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"A Father’s Role: Tapping and Telling"

Father’s Day June 19/16 - 1Kings 19:19-21; 21:20-26


Setting limits is an important part of fathering. Conover Swofford writes... [Heavenly Humor for the Dad’s Soul; BEGIN QUOTED SECTION]

      Stephen was frantically searching for his 3-year-old son, Jack. He called for him over and over, but there was no answer. Finally, Stephen went to the back door and called, “Jack, are you in the woods?” “Yes,” came the answer. “You know you aren’t allowed in the woods,” Stephen said. “You come here right now.” “No,” said the little voice. “What do you mean no?” Stephen demanded. “Come here right now.” “I can’t, Jack replied. “What do you mean you can’t?” Stephen asked anxiously; “are you hurt?” “No,” Jack called, “but if I come in, you will spank me.”

      Everybody may not need a spanking, but we all need discipline. Our children know when someone needs correcting – usually someone other than themselves. People may argue over the type of discipline a child should receive, but they agree that children should be disciplined.

      A father took his 3-year-old son to a child psychologist who told him that he was being too negative and should not say the word ‘no’ to his son. “Oh really?” said the man; “so if he runs out into traffic, I should just let him go?” The psychologist had no answer for him.

      The Bible says that whom the Lord loves, He chastens (Hebrews 12:6). Just like God disciplines us to keep our souls safe for eternity, we discipline our children to keep them physically safe on this earth and spiritually safe for eternity. [END QUOTED SECTION]


God’s direct commands to fathers in the New Testament are pretty short and to the point. Perhaps He knows our capacity to remember things isn’t great! Colossians 3:21 “Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.” Do not ‘embitter’, NRSV ‘provoke’; lest they become ‘discouraged’ - disheartened, broken in spirit. How does a dad embitter or provoke? A person becomes bitter when they’re treated unfairly, for example being denied something that’s rightfully theirs. Dads, if you’re going to have expectations of your kids for which you’re going to hold them to account, make the COMMANDS CLEAR right from the get-go. Verbalize the expectations simply and plainly in a way that registers. Few things are more frustrating or feel unfair than getting told off for something you didn’t know was wrong in the first place!

      Once you’ve got the COMMANDS CLEAR, then BE CONSISTENT. If you’ve said there would be consequences, then follow through. Don’t show favoritism by letting child B get away with something for which you’ve already disciplined child A.

      And remember, you are more than JUST A COP! Yes it’s your role to discipline, but there’s much more to being a dad. Be invested with them in their good moments showing lots of love, taking time to play with them, read to them, go to their sporting events, interested in their music lessons and what they like to do with their leisure time. KNOW YOUR KIDS. Give them lots of love and affection and positive strokes, so when you have to “lay down the law”, it’s in the context of and more than offset by an overwhelming wealth of affirmation and knowing they’re valued. Else they’ll feel bitter because they have been deprived of the attention and caring they intuitively look to a parent to provide.

      As Col 3:21 says, don’t let them ‘become discouraged’ or broken in spirit. On June 7 hundreds of secondary school students walked away from their classrooms in Woodstock to draw attention to the five suicides that had happened there in the previous 4 months, and 3 dozen suicide attempts. Some feel nobody cares. Does this mean parents are preoccupied with other pursuits? Some report being driven to consider suicide because of abuse by a boyfriend or being bullied. I wonder – what is it that a bully fails to get from their dad that predisposes them to bully a classmate? Are they not learning from the dad respect and consideration for other members of the family? Are they seeing the father bully others in the family in order to get his own way, that his attitude is, “It’s all about me!”? So - perhaps - the child’s or youth’s ‘love tank’ isn’t getting filled at home, so they turn to bullying others in order to boost their shaky sense of self-esteem. But really inside they’re discouraged, disheartened, broken in spirit.

      Another passage directed at fathers is Ephesians 6:4 - “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Those of you who were brought up in the King James Version may have the phrase “nurture and admonition of the Lord” ringing in your head. But really the second word is more positive than the first. I call these aspects of fathering TAPPING and TELLING.


“Instruction” (nouthesia) is literally ‘mind-setting’, fixing one’s understanding, imparting truth into the consciousness; ‘nous’ in Greek is ‘mind’. As we said before, MAKE THE COMMANDS CLEAR. Teach Scripture; read a Children’s Bible at bedtime when they’re young, then work your way up, have a devotional reading at suppertime. Be so familiar with Christ’s teaching that it automatically spills out of you when you have any opportunity to instruct them as you go about your day. Let your life rub off on them; impress YOUR Biblically-shaped mindset upon THEM.

      Psychologist Eric Erikson identified 8 stages of psychosocial development; the middle adulthood one he called “Generativity vs Stagnation”. For parents, one aspect of generativity is raising and shaping one’s descendants, your kids. Jesus did not have earthly children but hung out for 3 years with His 12 disciples, making them familiar with His ways, imprinting Himself upon them as it were.

