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God’s Good Gift of Fatherhood

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Pentecost 4                                              Trinity Lutheran Church

17 June 2018                                            Murdock, NE

 

+ Jesu Juva +

 

Ephesians 6:4 “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”

 

Equal time. Today a sermon regarding fatherhood. To give God thanks for our father. For the good God gift has given us through our father. To repent of our neglect, abuse or even rejection of God’s good gift of fatherhood, to use Jesus properly for forgiveness, and for a desire to honor our father and to be better fathers for the sake of helping and caring for our family.

 

God expects men to be fathers. God uses a husband to have children with his wife in the estate of holy marriage. God insists on Dad to be the head of the family. God’s will is that fatherhood be about order. Discipline. Structure. Headship. God sets Dad at the head of the family. It is how He matrixes life from the very good beginning in Genesis. A headless family is a family in deep trouble and headed for disaster.

 

Gentlemen, being the head of the family certainly doesn’t mean being the boss or ruthless dictator. It doesn’t mean you are to bully, intimidate or torment your children. That’s a complete and total perversion of true manhood and fatherhood. If you act like a tyrant, I guarantee you will “exasperate” them. Frustrate them. Infuriate them. They’ll come to me and tell me, like I’ve heard many times over the years as a pastor: “I couldn’t do anything right in my father’s eyes! Everything I did was wrong! I can’t stand my father!”

 

Consequently, headship in the family doesn’t mean always getting your way. Brothers, being the head of the family as father means being the source of life. When I say source of life I don’t mean just getting your wife or some other woman pregnant. Good grief! Donating sperm is real easy! Any man can do that! Lots of deadbeats and doofuses have perfected it! A father, however, is most especially a man that provides for, cares for and protects the life of his family. He lives not to be served but to serve and to give his life in many demanding and sacrificial ways for the sake of the well being of his family. Sometimes he’ll take a second job to pay the bills. Stay up late to help with homework. Pick up the sick child from school. Help coach his son’s basketball team.

 

He also exercises headship by taking care of his family’s spiritual life. Making sure his children and wife are baptized and taught in the way the Lord Jesus mandates in Matthew 28 so that they believe only in Jesus for salvation. Seeing to it that they regularly receive the Lord’s Supper and that they believe that Jesus gives what He says: body – blood – for their forgiveness, life and salvation. Deuteronomy 6:7 tells you to impress God’s Word “on your children.” Proverbs 22:6 promises that if you, “Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it.”

 

Gentlemen, today’s text categorically tells you: “Fathers, bring your children up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” That’s God’s will and Word for you FATHERS, not mothers! Did you hear that? Dad is the pastor or bishop of his house. His pulpit can be the dining room table or the living room chair. His ordination papers are his marriage certificate and birth certificates of his children. Dad’s household is his congregation!

 

Gentlemen, I want you to listen very carefully. I have more high pastoral care for you, if you have ears to hear. I hope you’ll take it to heart and thank God that I said it today. It’s this. Do not delegate or farm out the duties of your call as father to your wife, to the grandparents, to the Sunday School or parochial school teachers or to Pastor Kuhlman! Seriously! For God’s sake and for your family’s sake stop it! Your wife, parents and others will help and support you. You know they will. Nevertheless, the spiritual care of your family is your responsibility! It’s time for all the men in our congregation to start doing it! Your family’s salvation and spiritual wellness are at stake! This has to be your utmost priority.

 

There is a time and a place for everything. Being a father means setting the family’s life in order. Prioritizing. Arranging. Ranking what’s most important and what really isn’t. What is most important for a Christian father is that he provide the spiritual discipline needed in the family for the life of repentance, faith, and holy living. Brothers, as your pastor I do not give you permission to do otherwise. On Judgment Day you’ll never be able to say: “Pastor Kuhlman gave me permission to disobey God’s Word,” BECAUSE I HAVEN’T and I won’t! It’s time to step up and be fathers who are men! Which means exercising your headship by taking care of and providing for your family’s spiritual health in all the ways available to you. Don’t you dare pit parochial school against Sunday School or the divine service. Don’t you dare pit devotions at home against worship at church. It all goes together.

