Disciplemaking Dads

1 Thessalonians 2:10-12

June 14, 2014 | Brian Bill

Dads, we want to say thanks today.  Normally the pattern for preachers, me included, has been to magnify moms on Mother’s Day and to diss dads on Father’s Day.  ABCnews.com posted a story about this phenomenon: “Fathers sleep a lot, and they snore loudly.  When they’re awake, they like to fish or golf, but they’re comically bad at both…they’re complete couch potatoes, always watching television and hogging the remote.  At least, that’s the less-than-favorable image of Dad on Father’s Day greeting cards.  It’s a striking contrast to the poetic praise often expressed at Mother’s Day.  Many men say they are tired of the ‘put-down’ cards and would like some affirmation for a change…”

I read something this week entitled 50 Reasons Why It’s Good To Be a Man.  I won’t read all of them but I did put together my own top-10 list:

  1. You know stuff about tanks.
  2. You can go to the bathroom without a support group.
  3. If someone forgets to invite you to something he can still be your friend.
  4. You can drop by to see a friend without bringing a little gift.
  5. If another guy shows up at the same party in the same outfit, you might become lifelong buddies.
  6. One wallet, one pair of shoes, one color, all seasons.
  7. There is always a game on somewhere.
  8. Your pals can be trusted never to trap you with, “So…notice anything different?”
  9. If something mechanical doesn’t work, you can bash it with a hammer and throw it across the room.
  10. You can do your nails with a pocketknife.

I celebrate the commitment to fathering that I see in a number of young fathers here at Edgewood.  I know of many devoted dads in this church who play and pray with their kids.  You are living on mission in your home and we want to celebrate dads who are making disciples and want to give you some affirmation for a change.  

We also want to celebrate older dads today by giving gift cards to the two oldest dads in each service.  We did this for moms on Mother’s Day and someone mentioned that we didn’t share what the gift cards were for.  Well, I don’t remember but let’s just say that the guy gift cards are not to Bed, Bath and Beyond…they’re for Outback Steakhouse.

 In a Breakpoint Commentary, John Stonestreet writes: “…92 percent of those polled by the National Center for Fathering say that dads make a ‘unique contribution’ in their children’s lives, and that 70 percent see absentee dads as the biggest family or social problem in America.”  Jim Daly, the president of Focus on the Family has written a new book called, “The Good Dad: Being the Father You Were Meant to Be,” in which he argues that the answer to societal breakdown begins at home

I recognize that for many of you this day is difficult because your dad is no longer here or has dropped the ball somehow.  The U.S. Census Bureau has stated that we have become a fatherless nation.  Six years ago, 33% of the 72 million children in America went to bed without their biological father in the home.  Today, according to James Merritt, 43% of American kids live in a home without their biological father.

Some of us have been blessed with tremendous models of what fatherhood was meant to be: a reflection of our relationship with our Father in heaven.  But there are others who have been ignored, neglected, abused or abandoned.  And for you, Father’s Day is anything but happy.
I sincerely hope that you will allow our Heavenly Father to meet that which is lacking in your life

I sincerely hope that you will allow our Heavenly Father to meet that which is lacking in your life.  May you experience the truth of Psalm 68:5: “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.”

My aim is to both encourage and exhort dads to be about the task of making disciples in your families.  If you’re a dad, you are called to live on mission as a spiritual mentor to your kids.  We’re going to do this by putting together 10 parenting principles from three different passages that are specifically addressed to dads.  We’ll begin in 1 Thessalonians 2 and then we’ll head over to Ephesians 6 and then end in Malachi 4.  

Please turn to 1 Thessalonians 2:10-12:  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.”  The Apostle Paul is writing to the church in Thessalonica to remind these new believers of how he behaved when he was with them years earlier.  In the beginning of the chapter he uses the metaphor of a mother to explain his gentleness and now he focuses on his fatherly side.

Dads, here are 10 ways we want to say thanks today. 

1. Thanks for being a good example. 

Notice in verse 10 that Paul and his ministry partners point to how they behaved among the believers: “You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe.”  They were “devout,” which means that they were set apart for ministry.  They were “just,” meaning that their character and behavior was upright.  And they were “blameless,” which is literally translated, “not able to find fault in.” 

In short, Paul and his team dealt with these believers with dignity and honor.  I was really touched this past week when the world celebrated the 70th Anniversary of D-Day.  

Listen to this news report from the Today Show: “A British World War II veteran who was reported missing from his nursing home on Thursday night turned up on the beach in Normandy — wearing his medals — during the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion on Friday.  Bernard Jordan, 89, left The Pines, a nursing home in England, on Thursday morning and did not return that night.  Dressed in a gray raincoat with a jacket underneath that had his medals pinned to it, Jordan took a bus to France to be there for the anniversary of the largest amphibious assault in history.”

