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James Merritt - Father Figure

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    James Merritt - Father Figure
TOPICS: Family Ties, Family, Parenting, Fatherhood, Fathers

Well, today we are in a series that you probably know about that we're calling "Family Ties". Now I wanna tell you a story. About 22 years ago, I took the plunge, I took up golf. And the reason I took up golf, even though I was in my late 40s at the time, was because over a period of years, our church staff and our deacons kept giving me gift certificates for golf lessons and equipment. And I would just put 'em away. I didn't have no intention of playing golf, wasn't even thinking about it. And so we decided to build a house. We were moving to a new home, and Theresa found this cigar box. She comes in and she said, You need to do something with this. And I mean, there was a lot of certificate, a lot of money in there. So I asked my youngest son at the time, "Hey, you wanna take up golf"? He said, "Sure".

So, I went and bought lessons, you know, took lessons and I bought equipment. And then you kind of sit out and it's time to play your first round. And there was a deacon in our church who was a very good golfer, and he said, "Hey, I'll take you out first time". So we go out and I'm on the very first tee box, and you can imagine, I've never hit a golf ball really well. I've not really played golf very much, and I'm as nervous as a cat and I'm just, you know, no experience at all. And he said, "Hey, it's just a game. Just relax, okay"? And he said, "Just go up there and just clear your mind and we're just gonna have a good time". So I hit my very first shot. I will never forget my very first shot because it was absolutely horrific.

In fact, on my GPS it said it landed somewhere between Tennessee and Alabama. We're not quite sure where it hit. Never did find the ball I mean, I was crestfallen. I knew, I said, this is exactly what I thought. And then my buddy looked at me, had a big smile on his face and he said these words, "Pastor, take a mulligan". I'd never heard the word mulligan. I didn't know what a mulligan was. And I said, "What is a mulligan"? "Oh," he said, "Pastor, that is the sweetest word in golf". I said, "What do you mean"? He said, "Now, if you're a non golfer, let me just tell you, Mulligan is just another word for a do-over. And in golf, if you're not really serious about golf, here's what you get to do. If you had a bad shot, you just take a second shot. And everybody pretends that the first shot didn't even happen".

A matter of fact, you just convince yourself God wasn't even looking. Nobody knows that you hit that first shot. And so you take a mulligan and it is a do-over and there's no penalty. Now these days, the word mulligan is used. really, you know, common language. It describes when you get a second chance at anything, not just in golf, not just in sports, but in life. And it's one of those things where you kind of feel like you failed the first time. So you get a mulligan, you get a do-over. I don't know about you. And I remember I asked my dad one time, not long before he died, "Dad, do you have any regrets in your life? If you could have your life all to do over again, what would you do differently"? I'm gonna be very transparent and very honest. Yes, I would give everything I have today. I would give every honor I've ever achieved, every position I've ever held, every bit of money I've ever made if I could have a mulligan as a dad. I wish I had a do-over as a dad. I really wish that my daddy days weren't over.

Theresa and I had our first child. She was 23, I was 26. And frankly, I kind of thought I had it figured out. You know, I'd watched how my dad did it and how my mom did it. And I said, I'm not gonna make the mistakes they made. And I really kind of convinced myself, I will be the first perfect dad since Adam. I'm just gonna really, really have it down. I didn't realize at that time that the hardest job I've ever had in my life is not being a pastor. It wasn't being president of the Southern Baptists Convention. It's not being this or being that. Looking back on my life, the hardest job I've ever had in my life is being a dad. I agree with a man named John Wilmot, the Earl of Westchester, who centuries ago said this, "Before I got married, I had six theories about bringing up children. Now I've got six children and no theories". That's me. That's where I was. So we're in a series that we're calling today "Family Ties". And the family, as it was modeled in the first chapter of Genesis gives us a picture of what God intended for the family to be, a mom, a dad, and their children.

Now to say the least, we all know that that model is in severe decline today. Matter of fact, even we've been talking about over and over the institution of marriage is becoming increasingly obsolete. 51% of people that are marriageable age in America are not married today. Never before in the history of our country has the majority of people who can marry, don't marry. So even marriage is kind of going the way of the dinosaur. And the very definition of family today has become meaningless because the definition of a family today is so broad that you don't even know what you mean by the word family. And if you're a young person under the age of 18, remember this. When a word comes to mean anything, it really means nothing. And in the Word of God, family had a specific meaning. And I may be old fashioned, but I still believe that God's original model of a man marrying a woman, and if God approves this, having parents or being parents and having children, I still believe it is the healthiest, it is the most stable model for a family even today.