 

For those of you fathers who are faithful in your vocation, thanks be to God! You’re doing holy and God-pleasing work! I want to encourage you to continue and to remain faithful in doing it. If you’re not, then I beg you to repent, use Jesus for forgiveness and then intend to do better. You know better. It’s time to do better! God requires it and expects it from you. For your family’s sake! You want to take care of your children, don’t you? Of course you do! Your children crave it. So does your wife. Do it then relying on God’s help and in obedience to the text: “Fathers, bring your children up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”

 

Experience and the soft social studies all reveal that when Dad takes the lead and exercises proper headship by bringing his family to church on a regular basis 80% of the kids stick with it. When Mom has to take the lead because Dad is spiritually MIA only 40% of the children stick with going to church. The kids get it loud and clear. They can be like Dad for better or for worse. “When I grow up I’ll be like Dad.” So, brothers, I beg and exhort you. By word and example bring your children up in the training and instruction of the Lord – the Ephesians 6 way. And kids honor your father for doing this. Thank God for him.

 

I want to make a few more points today if you’ll let me. Will you? Ok. Hang on tight. Here goes.

 

True fatherhood is defined by God Himself. As our Father in heaven, He is the source, generator and sustainer of life. Through your earthly father your heavenly Father daily and richly provides you with all that you need to support your body and life – Levis, Converse high tops, cowboy boots, a side of beef in the freezer, a bed to sleep in, a car to drive, some spending money at ball games, etc., etc., etc. Through your earthly father your heavenly Father defends you from all kinds of danger. He guards and protects you from all sorts of evil. Why? Only out of fatherly divine goodness and mercy. Not because you deserve it but only because God is your heavenly Father.

 

God gives us many kinds of fathers. Men that have inspired us, shaped us, disciplined us and taught us. Teachers. Coaches. Bosses. Uncles. Grandfathers. Men who taught Sunday School like Wayne Kupke, Bible classes or who helped with the church youth group. I remember Mr. Fred Witt at Our Redeemer, Glenrock, WY where I grew up. He always took a keen interest in me. Always talked theology and baseball with me. Then there is my father. He took us to church. He owned and operated his own business. However, he never used work as an excuse to stay away from hearing God’s Word and eating and drinking the Lord’s body and blood. Nothing, including youth practices or youth sports, kept us from going to church. Attending the divine service was just a given. It’s what Christians do! It’s what Christians want to do. They worship Jesus! In the way He mandates: third commandment and His words of Matthew 26 to eat and drink. My Dad’s example, along with Mr. Witt’s had a tremendous impact on me going to the seminary and becoming a pastor. You have them to thank … or to blame.

 

Other men who shape our lives like fathers are pastors. St. Paul called Timothy “my true son in the faith.” (1 Timothy 1:2)  The Large Catechism teaches us that a pastor is a father for his congregation. That’s just a family way of talking about the church. In 1 Corinthians 4:15 St. Paul told the Christian church at Corinth that, “even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many father, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.”  Think of how much we lose when we only view the pastor as a hire or fire employee, coach, equipper, CEO, or CFO instead of a spiritual father of a family. It’s one of the reasons why hardly anyone boy wants to be a pastor anymore and why most pastors are vocationally muddled and don’t know what it means to be a pastor.

 

Finally, as I have noted over the years with Father’s Day sermons, some of our fathers have been broken men. Some lived only for themselves. Perhaps your father was a deadbeat loser. Perhaps he was unfaithful to your mother. Possibly he hurt you deeply with harmful words or deeds for years or decades. Maybe your father abandoned you. Abused you. Neglected you. Drank way too much. Got hooked on drugs. Never at home, school events, balls games, graduations or other life events when it mattered most. Perhaps your father didn’t even bother to attend your confirmation, wedding or your child’s baptism.

 

So today, for many, is a bittersweet day. In whatever way or ways your father sinned against you I am here to tell you that the “blood of Jesus,” God’s own Good Friday Son “cleanses / purifies you from all sin.” (1 John 1:7) Yes, that’s right! The divine crucified and risen blood of Jesus cleanses and purifies you not only from the sin that you have committed against others – including your father — but also the sins that people have committed against you – including your father!

