Fourteen years ago I felt a strong sense to start what we called The Northwest Fathering Forum in in the Puget Sound area . We began to have monthly gatherings of fathers where we could learn together how to be better dads. We brought in special speakers to talk about various areas of fathering, showed relevant video clips, employed some special music, large group interaction and small group discussion on the topic of the meeting. We kept this format going for about four years.
Though the venue has changed and the name has been changed slightly to “The Fathering Forum,” I am still committed more than ever as we begin 2007, to promote godly fathering that connects men to the heart of the Heavenly Father. As one who has been called to spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ, I have asked myself more than once, “Have I taken a tangent here and gotten off track from what should be my main message, that of the cross of Jesus Christ, and the hope that He holds for the salvation for all people?”
I believe with all my heart that the answer to this question is, “No.” When Jesus speaks to His disciples about His word, His message being planted within various types of people He uses the metaphor of “soils” representing the different kinds of hearts of those who will respond to His message. He says that some have hearts that are hard and impenetrable to His message. Others are like shallow soil, only out for what will benefit them. When things get tough, they are like plants without roots, and only wither and fall away. Then still others are like weedy, cluttered soil. They receive His message among many other truths; but the unique message of Christ just gets choked out by all the other messages crowding the “soil,” and it dies out.
The only “soil” or heart that allows the seed to grow, take root and become fruitful and multi-generational is what He calls “good soil." This good, fertile soil is described by Jesus as a person who has “a noble and good heart, who hear(s) the word, retain(s) it and by preserving, produce(s) a crop.” (Luke 8:15)
So how can this kind of soil be cultivated? Where does this kind of character for both children and adults who can trust, obey and persevere get developed? Does it just come out of thin air? I believe it is primarily developed in the home. It takes place when husbands and wives learn to sacrificially serve one another and persevere through the challenges of loving each other despite their many faults. It happens when children learn to trust, respect and obey their parents even when they don’t agree with them, which is often during the teen years!
Doctor Luke records the prophecy about the work of John the Baptist in preparing spiritual soil in this way: “He will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous-to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:17)
Faithful fathers prepare their children to shift from trusting their seen authority to the Heavenly Father’s unseen authority. And at the same time they lead their children this way they are running right into the Heavenly Father’s arms themselves! Jesus Himself says it like this, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in My name does not welcome Me but the one who sent Me (the Heavenly Father).” (Mark 9:37)
In 2007, there are many who do not want to have anything to do with Jesus Christ or the Heavenly Father He came to introduce to the world two thousand years ago. They assume this Heavenly Father is absent, distant, abusive or untrustworthy based on their personal experiences with their own fathers. The challenge is for us who claim to know Christ to present a better picture of the Heavenly Father to our culture as we let our "light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise (our) Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)
So as a new year dawns I promise that I will, by God’s grace, continue to “stay the course” in lifting up godly fathering in a nation that is becoming increasingly fatherless. And I realize that this is sometimes lonely, hard soil-tilling work we are involved in together. But I want to encourage you as a man who, as a father who is reading this, to continue to turn your heart to your children, knowing that by so doing you are cultivating your children’s hearts to be good soil, receptive to answer the eternally consequential question of what they will do with Jesus Christ. And also I remind you that at the same time, when you make your fathering a priority, you are connecting to the very heart of the Heavenly Father!