And so what we've been doing, if you're not a part of this church, if you're a guest of ours today, catching you up a little bit, we've been talking about the family. We started out with marriage, then we talked about husbands to the husbands, then we talked to the wives. Now over the next three weeks, we're going to take parents. I'm gonna talk today to the dads. Next week, next time we're here, we're gonna talk to moms and then we're gonna end up talking to the children. But today, we are gonna talk about dads. And dad, I wanna say it again. I wish I could do my daddy days over again because let me tell what I've discovered and you'll discover this to you. Those of you dedicated children today, let me warn you something.

Here's the big deal about being a parent. Just about the time you finally get it figured out, you're out of a job. They're gone and you really do wish, Man, I wish I knew then what I know now because I still believe that a man who marries and has children just inherited one of the most important jobs that a man could ever have. And that is the job of being a dad. And let me tell you why. Everybody talks about we wanna leave this world a better place than when we found it. Absolutely agree. Yes, we should. But lemme tell you what I believe. Yeah, I believe we ought to leave a better world for our children. But I think it's more important that we leave better children for our world. It's important to leave a better world for our children. But I think our number one job is to leave better children for our world.

President Franklin Roosevelt said it this way, "We may not be able to prepare the future for our children, but we can at least prepare our children for the future". Well, in the New Testament book, I wanna invite you to turn to called Ephesians. It's in the New Testament. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Romans, 1st and 2nd Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians. Right in there in the Book of Ephesians, in chapter six, in one verse of scripture, Won't you listen? This is amazing. This is why I know it has to be the Word of God. Paul, a man named Paul takes just 18 words. 18 words. And in those 18 words, he gives dads advice and wisdom on how to be a great father to children that is better than anything you'll find in all the best sellers on Amazon put together. It's amazing how what that man wrote 2,000 years ago is still fantastic advice today.

Very simple, right to the point, here's what he says. "Fathers, do not exasperate your children. Instead, bring them up in the training and the instruction of the Lord". Now, even though I'm talking to dad specifically this morning, and I really am, I wanna just say what I'm about to say is not just limited to dads. It's also good advice for moms. It's good advice for step dads and step moms. And in those 18 words, you're not gonna believe this. Paul tells us, dads, four things we need to give our children. Now, Dad, I just wanna ask you a question. This is a question you gotta answer right now. I'm not concerned whether or not you wanna be a good dad. I'm not even concerned whether or not you wanna be a great dad. What I wanna know is, do you wanna be a godly dad? If you say, "Oh, yes I do". Then lemme tell you four things you need to give your kids. Number one, you need to give your children gracious affection. Give your children gracious affection.

Now, before Paul talks to parents about their children, he does a very wise thing. He says, hey, before I talk to you about what you ought to do with your children, let me talk to you about what you ought to do with yourself. I wanna talk to you first. So what did he say? He says, "Fathers, do not exasperate your children". And by the way, you moms may be asking, Well, why doesn't he include us? Well, he really already has because back in verse one, he says, "Children obey your parents in the Lord for this is right". So he's talking to parents, but right now he's specifically talking about dads. He said, Well, why does he single out the dad? Well, there is both a spiritual reason and there is a cultural reason.

Let's go back. Paul, what Paul said. When the Ephesians read this verse, when the Ephesians first read this, or first heard Paul talk about it, I wanna tell you it was absolutely radically revolutionary. Because both in Greek culture and Roman culture, the dad was the all in all. He was the superior person in the life of the family. I told you last week, ladies, the wife, she was kind of a second class citizen. The wife was considered just a step above a slave. That's why what Paul said earlier about a husband loving his wife was so counter-cultural. And then Paul comes along talking about dads. And he says, look, I get it. I know what you think you are. I know what the cultures taught you. Because back in that day, the father had supreme, absolute power over his children.

Listen, even after they were grown, he even had power over their grandchildren. Fathers could beat their children, fathers could imprison their children, fathers could sell their children into slavery up to three different times and nobody said a word because dad was basically a dictator. As a matter of fact, the law even allowed a father to execute his own children under certain conditions. And then Paul comes along. You can imagine what fathers thought, not to mention wives and children when they hear these words, "Fathers do not exasperate your children". That word exasperates is a really strong word. It means to provoke, to anger. What we would say this way, we'd say it this way today. hey dad, don't ever light your children's fuse. Don't ever put ammunition in their gun.