 

So, if you’re picking up what I’m throwing down today is a day for reconciliation and healing. It is time for you to let Jesus get between you and your father. Jesus died FOR YOU. Jesus forgives you! Of everything! There’s no sin or sinner He didn’t die for! That includes your father. For those of you that have been deeply hurt by your father I tell you that Good Friday Jesus bore your pain, your suffering, your abandonment — your abuse.

 

Tell me – the cursing, anger, bitterness, grudge holding and hatred toward Dad – how’s all that been working for you? How does all that edify your life or anyone’s life? It doesn’t. It doesn’t help or heal any relationship. Cursing your father also brings curses on you. Curse your Dad and you are committing social and emotional suicide. Those that curse or damn their father not only destroy their own family, they also have difficulty in making their own marriage work properly and most of the time the marriage ends in divorce. In addition, father cursers have an extremely hard time having a normal family. Usually the family is quite dysfunctional among Dad cursers. You’ve all seen this or experienced this, haven’t you?

 

Well, the Lord Jesus has sent me to give you good news. It’s this: THE GOOD FRIDAY WOUNDS OF JESUS bring healing and reconciliation! Bury the wounds of the past in the healing wounds of Jesus. Forgive your father as God the Father has forgiven you through His Son Jesus Christ. Father’s Day, then, is a day to forgive, to receive the gift of fatherhood with thanksgiving and to use this gift for the physical and spiritual wellness of our families.

 

Happy Father’s Day.

 

In the Name of Jesus.

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Pentecost 3

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Pentecost 3                                               Trinity Lutheran Church

10 June 2018                                             Murdock, NE

 

+ Jesu Juva +

 

Genesis 3:8-15

 

Adam and Eve believed the Satanic lie. The lie was this: Don’t be content to be human. Don’t trust in God – total dependence on Him and His Word spelled F-A-I-T-H. Don’t love others. Live for yourself. Love yourself above all things. You can be little divinities. Dethrone God Himself. You can call the shots. Call good evil and evil good. Your words can be better than God’s. What a lie! What a whopper! Adam and Eve bit. Trusted the lie. They can’t be like God. Never! Now they are mortified. Humiliated. Ashamed.

 

They should have trusted the Lord. His Word. His care. His love. Eat from any tree except one. Enjoy. God had warned them: “Eat from that tree I forbid and you will die.” The taste of death was still on their lips.

 

Now everything is damningly different. Wrathfully altered. Once Adam and Eve perfectly reflected God’s image as His creatures. When Adam and Eve don’t want to be dependent creatures and insist on being independently “like God” they become God’s bitter rivals. Hostile competitors. Instead of living outside themselves, now they’re totally turned in on themselves. Self-oriented. Self-centered. Self-absorbed. Narcissistic. Self-justifying. Idolatrous.

 

They realize they’re naked. Blushed – red-faced in shame for the first time. What a strange, uncomfortable feeling! Ashamed of their bodies. Ashamed of who they are and what they’ve done. They felt defenseless. Vulnerable. Exposed. They feel the need to be covered. So they hide in the trees as God takes His daily walk in the cool of the day and cover their nakedness with fig leaves.

 

Like Adam and Eve we are born in hiding. We hide from each other. We hide from God. The old Adam in all of us hides behind our fig leaves. Our public image. We hide from God behind our own sense of importance, our inflated egos, our arrogance, our independence, our pride, our self-justification. We hide in our work. We especially hide in our play – and most especially in our children’s sports. We hide in our busy schedules and hectic lives. We hide behind brick walls and bolted security locks. We demand our privacy. We want to be left alone. We are isolated.

