to do. He wants to go to Chuckie Cheese and we want to go to the driving range. “Son, sit over here and play with your Chuckle Cheese doll and watch what Daddy is doing now with this new Big Bertha iron.” Whoosh. “Back up, you might get hit.” Whoosh. “Yeah, retrieve two or three of those balls for me.” It is great, it is great to teach your children, Dads, how to play golf, how to hunt, how to fish, how to enjoy the Rangers, all those things, but do enter their world, too.
Recently one evening I called some close friends. I talked briefly to the wife and then asked what her husband was doing since I wanted to speak with him. Let me tell you what she said. She said, “Ed, he is drawing hot air balloons with his oldest daughter.” And this guy weighs 235 pounds, and is 6’4″. You see, he was entering her world, spending time doing what she wanted to do.
When I look back on my life, I don’t remember the cool vacation spots that Dad took us to, or the nice gifts. But I do remember where he sat in the bleachers every time I played athletics. Or I remember his laugh, or I remember those long conversations we would have almost every night at mealtime. I remember his passion for Jesus. That is what I remember. The presence, the presence of my father. Dads, are you going to give presents, material things, or give what they need?
Let’s go to the next dilemma, the next decision that we face. A Morsel vs A Meal. A morsel vs a meal. I’ll tell you something I don’t like. Now I enjoy parties, but, when I go to a party and they just have little finger food, hors d’oeuvres and little morsels, I want more than that. “Let me have about 32 of those please.” Finger food, morsels don’t really satisfy the hunger pangs, do they? They make my stomach growl louder. “More, Ed, more food.” I want something substantial. I want something big when I eat. I want a meal. Dads, we only have a certain amount of emotional energy. And most of us as we dive into the marketplace, where we are leaders, creative and innovative, and we are difference makers. And after we have given our best, after we have fed those people we work with the meal, we drag home about 5:30 or 6:00. “Where is the lazy boy and where is my Snapple, honey, I’m just going to sit back and chill.” It is then that we give our children finger food, little morsels, little tidbits of Dad. And a lot of us have our children and our wives on about 1,500 parental calorie diet meals a day, just giving out a little bit. Dads, what I want to challenge you to do is, yes, give your best at work but put in as much effort, as much energy, as much creativity, as much humor, as much fun into your family at home. There is nothing that can replace that masculine touch. Watch your children and your wives come alive when you do this, when you begin to give them something nourishing, a full meal. The Bible says in Proverbs 24:3-4 “By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established: through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.” Those are the big three; wisdom, understanding and knowledge. Here is your homework, Dads. Say, I will plan one innovative and creative activity a month for my family. That’s right. I will plan one innovative and creative activity a month for my family. Have these activities goal oriented. What do you want your family to do because of this activity? Let me explain. Call the church office and speak to the person in charge of missions. Ask to be assigned a needy family to personally assist. If you want to show your children how to help people in need, to obey what the Bible says, take a Saturday or a Sunday afternoon, figure out something creative and innovative to do with this needy family. Buy them things they need, help with repairs.
Maybe you would like to show your children that materialism is a joke, a wasted effort, and that pursuing materialism puts one on treadmill. So you think, let’s see, we have Christmas coming up, I know what we will do that is creative. This Christmas we won’t spend any money on trinkets or toys we are going to make something for each other. The best Christmas that Lisa and I have ever had was about three years ago when we did that. We did not spend anything on the typical trinkets and toys, but we went out and we made gifts for our family. I know it sounds weird, I know it sounds unAmerican, counter-cultural. We were experiencing creativity and helping one another.
Maybe your goal is spiritual. Talk about some different scripture verses and get your family members to research each one and to present them in their own way. I don’t know what it is, but plan it and ask God for the creativity. God created everything, look at His genius and if we know Him, we know the Creator. Everyone is creative. So don’t ever say, “I’m just not creative, man, I’m just not.” If you know Christ you are. The power is there.
Let’s move now to a third decision we face. Lecture vs Listening. Lecture vs Listening. I love this one because it is my inclination to lecture. I make my living talking. I want to come home and just lecture. Lisa, don’t cloud me with the facts let me just lecture. And I will lecture away at her and LeeBeth and EJ. Usually when I lecture first, I discover the facts and I say, “Oh oh. If I only would have listened first.” To lecture or to listen. Here is what the scripture says about lecturing, James 1:19-20. I encourage you to read James 1 this afternoon. It is a chapter written directly to men. James 1:19-20 “…be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” I define listening as placing great importance on what other people say. Nowhere in the Bible do you find the home defined as an extension of the office. Nowhere in the Bible does it say your wife and your children are your employees and that you are the CEO. We have this corporate hat on at the office. We get into a frenzy, blowing and going, rocking and rolling. Then we come home and we don’t want to take it off. We think we should run our family and our home like that. Learn how to listen. That is why the Bible says man has two ears and one mouth. We are to listen more than we are to speak. Here is your homework assignment. Say, “I will approach every family member with two big ears and one small mouth.” James 1:19. “Be quick to listen..” I like that.