Now, there's a lot of wisdom here for all of us who are fathers, 'cause look, we know our job is dad. Let's get elephant outta the room. One of our jobs as a dad and a mom is to discipline our children. But what Paul is saying is this. You know what, dad, before you discipline your child, you need to discipline yourself. Before you try to control your children, you really need to make sure you've got control of yourself. So, in the spirit of what Paul said, I sat down and I thought, well what are the ways you exasperate children? And we've probably have all done one or more of these things at one time or another. So lemme just share with you four ways you can exasperate your children.

First of all, don't aggravate your children. Number two, don't humiliate your children. Number three, don't frustrate your children. Number four, don't manipulate your children. Now I'm gonna take 'em on and explain what I mean. First of all, don't aggravate your children. Now, we've all been guilty of this. I've been guilty of it. Most of you have too, 'cause I've done it before. Just gonna be honest. I wanna ask you if this has ever happened to you. Have you ever aggravated your child and you make that child so angry, he pops off, he says something disrespectful. Then you punish the child because they were disrespectful when you started the whole thing to begin with. Don't look at me like you've never done that before. We've all done that, right? You aggravate your child, you make them mad. Well, that's exasperating your children. Don't do that. Don't humiliate your children. Don't publicly embarrass your children.

When I was working on this message, I called Jonathan later, letting him know I was gonna put this in my message and I've asked John to forgive me and he has forgiven me. But again, I'm being just as transparent. I've done some dumb things in my life. I've done some bad things in my life. But the dumbest thing I guess I've probably have ever done in my entire minister, I wish I could do it over again. It was back when we had Sunday night church. I was telling him it was about a hundred years ago. We had Sunday night church. And I was up there preaching and I kept hearing this noise. It was off to my right under the balcony. And I kinda outta the corner of my eye caught and there were about four or five kids and they were talking up a storm. But the biggest talker was Jonathan.

Now, Jonathan's a bit like me. He's a big talker. And I did everything I could. I cleared my throat, I coughed. I kind of looked over there. He's not even paying attention, man. He's engrossed in this conversation. And I prepared time to preach. And I finally, you know, I just finally had it. And I looked over at him and this is exactly what I said. I said, "Jonathan, if you don't sit still and be quiet and listen to me, I'm going to spank you when I get home. In fact, if the rapture occurs first, I'm gonna spank you on the way up".

Now we laugh and they laughed, but it wasn't funny. It was wrong. Shouldn't have done it. Asked him that night to forgive me. I knew I did the wrong thing. I exasperated my son. Don't humiliate your children. Here's another one. This is easy to do. Don't frustrate your children. Here's what I mean. Don't start unnecessary arguments. You know, one of the most important lessons I wish I learned early on as a dad, and I hope some of you dads and moms will hear me. Listen to me, Mom and dad. Not every battle's worth fighting. We fight too million battles. It's not worth fighting. I'm not gonna argue with you, I'm not gonna debate with you. I could tell you some things that I think we fight over, we shouldn't. But the point is, don't pick every battle. There are some hills just not worth dying on.

As your kids get older, there's gonna be plenty to debate and discuss and things that need to be debated, and things that need to be discussed and do it with passion and do it with conviction. But don't ever create a hill that's not worth dying on. I'll give you a quick example. Theresa's not here, so I'll tell, I probably won't tell it when she's here at the next service. The first time one of my boys got a tattoo, she cried. She just wept. I said, "Theresa, it's not the end of the world". It's a scripture verse that doesn't matter. She just, no tattoos, just don't tattoo. I says, it's not worth it. It's okay. We'll all live. He'll still go to heaven. It's not a problem. Don't get all been outta shape.

Now she got over it and she still doesn't like tattoos. And I'm never gonna get one, I can tell you that right now. But my point is it's just not a battle worth fighting. Don't frustrate your children. And then here's another one. Don't manipulate your children. What do you mean? Here's one. Don't push your children to be something they don't wanna be. Don't push your children to do something they don't wanna do. Don't try to live your life through your child. I never got to play baseball. You're gonna play baseball. Well, maybe he doesn't need to play baseball. Well, I didn't play football, but you're gonna play football. I didn't go into course, but you're gonna go into course. Well maybe they don't need to do that. Don't try to live your life through your children. Let them choose their own path and their own careers.

