Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared at Theological Matters and is used by permission.
Most humans seem to perceive fatherhood as having exhausted itself at the end of a moment of intimacy with a member of the opposite gender. The male member of the species bows out since the conception inside the woman’s womb is thought to be “part of her body” and therefore of no consequence to him. Little difference is made for the man if the conceived baby is terminated in the womb or born into a fatherless existence. In fact “sperm banks” now make even his presence in conception totally unnecessary. How different the picture of fatherhood is in the Scriptures! And this loss of the concept of fatherhood introduces pandemonium into the entire human system, including an accurate comprehension of God as Father. For purposes of this blog, the idea of fatherhood encompasses four unique perspectives. Fatherhood includes provision, protection, prudence, and the precepts of God. As anyone can see, this is a long-term assignment more challenging than climbing Mount Everest without oxygen. What do these assignments imply?
• Provision suggests a job, an income to purchase food and clothing with hopefully something small left over to buy a ticket to March Madness or to take a vacation. Medical bills, taxes, and college will require the remainder and the man will have provided. Undoubtedly, that is all a part of provision – but only a part. Provision also includes passing on to children how to subsist in a difficult and expensive world. Each child must be taught a trade or develop a talent needed by others as provision for his own life. The teen must learn to walk with God who alone can provide for him in all circumstances. And he must see all of these attitudes and actions modeled by his father.
• Protection is something about which men like to boast. That is why I keep an arsenal at home in the gun safe. No one is about to hurt my family. This I do not denigrate. The assignment from God to fathers is to protect the physical well-being of the family. But many a father lives his whole life without having to engage a physical threat to the personal lives of his family. Nevertheless, he must protect! On his knees he earnestly intercedes with God for his family. His instruction includes the ways of peace and conflict avoidance. And when peace is not possible and conflict is unavoidable, then he must teach his children how to protect themselves and how to look to God for his intervention.
Protection includes assisting vulnerable young minds in grasping the real enemies who would destroy them: sex outside of God’s boundaries, pharmacological misuse, alcohol, slavery to money, and selfishness. A predilection for entertainment and addiction to electronics must not only be met with “no” but with substitutes that provide better substance for life.
• Prudence is wisdom in all things relating to God and to life. Many attitudes are learned by children from their mothers. But wisdom or prudence is a virtue specifically delegated to fathers and grandfathers. Proverbs 1:1-7 clarifies the responsibilities of fathers. Wisdom or virtue underscores the development of justice, judgment, and equity on the part of the simple who need prudence. And if a child is wise, he will increase learning.
• Finally, the precepts of God are to be modeled and taught. The work of priest and prophet is important as would be the role of pastor in the present age, but the primary responsibility for spiritual instruction outlined in Deuteronomy 6 falls completely to fathers and grandfathers. Ostensibly, they have more time with the children. Therefore, they are assigned the task of teaching the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments. They are told how to pursue this task and the extent of the instruction to be given.
A child with a father who meets these criteria grows up with a healthy view of the fatherhood of God, and he also enjoys a relationship with his earthly father that assists him in becoming a natural leader in his world. If you have a father who leads his family in this way, you have every reason to express gratitude to God on this Father’s Day. And work to be sure your son grows up understanding the responsibilities he will have on the day he fathers a child.
This week, I am in Dallas training 80 student missionaries who will soon leave for Peru, The Gambia and Panama. A number of these are alumni and are returning for their eighth mission tour and then there are those who are first-time missionaries. I can instantly tell which ones are on their first mission trip and which ones are veterans.
First-time missionaries always pack way too much. Have you ever seen the children’s toys called “Weebles”? The commercial advertising them says, “Weebles wobble, but they don’t fall down.” The new missionaries arrive with backpacks so full that they do weeble, they do wobble and they do fall down. It’s comical to see a herd of them coming your way. Yes, a group of missionaries is called a herd: “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard?” (Rom. 10:14a). So the next time a group of missionaries heads toward you, know they will want to make sure you have “herd” the good news.
Another characteristic of first-time missionaries relates to the parents who come with them. I don’t mean to make fun of anyone, but every time a new group of missionaries arrives, the parents remind me of the old “National Geographic” specials that followed a waddle (a group of penguins on land is not a herd—it’s a waddle). The Weebles are wobbling toward the check-in desk, with the waddle of parents behind making the same deep quacking noise penguins make: “Whack, whack, whack, do you have your passport?” “Whack, whack, whack, did you pack your rain gear?” “Whack, whack, whack, don’t forget to call us when you get there. Whack, whack, whack.” Yes, it’s a comical sight to see the herd arriving with the parents whacking away in the background.
Our returning missionaries, however, have come to the realization that they only need a couple of extra pairs of clothes. They have mastered the art of wearing one and washing one. On a mission trip, it doesn’t take long to realize you don’t need half of what you brought, and that extra 10 pounds of candy all melts together in one lump anyway. Veteran missionaries find something in-country that becomes their go-to comfort food (in Peru, mine is the delicious chocolate known as “Sublime”).
The veterans do attempt to share their wisdom, however. They try to convince the new missionaries to dump half their load, but all the newbies hear in the background is the “Whack, whack” sound, which prevents them from receiving any of the veterans’ sage advice. And the alumni parents are nowhere to be seen. When they arrive at training, they roll to a stop, open the door and shove their missionary out, driving quickly away with only a trail of laughter (no whacking) drifting behind them.
First-time missionaries do all their shopping at outfitter stores and end up with items labeled “North Face,” “Bass Pro,” “REI” and other specialty brands. Each one wobbles into training with brand-new boots, jungle pants and a water-absorbent towel around their neck that the salesman promised would keep them 20 degrees cooler than the outside temperature. But instead, all it does is say, “Look at me, I’m a tourist, and you can charge me double for anything I want to buy.”
Returning missionaries, on the other hand, do their shopping through Goodwill, garage sales and hand-me-ups or hand-me-downs. They find the rest at Big Lots or Walmart.
First-time missionaries come to us full of jitters. They’re not sure what to expect from living on foreign soil, and they’re insecure about how to share the gospel cross-culturally. But returning missionaries ask God to put them in places that will give them the jitters. They’re not worried about sharing the gospel; they’re worried they might not get to share it enough.
So as I sit here looking over these students, I am confident many of these Weebles will become the next generation of missionaries. I know this old man is crossing the finish line. No, I’m not planning to kick the bucket tomorrow (at least not as far as I can tell). But I know that God is at work raising up young men and women who will hear His holy whisper to go and tell.
After all these years, I still believe that two-thirds of God is “Go.” As I look at this generation of young people and their problems, I realize they aren’t going to find any answers until they respond to His call. And anything less is nothing but “Whack, whack, whack.”
Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared at Soteriology 101 and is used by permission.
After years of discussing this topic with many Calvinistic brothers I have come to this firm conviction…
This is not meant to suggest that we shouldn’t at least try to rightly represent those with whom we disagree. We should never intentionally misrepresent (or “strawman“) the views of our brethren. This is why I almost always play a clip of a notable Calvinist or read a direct quote when bringing a critique against the claims of Calvinists. In fact, I have begun all my teaching sessions on this subject by telling my students that it is only fair to learn Calvinism from a Calvinist. Continue reading