At Gateway Church in Austin, this past weekend Karin Harper spoke at Gateway South, and I spoke this past Sunday at the McNeil campus.
You can work through the next steps here.
You can watch the message here:
Here’s some of what I shared:
So many us live trying to prove we’re worth a father’s blessing. It kills us trying to get something we can never force. When we realize the Real Father whose blessing we truly long for, does not withhold that blessing—we can actually bless our dads, many of whom are like a little boy inside who never received their dad’s blessing either. We can also be a blessing to our sons and daughters or to others God brings into our lives. If you got it from your earthly father, you need to not neglect the reality that you are meant to be a conduit of the Real Father’s blessing to your children and even to other’s children.
Here’s the challenge: even the best fathers cannot meet our deepest needs.
Even in my best moments, I still cannot meet all the deepest needs felt by my children.
- I cannot bring peace to my daughter when she is overcome by fear. I can comfort her with all my heart, but she has to let God bring peace in the way that only He can.
- I cannot be there when my son is facing a trial or temptation at Austin High School. I can coach him and parent him and discipline him, but ultimately he has to let God help him through those difficult moments.
My kids can tell you, unlike God, I am not all knowing, all present, or all powerful. Sometimes I am unavailable because I am at work. Other times I may be with my kids, but I am distracted. Not to mention: I have my own struggles. I have my own triggers.
All of our dads have more than likely let us down at one point or another. They are human!
Our dads cannot live up to what we can discover in a healthy and vibrant and real relationship with our heavenly Father.
So today, we are going to talk about the power of a father’s blessing, receiving the blessing of our Heavenly Father, and passing along the Father’s blessing to others.
First, let’s consider the power of a father’s blessing.
The word “blessing” means to offer favor or protection. We say a “blessing” before our meals as a way to acknowledge God as the source of all our blessings. Praying before our meals is our way to acknowledge God as our Great Provider. It is our way to express gratitude.
The father’s blessing is an important part of every culture across the planet. In fact, there are so many world religions in part because people are looking for purpose – trying to determine our origins and even find the blessing of our Creator, our heavenly Father.
So to summarize, a blessing is a way for a father to communicate unconditional love and favor.
In the Hebrew Scriptures (also known as the Old Testament) the father’s blessing included words of encouragement, details regarding each child’s inheritance, and prophetic words concerning the future.
To help us understand the power of a father’s blessing, I want us to look at a story from the Scriptures where one son received a blessing and the other did not. This passage also includes one of the most commonly misunderstood passages in the entire Bible which I wrote about on my website in a post called: Did God Hate Esau?.
The passage I want us to look at is the story of Jacob and Esau. The story before the twins were born picks up in Genesis 25.
Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was childless. The Lord answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant. The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, “Why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the Lord. The Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.” When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb. The first to come out was red, and his whole body was like a hairy garment; so they named him Esau (which means “Red and Hairy”). After this, his brother came out, with his hand grasping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob (which literally means “Heel”). Isaac was sixty years old when Rebekah gave birth to them. The boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was content to stay at home among the tents. Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob. (Genesis 25:21-28 NIV)
So in our culture, some of us still name our children with a name that means something. Like a blessing, we name our children with hopes for their future.
Now, we don’t usually name them “Red and Hairy” or “Heel” like Isaac and Rebekah.
If you gave your child a name as almost a hope or promise for their future, have you reminded them lately? If not, take the time to look them in the eye to remind them of what their name means, and how you came up with that name for them.
Later, the boys grow up and they have a natural and normal sibling rivalry, but their parents play favorites which happens in some cultures and in some families more than others.
With the help of his mom, Jacob deceived his dad in order to receive the blessing from his father. It was the blessing Isaac planned to give to his eldest son Esau. In those days, the blessing was primarily only for the eldest son.
After deceiving his father by wearing his brother’s clothes and making it seem like he had hairy arms like his older brother, Jacob took meat prepared by his mom to his old and blind father. Isaac noticed that his voice sounded like Jacob, but his arms felt like Esau and he smelled like Esau.