Let me tell you one of the things I got right as a dad. I mean, I got it 100% right. I not only never encouraged any of my boys to go into the ministry, I discouraged them from going into the ministry. I told them early on, I said, Boys, let me tell you something. Ministry's hard. Some people think it's easy. It's not. It's one of the hardest lives you'll choose because if you do it and you do it right, somebody's gonna be mad at you some of the time. You're gonna say things that somebody's not gonna like. You're gonna do things people are gonna upset about. People are gonna storm and leave your church. They're gonna talk. I'm just telling you, don't do it. I did everything I could to talk them out of it. Don't manipulate your children. Take some time, parents. Here's what I'm gonna say to you. Do some honest reflection as I've had to do. Think about it right now. Have you been guilty of any of those things? You might wanna, when you get home, talk to your spouse and say, hey, you know, the pastor talked about this. Can you help me? And is there anything?

You might even be, don't mind asking your kids, Hey, I just wanna make sure we're all good. Is there anything I've ever done that's frustrated you, humiliated you, manipulated you, irritated you because I don't want that to be between us and go, I've done it. Go ask your kids to forgive you. And then going forward, model for them what it's like to be a dad and a parent who gives them gracious affection. That's the first thing. Here's the second thing. Give your children what I call gainful direction. Gainful direction. See, it's not enough, Paul says, to put a roof over your children's heads. He said, you need to do all you can to put the Lord into your children's hearts. So Paul says this, Bring them up in the training. Emphasize that word training and instruction of the Lord.

Now, the word bring up literally means to rear, it means to nurture from childhood. So let me just say this. It's never too late to try to give your children good direction. They may already be a senior in high school. You still should try to give them good direction. They may be able to drive a car. They may even be old enough to vote. It's okay to try to give them good direction. But I'm gonna tell you something we all know. The best time to start is early. I mean like out of the womb. Start early. And by the way, don't ever underestimate moms and dads and grandparents. Don't ever underestimate the ability of small children, even toddlers, to learn things. They can learn. My, grandchildren, by the time they were two years old, I'd taught my grandchildren this Bible verse, "God is love". 1 John 4:8. Just short. "God is love," because I wanted my grandchildren to be saturated. I want their heart to be saturated with Jesus. But then Paul's very specific. He says bring them up in the training of the Lord.

Now what does training mean? Well you might think, well that means education. You know, knowing the right thing was really, that's not what the word means. The word doesn't just mean education. Teaching them what's right, it means direction. Leading them to do what's right. It literally means to show a child which way he ought to go. I'll give you a great illustration of this. A baby goose is called a gosling. And that gosling has a very peculiar characteristic. It's really amazing. When a gosling is born, when his eyesight, when that gosling's eyesight finally comes into focus, this is amazing. He will become attached to the very first thing he sees moving close to him. And from that time forward, that little gosling will follow that object wherever it moves around him.

Now, normally, it ought to be attached to the mother goose 'cause she ought to be the first thing that he sees. But if that mother goose is not around, that gosling can become attached to anything. Seriously, I'm not making this up. If it sees a football bladder, it'll follow a football bladder. If you tie a string on a ball and he sees the ball, it'll follow that ball. 'Cause the most important factor is how early does that gosling see the first thing that moves because that gosling is so vulnerable to imprinting into attraction only a few seconds after it hatches from the shell. And if that opportunity is lost, it can never be regained. In other words, that mother goose knows, there's this small tiny window when that little baby goose is born, that gosling is born, when they're gonna decide two things.

Who am I going to follow? What am I going to follow? So take it from me, you will never, parents, be able to teach your 15-year-old the way you can teach them when they're four years old. You have got to seize the opportunity early when the child is young, when that child doesn't know right from wrong, you've got this chance to say, okay son, this is right. All right sweetie, this is wrong. This, you do, this you don't. And you've got to do it early, early on. You give them gainful direction. How do you respect people? How are you courteous to other people? How are you kind to other people? How do you get along with your brothers and sisters? How do you obey your parents and your teachers? How do you be responsible for their actions? And what Paul is saying is you need to start from the time they leave the womb. Get the God of the word into their heart and get their heart into the Word of God. You teach them early.