 

Isolation is considered a form of punishment. The worst criminals are locked up in ISOLATION! When we run and hide from God, we put ourselves in the prison house of isolation. We don’t trust others. We don’t trust God. He frightens us. He asks uncomfortable questions. Makes judgments about our bad choices and about our trying to be “like God.” We hide from His Word. We hide from the holy absolution and the Lord’s Supper. We hide from community in church by rarely or just periodically fellowshipping with brothers and sisters in Christ. We hide in the trees as our old Adam relentlessly justifies itself with words that contradict the Lord’s. He says, “Remember the Sabbath Day.” He mandates pastors to preach the gospel and forgive sins. He commands the baptized to eat His body and drink His blood and receive forgiveness, life and salvation. We preach different words. Infallible as-if-we-are-like-God-words: “Too busy. Got to mow the lawn. Sleep in. My kids have practices and games. It’s the only day I have for myself. Besides, the pastor is an idiot anyway.”

 

These are the words I always hear from runaways, from hiders, from those bound in their self-imposed penitentiary of life in solitary — whose words are always better than the Lord’s. “I can pray by myself Reverend. I can worship by myself Reverend. I can do it in isolation!” That’s what the runaway person in hiding preaches 24-7-365. If I had a thousand dollars for every time I’ve heard that, I could have retired to Palm Spring, Pensacola or Torrey Pines 25 years ago!

 

Let’s remember, however, that isolation is not the same as solitude. Solitude is a time for reflection. Contemplation. Deliberation. Meditation. Prayer or worship in SOLITUDE grows from prayer and worship together with other Christians in the divine service who are remembering the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy, who pray, praise and give thanks to God and who are regularly and faithfully coming to the Lord’s Supper together with their fellow believers! Prayer and worship in ISOLATION is a perversion of both! In fact it’s an oxymoron! A self-contradiction! “It is not good for man to be alone,” God said. We are created and recreated in Christ to be in communion – with God and with each other. The psalms are corporate prayers. The psalms are corporate hymns. Intended to be prayed and sung together as church – with fellow believers! Jesus taught His disciples to pray: “Our Father,” not, “my Father.”

 

The person that runs and hides from God in the trees is isolated. Cut off from community. Living in solitary! A penitentiary cell! And that person is essentially dead!

 

God’s footsteps, however, draw closer and closer and closer. God calls out: “Adam, where are you?” It’s not a question of location. God knew where Adam was. Good grief! It was a question of relationship! “Where are you Adam? With respect to me? To your wife? To creation?”

 

God calls out to you in your hiding places. He calls to you in your work, work benches, cubicles, cabins, computers, boardrooms and bedrooms. Where are you? He calls out to you in your relationships, your singleness, your marriages. Where are you? He calls out to you in our diseases, disasters and dark places. “Where are you? Have you run away from Me? Why are you hiding?”

 

Exposed and unmasked — Adam goes to excuses. “I heard you in the garden. I was petrified because I was naked. So I ran as fast as I could and hid.” How flimsy. As flimsy as the fig leaves wrapped around his waist! Adam disobeyed. HE DISOBEYED! Believed the lie that his words were better than the Lord’s. So he rebelled violently against God! Would not trust God! That was his problem! Adam ate of death. Being naked wasn’t the problem until he became God’s enemy! Then he needed to cover himself. Justify himself. Shame and fear were his own doing, not God’s. Now Adam can do only one thing. Run away and purposely hide from God. Flee. Or, if he’ has to — fight Him!

 

Fight or flight – that is the natural condition of fallen sinfulness. We are all born fighting God or fleeing from Him. Shaking our fist at God, trying to punch Him in the mouth, or hiding in the trees. We’re very good at it. Probably have perfected it. Fight, flight, and excuses. Covering ourselves. Making excuses. Justifying ourselves.

 

Excuses make things worse. Naked? God never used that word with Adam. “Who told you that you were naked Adam? Have you eaten from the tree that I forbad? Adam, what have you done?”

 

God knew what Adam had done. He knows what you do. God asks the question because it is a question that gives the opportunity for … confession. For the telling of the truth. He wants to hear it from your lips. From Adam’s lips.

 

1 John 1:8, 10 says, “When we say we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, kidding ourselves and the truth is not in us. When we say that we have not sinned, we make God into a liar and His Word is not in us.”