      In 1Kings 19 we see the prophet Elijah moaning to God that the Israelites are out to get him, they’ve put the prophets to death with the sword, and Elijah feels like he’s the only one left, even though he’s been very zealous for the Lord (1Kings 19:14). Classic pity-party, questioning if his life is all for naught. God responds by directing him to go and anoint 2 kings (over Aram and Israel), and to anoint Elisha to succeed him as prophet. He will be generative through his successor, one he’s to start mentoring.

      Elijah finds Elijah plowing with 12 yoke of oxen – presumably each team with its own plough and driver, working tandem-style. Elijah throws his cloak around Elisha: a symbol of claiming someone to become a follower and take over one’s role. Elisha asks to kiss his parents goodbye; sacrifices the oxen and plough as an offering, marking the point of no turning back. 1Kings 19:21b “Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his attendant.” This was closer than student-teacher relationship; in 2Kings 2:12 when Elijah is caught up to heaven in a flaming chariot, how does Elisha cry out? “My father! My father!” They had become very close. And Elisha carries on Elijah’s ministry in his mentor’s spirit and power.

      Dads, one of your roles is instructing your children. Help them become familiar with God’s truth, the Biblical way of looking at things. But also TAPPING them on the shoulder, casting your mantle or cloak around them, helping them discover what God is calling them to do with their particular unique personality and giftedness. That takes prayer, discernment, spending gobs of time with them, really KNOWING your child and how each one is different from their sibling. Help them develop their aptitudes. Pay for those music lessons. Play catch or dribble with them so they’re not so clumsy on the field with their team. Few things are as satisfying in life as watching your adult children blossom into their niche, the vocation for which God has been preparing them. That’s “TAPPING”.


There’s also “TELLING”. Back to Ephesians 6:4, “Bring them up in the TRAINING and instruction of the Lord.” ‘Instruction’ or ‘admonition’ we just talked about: mind-setting, getting them acquainted with God’s truth, His authoritative commands for life. ‘Training’ translates the Greek ‘paideia’ as in ‘pedagogy’ or ‘paediatrician’ - something to do with children. ‘Paideia’ is literally ‘training of children’; KJV used “nurture”, but there’s both positive and negative here – it includes ‘chastening’. NRSV translates it ‘discipline’.

      An important related passage translates ‘paedia’ consistently as ‘discipline’, Hebrews 12:5-11 (CAPS = ‘paedia’ root in Greek): “"My son, do not make light of the Lord’s DISCIPLINE, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord DISCIPLINES those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son." Endure hardship as DISCIPLINE; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not DISCIPLINED by his father? If you are not DISCIPLINED (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who DISCIPLINED us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God DISCIPLINES us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No DISCIPLINE seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

      We can see here that ‘paedia’ or discipline or training is associated with hardship (v7) and even pain/grief (v11). Any parent who has administered discipline knows it’s NOT pleasant! So parents may be tempted to shy away from disciplining, from ‘telling their child off’ or rebuking or admonishing if they’ve done something wrong. Today’s ‘sensitive New Age’ parents want to be their child’s friend rather than the Administrator of Consequences. But as the writer of Hebrews points out, disciplining is an essential part of child-rearing; Heb 12:8 “If you are not disciplined...then you are illegitimate children and not true sons.”

      We see Elijah fulfilling this TELLING aspect of fatherhood when he rebukes Israel’s King Ahab in 1Kings 21(20ff). This takes significant courage: remember Ahab’s wife Queen Jezebel had already been killing off the Lord’s prophets (1Kings 18:4). Ahab begins in 21:20a, “So you have found me, my enemy!” Elijah clarifies it’s not HIM that’s the real enemy – instead Ahab has made himself God’s enemy by doing evil. 21:20b “I have found you...because you have sold yourself to do evil in the eyes of the LORD.”

      Parents, remember when disciplining, it’s not about a power trip. If you’ve already MADE THE COMMANDS CLEAR, it’s not about you or your meanness, but about the child’s behaviour falling short of the standard. This helps it to stay objective, rather than ‘get personal’.

      In 21:22 God speaks through Elijah, “...You have provoked me to anger and have caused Israel to sin.” It’s about the behaviour, the deficient action, not about Elijah the intermediary. Vv25-26 amplify: “There was never a man like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the LORD, urged on by Jezebel his wife.He behaved in the vilest manner by going after idols, like the Amorites the LORD drove out before Israel.” The implication here is that even the peoples who occupied the land BEFORE Israel were still accountable to God’s standards. That keeps it objective. The authority rests with God, not Elijah. Ahab’s behaviour is unacceptable just as it was unacceptable for the people who were evicted from the land before the Hebrews came.