Look, there's a right way to live life. There's a wrong way to live life. There's a right way to relate to children. There's a right way to think, there's a right way to act. And it's always found in God's Word. So it's you bring them up in the training of the Lord that's found in God's words. Got it? Gracious affection, gainful direction. Third thing, give your children good correction. Give your children good correction. Paul goes on to tell us, we all ought to do this. "Bring our children up," he says, "in the instruction of the Lord".

Now that word instruct, very interesting word, made up of two words in the Greek language, the word mind and the word place. So it literally means to place before the mind. Another way would be to say correct. Correction or admonition or, here's a word, discipline. It's all in that word. All that. Admonition, correction, discipline. Now we all know it's a lot more fun to direct your children to do what is right than it is to correct your children when they do what is wrong. But you have to do both. But what Paul is saying is there's a right way to do it and the wrong way to do it. So again, being transparent. There are times by I discipline when my kids, I was too harsh, I was too hard, I was not as patient as I should have been. And there are two things to remember. When you do have to discipline your children, and by the way, you still have to discipline your children. You still have to correct your children. So here's the two things to remember.

Number one, correct at the right time, in the right place with the right spirit. And number two, correct constructively not destructively. So what do you mean? If you're too hard on your children, you'll make your children hard. On the other hand, if you're too soft on your children, you'll make your children soft. So when you have to correct your children, you need to make some under... The most important thing to do when you correct a child is not what you do is telling them why you do it. It's letting them know. Let me tell you why I'm having to correct you. Let me tell you why I'm having to discipline you. I love you too much to let you behave that way. I love you too much to let you talk that way. I love you too much for you to ever be less than what I know God wants you to be. Because the purpose of correction is not to discourage kids.

The purpose of correction is to encourage kids. The purpose of good correction is not just to punish your kids if they do what's wrong. Anybody can do that. It is to encourage them to do what is right. Just curious. How many of you have ever seen or you have heard of "The Andy Griffith Show"? How many of you ever seen or heard? Okay, most of you. I've even found even the younger generation, you know, watch it. For me, my money just me, the greatest TV show ever. It was great. I mean when it was Andy and Barney and "Nip it in the bud", I mean it was just unbelievable. Barney and his bullet, you know, Otis the drunk, you know, it just... Just Floyd the barber. I mean I grew up in Oakwood. We really had a Floyd the barber and we had an Otis the Drunk and no joke. They were brothers and they weren't called. That one was named Frog. One was named Rabbit. I'm not making this up. But that's a whole nother story. But anyway, you know, it was just a great time.

Well, one of my favorite stories, you may remember this, it ran from 1960 to 1968. For eight years, it was the number one watched TV every single year. Number one watched show for eight years. One of the most beloved shows of all time, still ranks in any survey. One of the best shows in television history. In my opinion, what I loved about it was Andy as a dad, not a sheriff, but Andy as a father. And some of you remember this, there's this episode where Andy's... Opie's Andy's son and he goes into the woods. And so he comes outta the woods, he comes back to town, he runs into his dad's office. He said, "Dad, I saw a man walking on trees. I saw a man walking on trees".

And so, you know, Andy just thought, well, you know, vivid imagination of a kid, you know, didn't think that much about it. Well, you know Barney, right? Barney was like the Peter in the Bible always, always sticking his foot in his mouth, sticking his oar where he didn't belong. Barney's not married. Barney's not, no kids, got no kids, but Barney's an expert on everything, right? So Barney jumps in where he didn't really have any business jumping in. And he says, Listen, Opie's lying. You know he is lying and you need to spank Opie. Well, you know, dad didn't do it. Andy didn't do it. Well the next day, Opie makes another trip to the woods. He comes back with the same story, even gives the man's name. He said, Dad, this is his name. Well, Andy didn't particularly care about the story, but he just would not discipline Opie.

So Barney looks at Andy and he says, Andy, you don't believe in that tall tale Opie's saying, do you? And boy, Andy gave the line of the show. He said, no, but I do believe in Opie. I do believe in Opie. Now if you remember the show, as it turns out, Opie was being honest because the man was a telephone repair man. And he walked on trees with boots, climbing boots. You see, one of the ways you teach your kids, you believe in them and you believe they can be the best person they can be and the person that God wants them to be, give them good correction. But give it in a loving way. When you discipline your child, you say to that child, I'm not doing this because I don't believe in you. I'm doing this because I do believe in you. I do believe you can be better. I do believe you can talk better. I do believe you can act better. And that's why I do it. Give your children that kind of correction.