Bernard Jordan still sees himself as on mission and he was not going to miss the commemoration.  He’s a great example for all of us, isn’t he?  He found a way to be where he needed to be.  Dads, thanks for being where you need to be!

2. Thanks for caring for your kids. 

In verse 11 Paul describes his relationship with this church like a dad deals with his own children: “As you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children.” The phrase “every one of you,” is emphatic, meaning that they had a personal rapport with each one of these baby believers.  Dads, it’s important for us to get as close as we can to each of our kids.  In order to provide personal counsel, we must know each of their personalities.  Look for ways to spend time with them, figuring out what it is they like to do.  

I will always treasure the times I had with my dad growing up, whether that was fishing or hunting or working on cars or splitting wood, or just getting away from my sisters.  One of my favorite things has been to go on “daddy/daughter” dates with our girls.  

Way to go, dads for caring for your kids.

3. Thanks for exhorting your kids. 

In verse 11 the first word is “exhorted” and it means “to come alongside with instruction and insight in order to move someone in a specific line of conduct.” We all need someone to encourage us, to come close and cheer us on, don’t we?  This word is similar to the word used for the Holy Spirit, the one who encourages us by coming alongside and was used of exhorting troops to get back into the battle.  Thanks, dads for those times you see discouragement in your kids and you’ve spoken the right words or given a hug or just listened so that they get back in the battle.  Our kids need to hear us say, “You can do it.  I know you can.  It’s time to stay in the game.  I’m with you.”

One of my friends is Mike.  Mike is a strong believer and leaves me a voice mail prayer every Friday ever since we moved to the QCA.  When Mike’s two children were teenagers he would tell them three things every morning:

  • First, you have what it takes to be a difference-maker.  I love you and am proud to be your dad.
  • Second, God has places and situations already prepared for you today where you will have the chance to be a difference-maker, to bring light where it is dark and vibrant life where things are dying – pay attention!  Do not miss the opportunity to light it up and bring life!  You are not in those spots by accident!
  • He reminded them thirdly what King Solomon wrote in Proverbs 4:23: “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”

Dads, here’s a shout-out for exhorting your kids!

4. Thanks for comforting your kids.

The next word we see in verse 11 is “comforted.” This word is nearly synonymous with exhort and means to come alongside with sympathy and concern.  It’s the idea of giving comforting words to cheer up our children.  This word is used in John 11:19 when many came “to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother.” It’s also used in 1 Thessalonians 5:14: encourage the fainthearted” or as another translation puts it: cheer up the discouraged.”  When our kids are doing OK, they need encouragement.  When they’re falling apart, they need comfort.  In both instances kids need fathers who will come close to them.  

I don’t always get this one right but I’m learning that sometimes our daughters need space and other times they need hugs and then some hang out time.  Kudos to you, daddy for comforting your kids!

5. Thanks for charging your kids to go deep with God. 

The word “charged” means “to beg earnestly” and was used of an anguished appeal from one who is a witness.  Our kids need dads who will give testimony of what is right and who will challenge them to go to the next level: “that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.” Faithful fathers provide correction in a spirit of comfort and encouragement.  The goal is to have each child live worthy of God, to be sold-out to Christ, not lukewarm and half-hearted.  

I’d like to point out that these three words: exhorting, comforting and charging are in the present tense which means they are to be our continual practice.  Thanks dads for repeatedly reinforcing these important truths as your mission in life.

It’s biologically easy to become a father, but biblically challenging to actually “father” our children

Let’s turn now to Ephesians 6:4: “And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.”  Notice that Paul is calling out fathers.  I think Paul addresses just dads here because he knows that we especially need to hear what follows.  In essence, we’re challenged to see the word “fathers” as a verb not just a noun.  It’s biologically easy to become a father, but biblically challenging to actually “father” our children.  

Bless you dads, for taking your kids deep.

6. Thanks for not exasperating your kids.  

This part of our responsibility is quite challenging – we’re told to “not provoke our children to wrath.” This is a caution or warning designed to put us on guard against stirring up anger in our kids either deliberately or through careless provocations.  Paul knows that fathers, who are fallen creatures, are prone to abuse their authority in the home.

The Greek word translated “provoke” or “exasperate” means “to rouse to anger” or “to enrage.”  The present tense of the verb indicates that we are to stop doing something that is common and continuous.  This warning is calling us dads to avoid anything that will eventually break the sprit of our children.  Paul puts it this way in Colossians 3:21: “Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.”   When we exasperate our kids, they can become bitter and bummed out.

