Father’s Day 2014

Scripture: Matthew 17:10-13

10 Then his disciples asked him, “Why do the teachers of religious law insist that Elijah must return before the Messiah comes?” 11 Jesus replied, “Elijah is indeed coming first to get everything ready. 12 But I tell you, Elijah has already come, but he wasn’t recognized, and they chose to abuse him. And in the same way they will also make the Son of Man suffer.” 13 Then the disciples realized he was talking about John the Baptist.

INTRODUCTION

I do realize that we need some sort of an outline for today for the sake of making our point without being redundant. So here it is: I’m going to give you some advice about PROPHECY. Secondly, I am going to do a brief HISTORY lesson. Then I want to draw a CONCLUSION and end with a CHALLENGE.

CAUTION FLAG ON INTERPRETING PROPHECY

The rabbis and scribes taught that before the great day of the Lord, Elijah would come and restore all things: put everything into order. Obviously, this idea came from the prophet Malachi who said in chapter 4:5-6, “Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the Lord arrives. His preaching will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise I will come and strike the land with a curse.” The Old Testament closes with the word “curse.” This word comes from the fowlers snare, it means to be marked for destruction. Remember Achan took from the things that had been devoted to destruction and for that sin, he paid with his life and that of his family. The Jews have removed verse 6 from their bible so that it does not end with a curse. The curse we speak of is the price we pay for being impenitent, for being rebels against the will of God. To some extent the Jewish people have been under a curse for their rejection of Jesus Christ the long awaited Messiah.

My aim today is not to get into the prophecy and its fulfillment but I do want to wave a caution flag at this point. The Jews have never been weak intellectually. They are brilliant people. They make up far less than one percent of the world’s population and they have won over 15% of the Nobel Prizes. As a race, they are highly intelligent and very resilient. I would not want anyone to get the idea that I am anti-Semitic because I’m not but they misinterpreted the prophecy about Elijah. Jesus made it clear that John the Baptist fulfilled Malachi 4:5-6. Jesus said, “Elijah was here but he was not recognized.” The mistake that the Jews made was in their preconceived notion of what the prophecy meant. They had imaged the fulfillment in a certain way and had taught this for years. God did not fulfill the prophecy according to their imagination and it threw them for a loop. They not only missed “Elijah,” they also missed the Messiah and for the same reason. They had imagined a powerful king in the mold of David who would conquer the world and make the Jewish nation a power to be reckoned with but Jesus came not as a conquering king but as a suffering servant and they could not process this. So the first lesson of the day is: never paint God in a corner or attempt to put Him in a box. He has the ability to create new things every day. He is so infinitely creative that He never has to use the same mercies, he can use new mercy every day. God is infinite: He will not run out of mercy: the more He gives, the more He has to give. When you take prophecies and you say they have to be fulfilled in a certain way on a certain date, you set yourself up for failure. I can assure you that neither I nor you understand the mind of God and the truth of the matter is that we are going to have to wait and see how things unfold. But I don’t want to talk about prophecy today. I do want to talk about what the prophet Malachi said and share an observation or two.

A HISTORY LESSON

Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the Lord arrives. His preaching will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise I will come and strike the land with a curse.”  Now, I don’t want to take this scripture out of context but you do see that Malachi talks about the father/child relationship. Most scholars believe that Malachi is referring to the forefathers, maybe even the patriarchs and I cannot argue with that point of view but even so, we are talking about a generation divide. The preaching of Elijah is to bridge that divide, to turn the hearts which is another way of saying “repentance.”

Israel got off to a good start: they were saved from Egypt by God’s might power working through Moses. They were delivered through the wilderness which was a miracle in itself. They were given the law and they had God’s promise made to Abraham their father. But although the Israelites had a lot of things going for them, they didn’t handle things well. They were very stubborn and rebellious. Moses had difficulty leading them: they were strong-willed and stiff-necked. This behavior was not only exhibited in the wilderness experience, it was Israel’s calling card throughout their history. They were hard-headed and obstinate. Moses told them in Deuteronomy what it would take to make the nation strong and prosperous. They had to transfer their faith from generation to generation. Listen to what Moses said in Deuteronomy 6….

“Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

The responsibility of every Hebrew father was to transfer his faith to his children. He was to teach 24/7 by word of mouth and example of life. He was to love God with all his heart and soul and teach his children to do the same. Here is where the Israelite fathers failed: [1] They did not love God with their whole heart [2] They failed to transfer their faith to their children. No where is this more obvious than in the Royal line of David, the kings. By and large, all the kings were horrible fathers. The Northern kingdom never had a good king and Judah had only five and never are there two good kings in a row. When you look at Jewish history, the fathers failed and this became the undoing of the entire nation.

MY CONCLUSION

I think this generation divide that brought a curse upon Israel is still existent today. I think we have the same problem. First of all men, if we become the spiritual leaders that were are created to be, the women and children will follow {for the most part, there will be some exceptions}. I think and it may be a stretch, that we men do pretty good at providing but we are failing miserably at guiding. Some men think there job is finished when they give their check to mama but providing is the easy part. Guiding is the harder part of being a father. I’ll be honest with you: of the triune responsibilities that I have: Father, Husband and Pastor, I think being a FATHER is the most awesome and the most difficult. I realize that I cannot evaluate myself but I don’t think that I have been a horrible pastor but everyone is Danville knows that I have not been a good husband or a great father. I know a lot about the subject of marriage and parenting but it is from making mistakes. I know, I have no doubts that the sermon today is for me. You cannot teach your kids to love Jesus with all their heart and soul if you are not doing it yourself. The bad thing or sad thing is: “I thought I did love Him more than anything else.” When I look back, I see clearly that I let some things become too big in my life and I did not devote myself to loving Christ with all my heart and I did not teach this to my children. They were grown before I realized what was most important. I think there is a generational divide in American culture: I do not think we have properly taught our children what our values and expectations are and it is costing us big time.

When I was growing, we had an uncle Charlie. In those days, practically every family had an uncle Charlie. Our uncle Charlie was a pistol. He was 60 years old before I knew him [Great uncle] and all I knew was that he was a barber and a part-time Baptist preacher. He lived from Chattanooga to Sand Mountain. He was never any closer that Paint Rock. My folks did not tell me the truth about uncle Charlie until I was grown. I think the wife I knew was number three but to put it in a nutshell, Uncle Charlie had not lead a very noble or responsible life. He had four or five children and didn’t have a relationship with a single one. He abandoned them and their mother when they were just little fellows. They lived on a farm West of Athens and he could come home long enough to get his wife pregnant and then he would disappear; finally someone had a talk with him [a relative] and he never came back. Then in his late 50’s he had a conversion experience and became a preacher, sort of, but he never had a relationship with any of this children. He spent his last 10-15 years in a nursing home in South Pittsburg, Tennessee, alone mostly. His only visitors were from his church and one sister and one nephew. He lived to be 97 and his body was buried on Highway 71 just near Paint Rock but no children were at his funeral. The problem in America, it that we have had too many Uncle Charlie’s.

THE CHALLENGE

There is a solution to America’s sickness. The curse could be removed if FATHERS everywhere were to repent. These kids and grandkids that voted for Obama are our kids. We have failed our forefathers but most of all, we have sinned against God. We need to turn from our selfish ways and devote ourselves to loving Jesus with all of our heart. Is if going to change America if one father repents: probably not but it will change one family, yours. Homer Lindsey, Sr. pastored the 1st Baptist Church of Jacksonville, Florida for years. When he passed away, his son Homer Jr. became pastor and later shared that role with Jerry Vines. I never heard Homer Sr. preach but one time and in that sermon, he talked about his son. Homer senior was nothing to look at, he kind of favored Grandpaw on the Monsters but this is close to what he said, I know it is not exact…”My son is big, fat and ugly but my son loves Jesus more than any man I know.” I was a young man when I heard him say this and did not think much of it at the time but now I understand. The most important thing your child can do ever, is love Jesus with all his/her heart. I would not trade my son for any sports star on the globe even if it meant I could share the fame and fortune. I can’t think of one thing I had rather my son do that ranks with loving Jesus. I don’t just want that for my son, I want the same for my daughters, daughter-in-law, son-in-laws and grandkids. If you would devote yourself to leaving your sons and daughters that legacy, I want you to come to the alter and kneel and tell the LORD your heart. “LORD, noting is more important to me than for my children to love you will all their heart and I know that this begins with me loving you with all my heart.”

 

 

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