All right, here's the last thing we're done. We're quick. Give your children godly protection. Give your children godly protection. Now to me, the last three words of this verse is the key to the whole verse. He says, "Bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord". Now with every dad that's watching me right now, whether you're watching it now six months from now, and when every dad in this room is watching me and listening to me right now, I want you to draw up real, real close. Pretend nobody else is here. We're having a fireside chat, just you and me. I believe those last three words is what separates ordinary, dime-of-a-dozen, run-of-the-mill parents from next level parents. Those last three words, "Bring them up in the instruction of the Lord". It's what separates Christian parents from all other parents. 'Cause let me just state the obvious. No, it doesn't matter whether you believe in God or not. It doesn't matter whether you go to church or not. It doesn't matter whether you believe in Jesus or not.

Doesn't believe whether you're a Christian or not. It doesn't matter. Every parent ought to bring their children up to be moral and good and kind and respectful and courteous and obey the law and behave. That's a given. Every parent ought do that. Here's the difference. For most parents, that's the ceiling. They think, well I've done my job if I've done that. No you haven't because for Christian parents, that's not the ceiling, that's just the floor. That's just where you're getting started 'cause lemme tell you this. If you don't hear anything else, dad and mom, I want you to hear this. Listen to me carefully. God did not give you that child to raise a good child. God did not give you that child to raise a great child. God gave you that child to raise a godly child. That's why you got the child. Anybody can raise a good child. Some people can raise a great child. That's not our job. Our job is to raise a godly child.

And the number one goal and the mission you ought to have for your children and your grandchildren is that they know Jesus Christ as their Lord and their savior. Their lives are completely and fully surrendered to him. So I want every dad, mom, now you're listening carefully hear this, The primary responsibility of bringing your children up in the training and instruction of the Lord. The primary responsibility does not belong to the school and it doesn't belong to the church, it belongs to you. It belongs to you. A Christian school or a church cannot do, will never be able to do, should not do what only a godly parent to do. And it is the primary responsibility of dad and mom because ultimately, look, the greatest influence of the life of your children shouldn't be the church. It shouldn't be the pastor, it shouldn't be the teacher. It shouldn't be the coach. The greatest influence ought to be the parents.

I mean Mom, Dad, there's one thing you cannot advocate. That is your role as the spiritual leader of your children. There's one thing you cannot delegate. That is the role of the spiritual leadership of your children. There is one area where you should not hesitate that is in the spiritual leadership of your children. And the number one desired goal, ambition and hunger of a true godly parent is to raise godly children. And there's only one thing that can produce a godly child. And that is a godly mom and a godly dad. The church can't do it, the school can't do it. We cannot do it. It's impossible for us to do it. Only you can do it. And it takes God to make a godly parent.

So God makes a godly parent and then godly parents do all they can to produce godly children out. I realize there are a lot of things we all wanna do for our kids. A lot of things wanna give our kids. And all of us have this natural desire. We want our kids to have more than we had. Better than we had, sweeter than we had, easier than we had. That's all well and that's all good. But let me tell you the two and greatest best things you'll ever do as a parent and ever do for your children. And I'm gonna finish up. Number one, live a godly life before them. And number two, lead them to live a godly life. Live a godly life before them. Lead them to live a godly life.

Now I wanna close with this, tell you something I've learned and hopefully encourage you. Of those two things, mom and dad, there's only one of those things you can control. And that's this one. That's up to you. Nobody can keep you from doing that. That's up to you. That you can't control. You can do this. This may not happen, should happen. Hopefully, it happens. Prayerfully, it happens. Most of the time it happens. But you can't guarantee. Your job is number one. Ultimately, it's up to God and them to accomplish number two. I mean I can ultimately, I can work hard to lead my kids to live a godly life, but at the end of the day, you know what? They gotta make their choice. 'Cause I know I'm talking to some mom and dad's right now. Let me just kind of help you. One thing before I wrap this up. This is so big for me. You hear a message like this and you beat yourself up and you feel guilty and you go home and you get discouraged and you get depressed because you've got a prodigal son, you've got a prodigal daughter, you've got somebody that walked away from the faith. You've got somebody not living for the Lord. And you think, what did I do wrong? Where did I fail? Why, why, why? Why couldn't I get this right?