As our girls have gotten older and become more familiar with this verse, sometimes they’ll actually call me out when I’m teasing them by saying, “Dad, you’re exasperating me.”  That’s generally a signal that I need to take a chill pill.

Haim Ginott has written some powerful words: “A child learns what he lives.  If he lives with criticism he does not learn responsibility.  He learns to condemn himself and to find fault with others.  He learns to doubt his own judgment, to disparage his own ability, and to distrust others.  And above all, he learns to live with the continual expectation of impending doom.” (“Between Parent and Child,” page 72).

Remember that our children are commanded by God to honor us.  When we provoke them to wrath, we are causing them to break the Fifth Commandment.  In such cases we are guilty before God for disobeying Ephesians 6:4 and also doubly busted for causing our children to stumble.  Dads, you’re appreciated for not exasperating your offspring.

7. Thanks for bringing your kids up to believe. 

The word “but” shows a contrast between what we should not do and what we are to do: “bring them up.”  We are to bring our children up because by nature they’ll go down.  Dads, we are to take an active role in shaping the character of our children.  Proverbs 29:15 says, “A child left to himself brings shame to his mother.”  

According to a 50-year study of Christian and non-Christian families, most young adults who follow Christ either come from non-Christian homes or from homes where they grew up in love with Jesus because a parent was in love with Jesus.  Sadly, very few believers came from homes with an indifferent, apathetic commitment to Christ.  It’s sobering that the chances are better for a child growing up in a non-Christian home to become a sold-out believer than for a child growing up in a spiritually lukewarm environment.

The Puritans were right when they referred to the home as a little church.  They were so serious about it that if a father neglected the spiritual training of his family, he could be disbarred from taking communion.   Such an idea seems strange to us, which perhaps says more about our own laxness than it does about the strictness of the Puritans.

Disciplemaking dads provide a nurturing atmosphere in the home where children can grow up to love Christ and live on mission.  Hey, fellow fathers, props to you for not being passive about your child’s faith.

8. Thanks for disciplining your kids. 

The word “training” carries with it the idea of a warning, especially during “teachable moments.”  Literally, it means to “place before the mind.” I like the way the New Living Translation paraphrases Proverbs 13:24: “If you refuse to discipline your children, it proves you don’t love them; if you love your children, you will be prompt to discipline them.”  You may hesitate to discipline because you think that you’re being unkind to your kids.  Actually, when we don’t discipline, it’s more than unkind – it’s unloving.  If we love our kids, then we must admonish, rebuke, and discipline them.

Our kids not only need correction, they want it.  If we don’t give it to them, we’re failing them and may cause them to fall away from the faith.  Hebrews 12:11 speaks of God’s loving discipline in our lives by showing how beneficial it really is: “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.  Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

It’s important to understand the difference between discipline and punishment.  The purpose of punishment is to inflict penalty and focuses on the past.  The purpose of discipline is to promote growth by looking to the future.  Dads, our kids are looking for us to train them and love them by disciplining them.  Thanks for having the courage to do this.

9. Thanks for admonishing your children. 

To “admonish” means to encourage and exhort.  It refers to any word of encouragement or reproof which leads to correct behavior.  And notice it is to be “in the Lord.” “Lord” is an extremely exalted title as Paul uses it in the New Testament.  To say that Jesus is Lord means that He is the rightful king of the universe, He is ruler over the entire world, He is commander of all the armies of heaven, He is triumphant over sin and death and pain and Satan and hell, and He will one day establish His kingdom in righteousness.

Dad, you are the point man in your home.  You are the coach of your team.  You are the captain and your barracks is boot camp for training young soldiers for the greatest combat in the world.  John Piper says it this way: “Your residence is a launching pad for missiles of missionary zeal aimed at the unreached peoples of the world.”

Voddie Buacham writes: “It has been said that as goes the family, so goes the world.  It can also be said that as goes the father, so goes the family.”

Our goal is not merely to get our kids to outwardly conform to a list of rules.  Our mandate is to develop children who seek to glorify God with their lives.  Thanks, dads for not just teaching your kids to do good things but to serve God and live for His glory through missional living.

10. Thanks for having a heart for your kids. 

My trouble, more often than not, is that I’m not engaged as a dad.  I’m not always fully present and as a dad I’m sometimes distant.  In short, my heart is not always in the job.  In the very last verse of the Old Testament, in Malachi 4:6, the prophet looks ahead to the ministry of John the Baptist and writes this: “And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.”

