Your Fathering Legacy

Your Fathering Legacy

For Guys With Kids at Home Invest time with them one-on-one. Jesus appointed the twelve so that they might be with him. Our spiritual heritage is our influence. It requires time. Seek to understand them. Ask questions: What is going on in their world of experiences, feelings, and ideas? Jesus became flesh to enter our world. Empathize with them. Jesus, our High Priest sympathizes with our weaknesses. Give them constant affirmation. Paul wrote to the believers at Thessalonica, You know how, like a father with his children we…encouraged you (vs 2:12). Fill their emotional tank with affection. Jesus rebuked his disciples for thinking that giving his affection to children around him was unimportant (Luke 18:15-16). Teach them the wisdom of God. (Stay tuned for our upcoming September series, “Protecting Our Families from Destructive Cultural Worldviews”).

May I ask, “How much thought have you given to your fathering legacy?” If you are like I was, when first asked this question, your answer is probably “Not very much.” No matter what stage of life we are in, we are probably too busy doing what we need to get done this week to think much about something as nebulous and far away as my fathering legacy. Yet, whether you are on the front end of adulthood or adding great grandchildren to your tribe, it is worth considering how we can make the most strategic investment of ourselves to build a godly heritage because, God, himself, underscores the importance of the spiritual heritage we are to pass on. This episode examines the importance of building a godly fathering legacy and identifies a few practical suggestions about HOW to do it.

Several years ago I was sitting in a Great Dads seminar when the speaker read from Exodus 20: I the Lord  your God visit the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but show steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments (Ex 20:5-6). He remarked, “A father can send the darkness of sin down through the next four generations or send the light of God down to his descendants.” He then pointed to 2 historic examples of these two contrasting choices. In 1874 a man named Richard L. Dugdale was employed by the New York Prison Commission to visit the state prisons. As he visited, he was surprised to find criminals in six different prisons that were all descended from the same family. This led Mr. Dugdale to an exhaustive study of 1200 people who were the progeny of a man to whom he gave the fictitious name, Max Jukes. Dugdale compiled this list of Max Juke’s descendants.

  • 310 of the 1,200 were professional paupers begging others for handouts instead of earning their living—more than one in four.
  • 300 of the 1,200—one in four—died in infancy from lack of protective care and healthy conditions.
  • 50 women lived lives of notorious debauchery.
  • 7 were murderers.
  • 60 were habitual thieves who spent on the average twelve years each in lawlessness.
  • 130 were criminals who were convicted in some way of crime.

A generation later a researcher named A. W. Winship compiled records of the descendants of Jonathan Edwards, a busy author, theologian, pastor, and President of Princeton Seminary. Winship compiled a list of Edwards’ descendants and then decided to contrast the list to the descendants of Max Jukes in the book Jukes-Edwards: A Study in Education and Heredity, published in 1900. In the Legacy of Jonathan Edwards are:

  • 1 U.S. Vice-President
  • 3 U.S. Senators
  • 3 governors
  • 3 mayors
  • 13 college presidents
  • 30 judges
  • 65 professors
  • 80 public office holders
  • 100 lawyers
  • 100 missionaries, pastors and theologians.

Here is the point. This did not happen just because Jonathan Edwards was a Christian or because he was a brilliant Christian thinker. Lots of Christians and great theologians have families that are a mess, with their kids wanting nothing to do with Christ or Christianity. What was Edwards secret? He was very intentional. You might say he was devoted not to just being a spiritual hero himself (which he WAS) but being a hero-maker of his childrenEvery evening before dinner, Edwards gave all eleven of his children his full attention for one hour—to build biblical thinking into their hearts. Understanding that leadership IS influence, when he could, he took one of his children with him—building his relationship with each one while he traveled. When Edwards died, his wife, Sarah, commented to her daughter, “Oh what a legacy my husband and your father has left us.” God’s intention is for every Christian father to build a godly spiritual heritage that he passes on to his descendants.  Let’s do an overview of Scripture to see how important this concept really is:

A. In Genesis 17:7, the covenant that God made with Abraham, whom Paul tells us is the father not just of the Jews but of the Christian faith, involved a commitment not just to Abraham, BUT TO HIS POSTERITY:  I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. Though Abraham was saved by faith, GOD’S covenant commitment was also to Abraham and Sarah’s succeeding generations. A chapter later we discover ABRAHAM’S responsibility in this covenant. God said about Abraham, I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing rightouesness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him (Gen 18:19). As the head of his family, it was Abraham’s responsibility to lead his household to keep the way of the Lord. But throughout Israel’s history, this responsibility gets lost, forgotten, and ignored.

B. After Abraham’s descendants were delivered from 400 years of slavery in Egypt, and completed 40 years of wondering in the wilderness, the Israelites are ready to enter the promised land. Listen to these precise words of Moses, who reiterates this covenant responsibility of parents to pass on their spiritual heritage.

You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth (Deut 11:18-21).

C. Joshua then leads the Israelites into the promised land. It appears that Joshua DID PASS ON HIS SPIRITUAL HERITAGE. Living to be 110, he would have known his descendants to the fourth generation. He must have passed on his spiritual heritage because Scripture reports, And the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great work that the Lord had done for Israel…..And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. But four generations from Joshua the link was broken. We read, And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel.  And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals. And they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers (Judges 2:7-10).

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