What does it mean to really listen to someone? How do you hear your children? I sometimes us an acrostic, the word ear. E stands for, establish eye contact. If you are really going to listen, establish eye contact. Don’t be what I call a Nolan Ryan listener. Remember Nolan Ryan, don’t you? He was a baseball player. Nolan, when he would pitch, if he had someone on first, which was a rarity, he would kind of, you know, look them off. Take a couple of glances. Fathers, have you ever found yourselves trying to listen to your kids like that? You may be reading about the terrible situation with OJ Simpson while your son and daughter are vying for your attention. Do you kind of look them off? LeeBeth the other night told me how she felt when she spoke to me. She said, “Daddy, you know every time I tell you a story, here is what you say” She imitated me saying, “That’s great LeeBeth. That’s great, LeeBeth.” She wants, instead, to feel listened to. So E means establish eye contact. A, become aware of body language. Yeah, listen to them but also watch them. What is the body saying? If you listen to your children when they are kneehigh they will talk to you, parents, when they are treehigh. R means to respond by summarizing. When your children are talking to you, let them know you are understanding and comprehending what they are saying by summarizing what they say in language they understand, in short, succinct sentences. That’s how you listen, Dads. Do that and watch the change take place.
There is a fourth area of decision. Perfection vs Promotion. We have a lot of perfectionist dads here always expecting the best. ” My kids only do the best. My wife has to look and act and respond perfectly.” If they don’t, something is wrong. Perfectionists overreact. Either something is the best, the greatest, incredible, unbelievable, and you have got to experience it or it is the worst, the sorriest and no good. A perfectionist doesn’t give anyone room to fail, to stumble, to fall. Most of us sit at the feet of those hall of fame baseball players. “Wow, what great men. Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, wow. If I can only be a hall of fame baseball player.” But when we look at their averages we find they were 311, 272, 297. That means, men, that when they bat ten times, about seven times they are out, either a strike out, a fly out or a ground out. But they are the best, even though they get a hit about three out of ten times. When your children strike out, when your children miss that pop up, do you still promote them, do you still treat them like a hall of fame baseball player? God says in His word, in Ephesians 6:4, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children…” Let me give you three definitions of exasperate. A major way to exasperate is to say one thing and do another. You talk to psychologists and they will tell you one of the biggest self-esteem negative licks a child can take, is for a father to promise them something and not to come through. “Yeah, we will go camping next month. I’ll promise you.” “Well I am busy now, how about next spring.” Also, to exasperate means you always blame, always blame, always point the finger, always emphasize the negative. Another way to exasperate is to be inconsistent with discipline. Kind of like a NBA ref. Talk about subjective. The New York Knicks have a great basketball team, don’t they? But they can call a foul anytime they want to. I don’t really like the way the NBA is going, I don’t watch very much of it, but what I have seen is this. You can just kill someone on the court and there will be no foul, and the next time, FOUL. Fathers, have you ever done that before? Your kid did something just horrible, commits treason, and you say, kind of like Ward Cleaver, “Beaver come on into the study. Now Beaver you shouldn’t have burned the garage down. We know we shouldn’t play with matches now. You will have to go to your room and miss supper just tonight. OK? Thank you. You are a great kid.” And then the next time, the little Beaver would just do something like making a 99 on a spelling test, “Beaver, what did you do? This is terrible.” You see that? You recognize that? The Bible tells us, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” I met a first grade teacher one time and here is how she would grade papers. Instead of grading a 70 paper as -3, she would call it a +7. I like that. Here is your homework, Dads. Say, “I will encourage my child and my family one time a day for the next week.” Find something good, find something you can promote about their lives. Then stand back and take a view of what can occur.
