Thursday, July 25, 2013

Father Figure

Today is the fourth day in our 29th week, reading the Bible through in a year.  Our scriptures today are:  2 Kings 2-3; Matt 4; Psalm 48.

Today's 2 Kings 2 passage is all about father-son relationships.  Elijah and Elisha enjoyed such a relationship, even though they weren't biologically related.  During a critical time in Elijah's life, God had brought a young man named Elisha to him, to provide encouragement and a sense of continuity in his ministry.  Elisha would succeed his "father" Elijah, and would do even greater things than he had done.  What a bond they must have shared as they lived together, ministered together, and shared everything in common!  
Rick Pino's song, "Spirit of Elijah" is about the relationship between Elijah and Elisha.  Verse one and the first chorus are sung from the perspective of Elisha, who shows his loving dedication to his "father" Elijah:
[Verse 1]All Iʼve ever wanted was to be a sonAnd to wash the father's hands and help him as he runsIn a day where young men are running on their ownI will chase the fathers heart, I will chase the double portion
Iʼll be a double portion sonIʼll turn my heart to yours for now the time has comeFor curses to stop in our landAnd together weʼll run as heaven smiles over usAnd weʼll run, and weʼll run, yeah weʼll run
I've had many "fathers" in my life.  Of course, there's my own biological father.  I have many fond memories of canoeing with Dad, building a clubhouse together, singing in the church choir alongside of Dad, and countless other things that bonded us together. Unlike many children, I was blessed to have my father live in my home, to guide me and teach me for my entire childhood.  Mom and Dad eventually divorced, but I thank God that it wasn't until after my brother and I grew up.  My unpopular opinion is that there's a lot to be said for "staying together for the sake of the kids."  There's not time to explore that idea here and now, but there's my opinion on it.  Then there was my maternal grandfather.  Granddady Lemon and I didn't see each other as much as I would have liked, but there was a bond between us that was undeniable.  In his eyes, I was a little version of himself.  He told me that he and I were "simpatico."  I remember him taking me on his lap and telling me how special I was.  Some of my most cherished possessions are things that he handed down to me, to remember him.  I miss Granddad dearly.

Then, there are the other "fathers" who weren't related to me by blood.  My father-in-law, Earl, has been a father to me since before Beth and I were married.  He has helped me through tough times and spoken truth to me that I needed to hear.  His insights have been invaluable to me.  My stepdad, Rock, has been like a father to me since he stepped into my life and married my mom.  He has given me a listening ear, as well as good advice, and has helped me out of a jam many times.  Growing up, Pastor Tim was a father-figure to me.  Though he had no children of his own, he spent a lot of time with the youth in our church.  Then there were godly men in our church, like Louis and Philip, who showed fatherly concern for me and gave me the advice I needed, whether I wanted to hear it at the time or not.  And, though a pastor isn't supposed to let church members enter into a parental role to them, Warren was there in more recent years, to become a surrogate grandfather to me after the death of Granddaddy Lemon.

I can only imagine the pain that Elisha experienced as he anticipated his "father" Elijah's departure from him.  Twice, prophets warned him that Elijah would be taken from him that day, and twice, he said, "Yes, I know it; keep quiet."  He couldn't bear the thought of losing his father.  Meanwhile, Elijah kept trying to leave Elisha behind, because he didn't think his "son" could endure the pain of seeing him taken up to heaven.  Finally, when Elijah saw that Elisha was going to stick with him to the end, he asked him to tell him something he could do for him, before he was taken away.  I love Elisha's answer.  He asked for a double portion of the spirit that was upon Elijah.  This wasn't a vainglorious expectation of an awesome ministry.  Basically, Elisha was saying, "Dad, I want to be just like you.  In fact, I want to be twice as much like you as you are."  What an awesome thing to say!  And he got it.  When the prophet was taken up to heaven, his mantle fell down from that fiery chariot.  Elisha picked it up and took it with him--a keepsake of their relationship, but also a ministry tool that would work wonders--twice as many miracles as Elijah had performed in his work for the Lord!