 

Adam and Eve won’t confess. Won’t tell the truth. That’s called rebellion and denial. Then they point fingers. Sinners always want to be right – even when they’re wrong. “The woman YOU put here! She gave me the fruit from the tree and I ate.” “The serpent deceived me and I ate.” They play the blame game. Adam blames God. Eve blames Satan. We do the same. “It’s your fault God! You made me this way. It’s my parents’ fault. It’s my spouse’s fault! It’s y teacher’s fault. It’s my pastor’s fault.”

 

Confession of sin, however, draws us out of isolation and death. Puts an end to the blame game and pointing fingers at God and others. When you confess the truth you come out of the trees. Drop the fig leaves. End the excuses, denials and lies. In confession you take responsibility. You confess: “It’s my fault, my own fault, my own most grievous fault.” Confession is a kind of death. The old Adam’s death! Thanks be to God!

 

In hiding we live to die. In confessing we die to sin in order to live before God!

So learn and believe something even more today. It’s this. “When you confess,” when you tell the truth about yourself and your sinfulness, “God is faithful and just and will forgive your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteousness.” When you come out of hiding, shed your fig leaves of self-justification, quit offering excuses and blaming others, God promises to forgive you, cleanse you and restore you in the Good Friday blood of Jesus His Son.

 

Listen. Jesus came as the Second and Last Adam. He did what the first Adam wouldn’t do. He trusted His Father’s Word. He did His Father’s will. To the letter. Perfectly. He would not turn stones into bread so that He could eat because man does not live by bread alone but by every Word that comes from God’s mouth. Jesus is the promised Seed of Eve. He came to crush Satan’s head under His bruised heel. He ended Satan’s power over us by His brutal dying on the cross. Jesus is the “thief” if you will who has broken into the strong man’s house. He ties up the strong man and plunders his property. The strong man is the devil. You are I are the stolen goods. Jesus came to bring release from your self-imposed isolation. Freedom. Liberty. To bring you out of hiding into the joy of being God’s free children. The joy of being human – faith in Jesus for salvation – love for others for their sake.

 

Christ’s death is the death of your worst enemies: sin, the grave and the devil! Christ’s Good Friday death is greater than the devil. Greater than all your sin and more. Greater than the law that drives you into hiding. The worst that could happen to you, happened to Jesus as He took your place – damned under God’s wrath as He bore all your sin on the cross.

 

So hide! But hide only in Jesus! Don’t hide in the trees by yourself. Hide behind His cross. There Jesus will protect you. Hide your guilt in His wounds. Live in and from your baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection in order to confess your sins and to receive His forgiveness in holy absolution. Trust that His death and resurrection life are yours. Leave behind all your fig leaves of self-justification, excuses and blame and be clothed in the righteousness of Christ.

 

Hidden in Jesus, it is safe for you to come into God’s presence. Jesus had paid the price of your redemption with His blood and given you the Holy Spirit-filled life of faith in your baptism. The big death is already behind you. Seriously. Christ’s FOR YOU and your old Adam’s death in your baptism. Your life is now hidden with God in Jesus. There’s nothing left to lose. Come out of hiding.

 

Jesus calls you out of isolation to communion. He doesn’t leave you His died for and baptized people alone. He gathers you for worship together with others. He points to His disciples seated around Him who are His hangers on and says: “Look here! This is my family. Here are my mother and brothers!” Jesus’ Father is your Father. Jesus is your Brother. We are His family. His brothers and sisters. His church. “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

 

God’s will is that you hide in Jesus for salvation and not in your selfish selves. That you use Jesus properly – against your sin and death. God’s will is that you live as His free children. Confessing your sin, dying to sin, and daily rising to live before God in Christ’s holiness and purity that He gives to you in the gospel. You are now covered and clothed with Jesus in your baptism! God’s will is that you eat and drink from the new tree of life that Jesus has planted Good Friday-ly on the earth. The new tree of life is His cross. It’s fruit? It is His body and blood with the bread and wine for your forgiveness just as He promises. The Lord’s Supper is your paradise or Garden of Eden before you enter heaven so that you may eat and live forever. Finally, God’s will is that everyone that looks on the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life and He will raise him up on the Last Day.

 

In the Name of Jesus.

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