As a result, Isaac blessed Jacob. Listen to this blessing and Esau’s response in Genesis 27. Isaac says to Jacob:
May God give you heaven’s dew and earth’s richness— an abundance of grain and new wine. May nations serve you and peoples bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may the sons of your mother bow down to you. May those who curse you be cursed and those who bless you be blessed.”
When Esau heard his father’s words, he burst out with a loud and bitter cry and said to his father, “Bless me—me too, my father!” But he said, “Your brother came deceitfully and took your blessing.” Esau said, “Isn’t he rightly named Jacob? This is the second time he has taken advantage of me: He took my birthright, and now he’s taken my blessing!” Then he asked, “Haven’t you reserved any blessing for me?” Isaac answered Esau, “I have made him lord over you and have made all his relatives his servants, and I have sustained him with grain and new wine. So what can I possibly do for you, my son?” Esau said to his father, “Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me too, my father!” Then Esau wept aloud. His father Isaac answered him, “Your dwelling will be away from the earth’s richness, away from the dew of heaven above. You will live by the sword and you will serve your brother. But when you grow restless, you will throw his yoke from off your neck.” Esau held a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him. He said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.” (Genesis 27:28-29, 34-41 NIV)
So that didn’t go so well! Ever have a family moment that went horribly wrong?
Here’s something interesting: often in science or sociology, experiments on nature versus nurture are conducted using twins. Here we have that same kind of experiment. Looking at the lives of Jacob and Esau, we can see how two people who have the same family and same experience grow up differently.
The main difference was the father’s blessing.
So those of us who have grown up with our father’s blessing much like Jacob we grow up with confidence and hope in our future.
Much like Esau, without the father’s blessing our “daddy issues” can turn into anger, frustration, and a sense of being a victim. This unmet longing can lead to desperation that can lead to bad decision making.
In our context, kids who do not have the father’s blessing are more likely to struggle with depression, suicidal tendencies, addiction, and even commit crimes.
In essence, the absence of a blessing is a curse.
Esau grew up with a great deal of animosity towards his brother. He felt betrayed and enraged.
Esau’s life was marked by rebellion against God and a desire for revenge against his brother. Eventually, it was his descendants known as the Edomites that became enemies of Israel and even burned the Temple several years after the Babylonians had destroyed it and before Jesus was born.
Now, not all was easy for Jacob. Just having a father’s blessing does not mean you won’t face challenges or difficulties. In fact, because he was a deceptive person the meaning of his name changed to mean “Deceiver.” Eventually, he “reaped what he sowed.” He worked for 7 years to gain permission to marry a beautiful girl named Rachel. Instead he got tricked into marrying Leah then he had to work for another 7 years to marry Rachel. He also experienced lots of drama with his sons. Some of his boys tried to kill his son Joseph. Instead Joseph sold into slavery. He experienced a great deal of conflict with his uncle. For most of his life, he feared his brother Esau.
Eventually, Jacob wrestled with God, walked with a limp, and was renamed Israel.
Finally, at the end of his life, Jacob blessed his twelve sons and made predictions regarding their future (Genesis 49). The Bible records the direct fulfillment of many of these predictions, revealing the supernatural ability given to Jacob as the father of these twelve boys that became known as the twelve tribes of Israel.
The story of Jacob and Esau is a reminder to us that in a culture where the oldest male was the only one who received a blessing, God began to show that His love and His work in the world goes beyond what we would think it should. God’s love is not limited to the oldest or the strongest or the biggest, and so on. God chose to work through the younger son Jacob because Jacob would choose to trust God. God knew Esau would rebel against Him.
Second, we can receive the blessing of our Heavenly Father.
Looking at the lives of Jacob and Esau, we can see the power of a father’s blessing. At the same time, we can see also the limitations of a blessing from an earthly father. The blessing of an earthly father can set up our children for the life God designed and desires for them, but each person must still choose for himself or herself the way he or she will go.
There are great fathers whose children still grow up and make bad decisions.
We also know people who grow up without a father or a father’s blessing
and end up leading a godly and productive life.
So whether you have received your father’s blessing or you have not received your father’s blessing, I have some great news for you.
You can receive the blessing of your Heavenly Father.
“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.” – Psalm 68:5
Of all the ways the Lord God Almighty could have chosen to relate to humanity, He chose the language of family. He could have described Himself as a benevolent dictator, a kind boss, or patient landlord. But instead, He chose the word father.