The second verse and chorus of Rick Pino's "Spirit of Elijah" is sung from Elijah's perspective as he lives out his father-son relationship with young Elisha.
[Verse 2]All Iʼve ever wanted was a father's heartTo be here for you every time, no matter the costTo love you as my very own and help you as you runTo put you on my shoulders and be here to cheer you on
Youʼll be my double portion sonIʼll turn my heart to yours for now the time has comeFor curses to stop in our landAnd together weʼll run as heaven smiles over usAnd weʼll run, and weʼll run, yeah weʼll run
I'm now in my forties, and have been in ministry over twenty years.  I've had many "sons" over the years as well.  I have two biological sons, and words can't describe how much they mean to me!  My heart swells with pride as I see the excellent man that my 17-year-old, Aaron, is becoming.  I take delight in those things that he has discovered, where he knows more about something than I do, and he can teach his old man.  (Amazing--I could never build my own computer like Aaron has done!)  While many kids his age are out partying, he is a dependable, responsible man.  I can't wait to see what God has in store for my recent high school graduate!  Then there's Daniel.  At eleven years old, he is developing his musical talents and running his own blog (  He fascinates me with his young insights, and entertains me with his humor.  His interests are so diverse, from videography to martial arts to wilderness survival.  I'm eager to see what God develops in him as he grows to be a man.  

There are also others who have been "sons" to me, even though I'm not biologically or directly their father.  I think of surrogate sons like Michael and Josh--two boys in a church that I served years ago, who needed fathers in their lives.  What a joy it was to step into that role, if only for a time!  I was H.T.'s pastor for several years, and he still send me a Father's Day card every year, to let me know that he considers me to be a spiritual father to him.  Then, there's my son-in-law Joe, who has a spirit of adventure and carefree attitude that are marvelous to behold.  I've known Joe since he was fourteen, and have watched him grow from childhood to manhood.  Placing my daughter's hand in his was a difficult thing to do, but I look forward to a lifetime of growing in our father-son relationship.  

Finally, there's my first grandchild, my four-month-old amazing boy, Elijah.  I had no idea that I'd feel those same parental feelings for my grandson!  I mean, I knew that I'd love him, but I always figured I'd feel parental feelings that were a bit "dialed-back" from the way you feel about your own kids.  Boy, was I wrong!  You love your grandkids with the same kind of love you have for your own kids...the difference is that you worry about them more because you're not the one raising them!  Elijah is all potential--but I can already imagine our relationship growing and watching him develop from infancy to childhood, through adolescence and into manhood.  If I can pour into him the same love and wisdom that my granddad gave me, then I'll be happy.  If God would give my grandbaby a double portion of the blessings that He has given me, then I'll be the happiest Papa of all.

Our nation is in serious trouble because of a lack of father-child relationships.  Generations of men have shirked their responsibilities, and have lost the privileges, of fatherhood.  Abandoning their children and grandchildren for the sake of financial gain or freedom, they have given up the greatest treasure they could have ever had.  The result is that men have lost their attachment to the generations that could give them the most joy, and younger people have lost connection to the men who could give them great wisdom.  Poverty, behavioral problems, crime, child abuse, drug and alcohol abuse, health problems, sexual and gender problems, educational difficulties, and incarceration can result from fathers neglecting their responsibilities.  Click here to read statistics on father absence from the National Fatherhood Initiative.   It's time that fathers and grandfathers step up to their own responsibilities, and reclaim their children in the name of the Lord!  It's time that children turn to their fathers once again as a source of godly wisdom.

Elijah and Elisha understood the father-son connection.  We must understand it too.  I pray that God will send the spirit of Elijah upon America once again, that we might reclaim something that has been lost. Malachhi 4:5-6 (ESV) says:   

“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.”

Lord, turn the hearts of the fathers back to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers!   Rick Pino's song says that when that happens, 

...the spirit of Elijah will come to our land.And the rains of revival will pour once again.

Today, I'd like to dedicate "The Spirit of Elijah" to my grandson, Elijah.  May the first verse and chorus be his, and the second verse and chorus be mine.   

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