The Hearts of the Fathers

The Old Testament closes its last verses with a sign:

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” Malachi 4:5-6

The arrival of Messiah would have such a radical impact upon the family that the people of Israel would know it when they saw it. Israel’s condition was so terrible that one generation was divided against another down to the core fabric of society. But the closing prophecy of the Old Testament said that Messiah would change the hearts of our families.

With Messiah in the house, there wouldn’t have to be power-struggles or abuses of authority anymore. In that day, the fathers were the most-powerful in a patriarchal society. The children were the least-powerful and often ignored or considered of little to no value. Messiah, however, would show us what the Heavenly Father was all about. The Father loves the least. His heart is turned toward the weakest. He protects the most needy because he is Father. Good fathers give their power away like the Heavenly Father — from the depths of their heart. When Jesus came, he showed us how to receive and love the little children — and they loved him too, didn’t they?

Today, in a world with fractured families and shattered societies, there is the same Good News and sign of Messiah!  If a church is sharing the Gospel, then that church will look more and more like a family. We need our churches to provide places, ways, and opportunities for fathers to walk worthy of the Gospel; to show that the promise of Messiah has been kept by our Heavenly Father!

How will we know when the Gospel is sinking into our churches? One sign will be that dads will stop ignoring children and leaving their training and godliness to chance. Work, the place where men achieve power, will take second place in the heart of a dad who loves home, the place where he gives away his power and rights for the benefit of his children. Children will stop mocking their parents and treating them like ATM machines. They will be attracted to Jesus; they just know him when they see him. Then the home becomes a declaration that the Messiah has come to turn everything right. What a beautiful environment to welcome people into and to share about Christ.

Closing with a word to my father-friends — please don’t send your kids to a program and hope the program will do your hard-but-delightful work for you. Your church will help, but your home is where ministry begins. My challenge is to minister to and with your children. Incorporate other children too. Be a great “spiritual uncle.” I know that I need and want other good dads around my kids too! Don’t just strive to be a fun dad, but rather, be a Gospel dad. Remember that if you’re in Christ, you’ve been given a family for a mission — the mission of the Heavenly Father whose heart is already towards you.

– written to you by a father reflecting upon Father’s Day.

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