      So, dads, unpleasant as it may be – TELL your children when they stray. Some day your kids will respect you for it! (Heb 12:9) You are reflecting God’s pattern, in which He disciplines us FOR OUR GOOD (Heb 12:10).


I close today with a story by DB Murphy Jr which illustrates a caring father “tapping” his son on the shoulder so to speak, confronting and challenging his son beyond his ‘comfort zone’ in order to help him discover his God-given talent. [Source: “The Hidden Talent”]

      The dreaming boy did not hear the footsteps of his father in the clipped grass.Only after the kindly doctor had seated himself beside his preoccupied son and spoken his name did he start from his reverie.

      "Charles," he said softly.The boy sat erect and looked a bit sheepish."Don't bother to get up; I think I'll join you.” So the two, father and son, lay side by side and gazed up at the wandering clouds already tinged with sunset gold.Dr.Wilson had long wished for such an opportunity as this to discuss with his son something that was weighing heavily upon his heart.And yet he hardly knew how to begin.Where was all his efficiency? Now, if ever, he must summon all his powers of persuasion, logic, and rhetoric to unlock the treasure that lay buried in the soul of his seventeen-year-old son.It was going to be a battle.

      "Charles, I hear that the young people are giving a musical program next Wednesday night, the proceeds of which are to be given to the Red Cross." Charles's face darkened, but he said nothing."I'm sorry you declined to play, Son, but I've taken the liberty to tell them that you will reconsider.I don't wish to be harsh with you, but the time has long since passed when you should have learned that a musician's talents are not given him solely for his personal amusement."

      Charles was so taken by surprise that at first he could only stare at his father in amazement."But, Dad," he exclaimed, "they don't care for my kind of music – for classical music.They feed on that cheap trash that's here today and gone tomorrow.”

      "That may be true, but how much have you done to help to change their tastes? You may condemn their bad music, but what efforts have you made to show them that classical music is vastly superior? You, whom God has blessed with a marvelous talent, are burying that talent." Charles winced at this accusation; he did have a conscience.Yet he still rebelled at the idea of baring his soul to the candid eye of the public.He revelled in his music.He lived and breathed it.Was it not his own secret treasure, to be securely locked away and brought out only when it pleased him? It always had been.Perhaps, though, his father was right about burying his talent, but he knew he was right about defending the classics.He would like to show his friends how really glorious the best music is.They had never heard him play.They all knew that he spent much time with his "fiddle" as they called it, but his persistent reluctance to play in public had almost frozen their interest in his accomplishment.

      Father and son discussed the matter further for the next hour, and finally Charles yielded.Yes, he would play."I'm glad," his father said, rising slowly."I knew that if you really loved your art, sooner or later you would come to its defense.I wish you would play 'The Maid with the Flaxen Hair' by Debussy.Promise?" Charles said nothing; he was gazing absently at the evening star already glittering like a diamond on the blue velvet of the soft summer sky.Dr.Wilson turned quietly and went back to the house, inwardly elated that he had won such a signal victory....

      [Later, at the concert] ...He drew the notes like magic bubbles from off the strings and lightly flung them out over the upturned faces of the listeners.Enchanted, the audience hardly dared to breathe.Here was something new, something beautiful, something fragile.Yet with all its fragility, it was enduring, uplifting, and refreshing.The piece was short; yet the spell was not broken until Charles had made his bow and stepped off the stage.Then a tumult of applause shook the auditorium.

      There was a lump in Dr.Wilson's throat.Indeed there were lumps in many throats.The simple, appealing message played straight from the boy's heart had done its work.

      After the program Charles was surprised when many shook his hand and thanked him profusely for his part of the program.His classmates were especially complimentary, and their praise he valued the most.Perhaps his effort had not been in vain.He sincerely hoped that he had raised the classics in the estimation of at least some of the young moderns who were his high school friends.And although he felt unusually happy, he did not realize what the program had done for him.

      ...The next evening after supper, Dr.Wilson called him into the library."Sit down, Son; I want to talk to you.” Charles took the leather chair facing his father's desk."Have you discovered my real purpose in insisting that you play last night?" he began with a twinkle in his eye.Charles glanced quizzically at his father."What do you mean?" "I mean that the program last night drew you out of the shell in which you have long taken refuge.You revolved in your own little orbit, engrossed in your music, not caring for other companionship.You excused yourself by saying that your associates did not care for the music you enjoyed.But you found out last night that they appreciated your playing more than any other part of the program.That pleased you.And now you are ready to share your music freely, to give pleasure to others, and not to remain so self-centred.That is as it should be, and I am pleased."

      [The story concludes] Yes, dear old dad had been right.[Charles] did feel unusually contented and pleased.He did feel as though he had been released from a shell.If the old moon had bent a little closer, it could have seen many things in Charles's gray eyes: lofty ideals, determination, and, above all, a noble answer to the call of service.” Let’s pray.