And I don't need you to hear me. If you did everything you knew to do, nobody's perfect. But if you did your best, if you tried to model Jesus before you kids and you tried to teach your kids to love the Lord, if at the end of the day they say no thanks, that is not on you, that's on them. And don't you let the devil put you on a false guilt trip. I beg you not to do that. You can only do number one. You cannot do number two. At the end of the day, they gotta make their choice. So was I perfect as a dad? No. Do my kids know I wasn't perfect as a dad? Yep. Have I apologize to them, all three of them, all three of them with tears in my eyes for the ways I failed as a dad? Yep. But at the end of the day, there's one thing I go to my head on my pillow knowing. No, I wasn't a perfect dad, but I was a blameless dad. I tried to practice what I preach at home.

There were things I've never used, there were things I've just never done in front of my kids. I don't do it privately or publicly. I did everything I could to model for them what Jesus would want me to be. And at the end of the day, you do that and you leave the results to God 'cause lemme just remind you of one quick thing, and I don't have time. This is a whole nother sermon. Go read the story of the prodigal son, there's nothing in that text that tells you that dad did anything wrong. There's nothing that tells you, yeah dad, if you've done this or done that, he wouldn't doing one way. No. Everything in the text is very plain 'cause you know who the father represents in the parable. He represents God. So when you read that text, there's one thing you know. You know why that prodigal son ran away? 'Cause he was a prodigal son, that had nothing to do with his dad. So all that is a backdrop.

Let tell you this one last thing. I bet you don't know what this is. This an emperor penguin. I'd never heard of an emperor penguin until I did this sermon. This is what you paid me for. I'd never heard of an emperor penguin until I did this sermon. I wanna tell you something. This is a dad. This is a daddy. This is the emperor penguin. I want you to listen, this is fascinating. Emperor penguins spend a long winter on the open ice and they breed during this time of year when it's the coldest, they breed.

Now ladies, this is hilarious. When the female produces an egg, guess what she does? She leaves it behind and she goes on a hunting trip with the girls. I'm not making this up. It's a true story. Reverse. Normally, its the dad that takes off. No, the mom takes off. G. and the girls, you know they go to The Bahamas, I don't know where they go, but they go on this trip and they're gone about two months, leaving the baby, gone two months. And that's when the dad steps up and begins this amazing process of love. For the next 65 days, that egg will rest on the feet of that dad, covered by a fold of skin. It allows the egg to stay at about 100 degrees.

Now listen. The temperature outside will be up to 30 degrees below zero. But that little egg is in that, on that dad's feet covered by fold of skin. And he is sunning himself to death 100 degrees. Those males huddle, hold it together with only their body fat and their feathers to stave off the cold. Guess what? By the time the eggs hatch and mom walks back through the door, those dads will have lost nearly 45% of their body weight taking care of those babies. Man, I read that story and here's what I thought. From the time your children are born, dads, fold them into a heart of love, a love for Jesus, a love for his Word, a love for the church, a love for God, a love for the Holy Spirit, a love for holiness. And when you do that, you will be the father figure that God wants you to be.

Would you pray with me today? With heads bowed and eyes closed just for a moment. I got a question for every dad watching, every mom that's watching, every dad and mom that's listening, I'm not gonna question whether you're a good dad or a great dad or a good mom or a great mom. Here's what I wanna know. Are you a godly dad? Are you a godly mother? Do you know Jesus? 'Cause I'm gonna make a very strong statement. You can never, ever be the dad or the mother or the husband or the wife or the son or the daughter you could be or should be if you don't know Jesus. Can't do it. Jesus died not just to save you from your son's dad. He died so you could be a godly dad to your kids. So, if today you've never trusted in Jesus, you're watching right now, or you're in this room, and I'm talking to dads or moms or whoever you may be, and you say, you know what, I'm not godly, I don't know Jesus 'cause you can't be godly till you know God and you can't come to God until you come through God's son. Why don't today you make this the greatest decision, the greatest day of your life, Dad, Mom. Why don't you say:

Lord, I wanna be a godly dad, mom, son, daughter, brother, and sister. But I haven't been able to do that because I don't know you. But I want to come to know you today. Lord Jesus, I believe you died for my sins and God raised you from the dead. I believe in my heart you're alive right now. I surrender my life to you. I repented my sins and turn away from my sins. I trust you as my Lord. I receive you as my savior. Thank you for forgiving me. Thank you for giving me eternal life and oh God, beginning today, help me to be the godly dad, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister that I know you want me to be.

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