I love the story that appeared on ESPN’s website yesterday about UNC basketball player, Dexter Strickland. It illustrates Malachi 4:6, “And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers…” Here is an excerpt from the article:
Seven years ago, a probationary judge was ready to throw the book at Dexter Strickland. And juvenile hall was a possible destination. Strickland had been living with his mother, Sherrone, in Rahway (NJ) after his parents divorced. But it wasn’t working out — young boys can be tough to handle for single mothers — and the sixth-grader was heading down the wrong path. “He was very troubled at school,” (his father) Dexter L. Strickland said. “He was continually being disruptive in class and being suspended. I’m pretty sure he got suspended at least once every year he was in school.” Dexter Strickland had even gone so far as to hit his teachers. But what landed him in the most trouble was when he was caught pulling out a knife in front of one his female classmates. “I got the call about that at work,” said Dexter L. Strickland, who works as an electrician. “That incident, that’s when I realized, we got a problem.” Although Sherrone had majority custody of Dexter, she and her ex-husband realized it would be best if he began living with his father in Linden (Dexter L. Strickland and his new wife later moved to Hillside), as well as change schools. “I took him in,” Dexter L. Strickland said. “And I began to read the Bible to him every day. It was like clockwork. He was a kid that needed structure. Sherrone did the best she could. There’s no question about that. But she was a single mother and it was tough. “But it was that one Bible verse — ‘Life and death, blessings and curses, you choose’ — that stood out and had the biggest impact on him.” Ever since, as his father said, Dexter Strickland has been choosing life and blessings. “Absolutely [moving in with him saved my life],” Dexter Strickland said. “I think my father shaped me to be the person I am today. I don’t now know where I would be without him.”
The Bible verse that became a foundation for Mr. Strickland’s relationship with his son is Deuteronomy 30:19-20: “I call heaven and earth to witness against you, that today I have set before you life or death, blessing or curse. Oh, that you would choose life; that you and your children might live! Choose to love the Lord your God and to obey Him and to cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days.”
What a wonderful picture of one father who got it right and is making all the difference in his son’s life.
Source for article: http://sports.espn.go.com/new-york/news/story?id=6256165
I heard a seminary professor say last week, in a discussion on the family integrated church, that he is not sure that all men are qualified to teach their children the Bible. I guess I can thank God that I wasn’t sipping a cup of coffee at that time because I probably would have spewed it all over the four professors and the seminary dean who were sitting at the table.
The man had good intentions, he really did. And to give him the benefit of the doubt, he was wondering about teaching our children the deeper truths of theology and asking who is qualified to do that. Nonetheless, it only takes a cursory glance at Scripture, starting with the Deuteronomy 6 passage, to know that it is the father whom God has called to teach his children the Word. And as the saying goes, whomever God calls, God will also equip. The question is not, “Is Dad qualified to teach his own children the Bible?” The question is, “Will he obey the clear command of Scripture?” Paul said it plainly: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” (Eph. 6:4)
As to the professor’s point that some men may not be qualified to teach their children the finer or the deeper points of doctrine, I would have just one word for those fathers: “Study.” There have been many times in 26 years of teaching my children that I have been asked questions about God or His Word that I could not answer…at the time. It forced me to the Word and to prayer. There are still many things that I do not understand about the Word and our awesome God, and though I continue to study and grow in faith, there is much I will never understand until we see Him face to face. But the main things are the plain things and there is no father out there who “cannot” learn the plain things of God’s Word and teach them to his children. We must, men. We cannot abdicate. We cannot look to the “trained professionals” to do what only we can do. That does not diminish the role of the pastor and the elders. It enhances their ministry if the fathers in the church are teaching their children to love God and His Word!
Eighteen men gathered in a St. Louis hotel for three days this week with no real agenda except to get to know each other and to hear what God is doing in each man and his ministry to the family. We came from 14 states and have more than 110 children and numerous grandchildren. The group included leaders with Focus on the Family, FamilyLife®, and Awana International, pastors, a lawyer, a life coach, entrepreneurs, and men who speak at conferences and write books. All of them believe the Bible clearly teaches that the primary privilege and joy of discipling their children belongs to the fathers, not the church, the school, the community organizations or anybody else. That was the overarching theme that brought us together to talk and pray.
I know what some of you are thinking about now … what were YOU doing there, Mark? Agreed. I felt like the proverbial turtle on the fencepost, who certainly didn’t get there on his own. I took 14 pages of notes in my legal pad, made new friends and renewed past fellowship, and mostly listened in awe. The organizer of the event had asked us to come prepared to share our story, and to answer these questions in a 15-minute presentation:
What has God put on your heart about the family? What do you see God doing in our generation? In what ways is God leading you to work with him in this arena? What encourages you personally to be a godly man, husband, and father? What does the Bible say about family that motivates you?
After each presentation, the rest of the group had 15 minutes to interact with the speaker, ask questions or make comments. Two things struck me as simply amazing about this three-day summit meeting. First, there was never a moment of contention or strife. Even though we all come from different backgrounds and would disagree about some minor points of doctrine or practice, there was great fellowship, laughter and sometimes tears, as we shared our hearts and prayed for the church and the family. There was instant camaraderie that I would attribute to the work of the Holy Spirit. Second, I was amazed that there was not one shred of ego in the room, at least none that I could see. One man started his presentation by saying, “In every shed, there is a dull tool. I feel like I am that dull tool.” Several of us, yours truly included, thanked God for our wives, saying, “Oh, how blessed I am and how much I need her!” These were manly men who lead their families as well as businesses or organizations, but there was no chest-thumping or self-promotion … maybe because we would all say with the apostle Paul, “What do I have that I did not receive?”
On the plane coming home, the flight attendant said, “It is against federal regulation to smoke anywhere in the plane. But if you absolutely must smoke, you are invited to step out either side door onto the wing, where you will also enjoy our features, ‘Gone With the Wind,’ and ‘Bye-Bye Birdie.’ If you can light up out there, you can smoke!” It was funny.
OK, men, here’s the deal. It is a violation of God’s regulations for you to not lead your family and disciple your children. You can keep flying by the seat of your pants while your family struggles on the wing. But that’s NOT funny.
There’s hope for change. I know at least 18 men who can tell you how.
I was praying for someone this morning, that the Lord would bless him and his marriage, and that he would not be afraid to lead his wife. The thought that came into my mind as I was praying was “If you love Me, lead.” That’s a wonderful motivation for leading our families, men: because we love the Lord Jesus, we LEAD our families! Because the love of Christ compels us. I thought of what Jesus said to restore the fallen disciple: “Peter, do you love Me? Feed my sheep.” Three times the Lord connected love for Jesus with care for the flock.
Fathers, we have a flock to care for, to feed, to lead, and we can do what God has called us to do because of our love for Him. Perfect love casts out fear. If we are afraid of our wives or afraid of our children or afraid of the responsibility that we have been given, perhaps we should cry out to Jesus that He would help us love Him more.
If we love Him, we will lead.