He presents Himself as a Father because we all know what a father is and does. Even if we did not have earthly fathers who treated us well, we have an intrinsic understanding of what a good father should be. God planted that understanding in our hearts. We all have a need to be loved, cherished, protected, and valued. Ideally, an earthly father will meet those needs. But even if he doesn’t, God will. Jesus taught His followers to address God as Father. Throughout Scripture, God describes His love for us as that of a caring parent. Although He possesses characteristics of both father and mother, He chooses the masculine word because it also denotes strength, protection, and provision.
God has a special place in His heart for the orphans and fatherless.
“Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.” – Psalm 27:10
God knows that many times earthly fathers have been absent or have not done their job. He offers to fill the role of a Father. He invites us to call out to Him when we are in trouble, to cast all our worries on Him, and to enjoy His company. He models for us the characteristics He had in mind when He designed fatherhood. Although many times earthly fathers do not live up to the ideal, God promises that, in Him, no one has to be without a perfect Father.
So how can we experience God as our Father?
The idea of God as Father was really introduced by Jesus. The idea of God as our Father is used in the Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament) only 15 times while it is used of God 245 times in the New Testament. As a name of God, “Heavenly Father” stresses God’s loving care, provision, discipline, and the way we are to address God in prayer.
In spite of the fact that God is perfect, and we are far from perfect, He made a way for us to enter into His family. He sent His Son Jesus to rescue humanity. By dying on the cross, Jesus took upon Himself all of the mistakes and wicked choices we have made that keep us at a distance from God. He came across that distance and offers us forgiveness, life, and a new home.
We are spiritual orphans being offered a new family.
And much like an older foster child, we get to choose if we want to be adopted into this new family or stay orphaned.
By receiving Jesus’ death on the cross as a gift for you, God becomes our Father.
Galatians 4 says it like this:
“When the right time came, God sent his Son who was born of a woman and lived under the law. God did this so he could buy freedom for those who were under the law and so we could become his children.
Since you are God’s children, God sent the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, and the Spirit cries out, ‘Father.’ So now you are not a slave; you are God’s child, and God will give you the blessing He promised, because you are his child.” – Galatians 4:4-7
Where are you in your spiritual journey?
- If you want God to become your perfect Father: just say “yes” to Him today. Just confess you need Him and you want Him in your life.
- Some of us have stepped into God’s family, but we still live as if we were orphans. We’ve been blessed by God yet we have rebelled against the promise He has for our future. Today, you can come back to your Father. You don’t have to live estranged any longer. He has never abandoned you and will never abandon you.
- Some of us know the remarkable closeness God offers us. He provides. He protects. He comforts. He guides.
- Some of us come to closure prematurely on whether there is a God or whether He can be known.
Our heavenly Father has so much for us! Do you have an open mind to see Him?! Do you have an open heart to feel Him?! Do you have open ears to hear Him?! No matter where you are in your journey, God wants to take you further and deeper than you are now!
You are so loved! God, our Father, has created you on purpose and with a purpose! Will you trust Him? Will you go His way?
Finally, we can pass along the Father’s blessing to others.
If you are a father, you can pass along a blessing to your children. The catch is knowing your children and their uniqueness and knowing God better so that God might reveal His design for their life. Make it a point to be more intentional in your relationship with your children and your relationship with God.
This is not just for the dads. We can all pass along the Father’s blessing! Whether you have kids or not, we all have a responsibility to be channels of God’s blessing to others.
- We can speak hope and encouragement and show unconditional love to young people around us.
- We can serve with the children or teenagers in NextGen.
- We can bless our neighbors or friends’ kids.
- We can mentor 3rd grade kids in the Austin Independent School District. (Did you know we received a reward last year for having more volunteers than any other non-profit in the city of Austin? We actually had the 4th most volunteers of all organizations coming in behind the State of Texas, Dell, and IBM!)
- We can mobilize our network to invest in kids who are fatherless, kids who or at risk, or even kids of those who sought refuge in Austin from their war torn countries.
The world needs more cool uncles, cool aunts, “big brothers,” and “big sisters”!
If we all treated others’ children the way we want others to treat our children, the world would be a better place.