I’ve often wondered why this verse comes at the very end of the Old Testament.  This is God’s last word for about 400 years before the Gospels come on the scene.  God’s heart is for my heart to be toward my children and for the heart of my children to be turned toward me.  Dads, this is a specific challenge to us.  

I know for me it’s really a heart issue.  If my heart is fully focused on my daughters, then I will do a pretty good job of fathering.  Dads, if you sense that your heart is not really into parenting, and your kids don’t have much to do with you, then make this verse your personal prayer.  Ask God to turn your heart to your children and ask Him to turn their hearts to you.  He will be glad to answer a prayer like this.  While we cannot turn their hearts around we are responsible to make sure our own hearts are soft toward them.  

Maybe you have a hard heart because of some hurts in your heart.  I wonder if you need to forgive your father right now.  Or, maybe you’re a dad and you’ve been withholding forgiveness from a daughter or a son.  It’s time to make it right.

Ernest Hemingway loved to write about the country of Spain.  In his short story, The Capital of the World, Hemingway tells of a father and son who had stopped talking to one another.  Things got so bad that the son left home.  After several years, the father wanted to mend the relationship and so he looked everywhere for his son but couldn’t find him.  When he came to the capital city of Madrid, he decided to go to the newspaper office and take out a big ad in the newspaper that said this: “Paco, please meet me at 12 noon tomorrow in front of the newspaper office — all is forgiven.  I love you.  Your Father.”

The next day at 12 noon, there were 800 men named Paco standing in front of the building!  I suspect we have some Paco’s here this morning in need of forgiveness.  We also have some fathers who need to give the gift of forgiveness to others.  Thanks for looking for ways to let God heal the hurts in your own heart as you shepherd the hearts of your children.

Thanks, Dad!

I started by saying I wanted to give you some affirmation for a change.  That can be taken two ways.  Some of you dads and granddads may be encouraged right now because you haven’t received much affirmation.   Others of us might feel exhorted to make some changes.  That’s good.  Remember that Romans 2:5 says that it’s the “kindness of God that leads us to repentance.”

Dads, before you leave this service feeling piled and discouraged by your own failures and inconsistency, let me remind you of a few things:

1. There are no perfect fathers, except our Heavenly Father. 

Chuck Swindoll, in his book, “The Strong Family,” says this: “C’mon dads…Let’s start saying no to more and more of the things that pull us farther and farther away from the ones who need us the most…You’re not perfect?  So, what else is new?  You don’t know exactly how to pull it off?  Welcome to the club…your family doesn’t expect profound perfection, command performances, or a superhuman plan.  Just you – warts and all…Let’s get started.”

2. We can all be better dads if we will work at it.

Malachi 4:2 says that God comes with healing in His wings!  Let the bitterness go.  Forgive.  As someone has said, “One way to correct your children is to correct the example you’re setting for them.”  I talked to a dad this week that took a half day off work so he could celebrate his son’s birthday.  That’s a dad living on mission.

3. We do not father alone

If you’re not saved, you need the Savior!  You will never be able to lead your family until you make Jesus Lord of your life.

4. Grandpas can stand in the gap. 

I mentioned on Mother’s Day that there are many grandmas standing in the gap with the next generation and grandfathers have the same opportunity to pour into their grandkids.  Thanks for stepping up, Gramps!

5. Look for ways to be a mentor to others. 

There are many single moms in this church who would love to have a guy spend time with her children.  Randy May sent me an email this week about the need for “Big Brothers” in the QCA.  He told me that there are 150 kids on a waiting list.  Randy signed up and in his email said this: “I don’t like to use the ‘I don’t have time’ excuse because I know I can make time to volunteer.”  You can respond on your Connection Card and we’ll get the information to you.

Now that’s affirmation for a change!


A man came home from work late again, tired and irritated.  He found his 5-year-old son waiting for him at the door. “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.  Looking up, he asked, “Daddy, may I borrow $10 please?”

The father flew off the handle, “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 had calmed down, and started to think that maybe he was a bit hard on his boy.  Maybe his son really needed the money for something important.  And so, the father went up to his boy’s room and opened it, “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 that 10 bucks you asked for.”

The little boy sat straight up, 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 slowly counted out his money, and then looked up at his dad.

The dad, now ticked off, demanded to know what was going on, “Why did you want more money if you already had 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.”

Mission Possible

Do you remember the old Mission Impossible TV show?  I’ve adapted those legendary words: Your mission, dad, should you choose to accept it, is to live on mission by discipling your sons and daughters.  

Your family is waiting and wants you to lead.  Will you?

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?