The next decision is, Sensuality vs Sensibility. Men, the greatest need in our marriages that the woman must fulfill is for sexual companionship. Read anything about marriage, a man’s number one desire is sexual fulfillment. And ladies, he has chosen you as the person to fulfill these needs. On the other hand, men, the number one need that women have is emotional fulfillment, I am talking about meaningful conversation. We have got to work on both of those things. And the Bible tells us in James, “Don’t say when you are tempted.” And by the way, if any man thinks he can sit with his arms crossed, tapping his foot, and say, “Well, this one is not for me. There is no way I will ever have an affair or I will ever cheat on my wife. No way, not me.”, then he is not very smart. Because James says we will all be tempted. When you are tempted, not if you are tempted. This section of scripture is written for men. It says “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me’…” “God is the one who led me to this hotel, God is the one that gave me that job and put that co-worker who is really attractive in my life.” “…For God cannot be tempted by evil. Nor does He tempt anyone, but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.” The word enticed is a game term. I am talking about big game hunting or fishing. Entice means to lure an animal from safety into an area of vulnerability and then the animal is trapped. Dads, the evil one wants to take you out and one of the best ways he does it is by getting you out from a place of safety, monogamy, being a one-woman man, out into a place of vulnerability, into an affair. I come in contact with too many marriages, too many people, too many children who have been devastated and torn apart by this sin. If you have had an affair, do what the Bible says, make it right, get away from it, cut the relationship off. But, be sure, it is something that our adversary uses to take us. It really is, and he can use it to rip apart your family. The book of James continues and it says, “…Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin: and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”
Now, I want to share with you a plan, that is just going to blow you away, men. I am going to tell you how you can affair-proof your marriage by doing one thing. It is the application point. Say, “I will carry around a photograph of my family with me.” If you are on a road trip on business and you feel temptation, take out your wallet and begin to show this person, this member of the opposite sex, a picture of your family. ” That’s my lovely wife. That is my seven year old daughter, my two year old son.” And watch the temptation subside. Put these pictures in your office, because many times temptations occur at the marketplace. Make sure you have those pictures. Take the pictures with you when you travel. I encourage you to put the picture of your family on your nightstand. It will keep you off the X-rated stuff, offered in almost every hotel room. And when your children call you when you are on the road and they ask you, “Dad, what are watching?” you can say, before God, the Brady Bunch, CNN or the Andy Griffith Show and not something else. Because, men, if you fail sexually outside the marriage bed, you are going to have to look your children in the eye and tell them why. For me, I would have to face my wife, Lisa. and she says she would carry a bayonet. And I won’t tell you what she would want to do with the bayonet. I will carry a picture of my family around. That will take care of this sensuality thing. The sixth decision. Lackadaisical vs Leadership. Am I going to be lackadaisical, am I going to kind of go with the flow, or am I going to be a leader? Think of the individual athletes we have seen fall from the pedestal, Magic Johnson, Pete Rose, OJ Simpson, just to name a few. And it shows us again, that if we put our confidence in man, in the things of the world, in fame, it is useless. It is nothing. But again, as that popular song so beautifully says, our prayer should be, I want to be like you, God, because I know my children want to be like me. So our role models need to be, of course, the Lord, and men of God, not the people who sign 55 million dollar contracts, who endorse Reebocks and Nike and Gatoraid and everything else, but men of God. We have many single parents here, and single parents, and I am talking to females, make sure you expose your children to men of integrity, men of authenticity, men of leadership who take their cues not from OJ Simpson or Magic but from God. And again, watch what happens. So being lackadaisical vs being a leader. Genesis 18:19. “..he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just…” I am talking about spiritual leadership here. Men, what would happen if you died right now? What would happen? What kind of spiritual void would be left in your family? You want to watch your wife and your children come alive? You begin to initiate spiritual things. Begin to initiate prayer. It needs to be your idea to take them to church. Wow. They are begging for it, they want it. To see a man who has a heart for God. We can look throughout the pages of scripture and see how fathers have failed. I think about Eli who spent so much time at the office that he messed up with his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas. I think about David, the king, the articulate one. He gave presents instead of his time. Look what happened to Absalom. I think about Jacob, that Hebrew hillbilly, who showed favoritism to his son, Joseph. And again look what happened.
Let me conclude by talking to you about a man named old father Abraham. Remember that song, “Father Abraham”? I love that song. As I read the Bible one time I asked myself this question, why did God choose Abraham? Why Abraham? Why not somebody else? Why the A man? And I wondered, and I wondered and I wondered. And have you ever been reading the Bible, and you are reading along and all of a sudden a verse will jump out like a pit viper and bite you on the nose. That happened this week to me. I was wondering, “God, why did you choose the A man?” And I read Genesis 18:19. “For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what He has promised him.” Boom. I thought, “Ed, can you apply this to your life?” Maybe you could insert your name for Abraham’s name, and play this game with me. This is how to apply scripture. “For I have chosen Ed, (a first round draft choice in the daddy draft) so that Ed will direct (as director of player personnel in my family) his children and his household after him (they will take their cues from me) so that the Lord will bring about for Ed what He has promised him.” There are thousands and thousands of promises in the Bible, men, and God will give you amazing things if you follow these cues and these decisions and understand what it means to be a parental heir conditioner.