Date:    6/15/03

Text:     John 13:1b and others

Title:     A Father’s Gifts to His Children

Theme: We are to love our children like Jesus loves his followers.


Pastor Hsueh


            It seems that it was just yesterday that we celebrated Mother’s Day, and now it is Father’s Day. Don’t you ever wish that mother’s day and father’s day can be separated a little further apart? Some children look forward to honor their mother and father on these occasions. To others it could be somewhat frustrating. Finding the right gift is always a challenge, unless your father gives you plenty of hints, but then it misses out the fun part of it. There are still other children, the adult children, who would secretly  lament, “I wish my father would……”

            This morning I would like to have one of those father to father talk with you. I will borrow some principles on how Jesus relates to his disciples and apply them to father child relationship.

            I am so thankful that God has given Sean to us. Each day with Sean reveals to me how little I know about fatherhood. Each day with Sean also makes me more hesitant to talk to others about how to be a good father. So here we are, I am talking to you not because I know more or better than you, but together we learn from the examples our Lord Jesus Christ has set for us. As we relate to our children in the manner Jesus relates to his followers, it will be the best gifts we can give our children. And in return, it will make their honoring us a joyful event.

I.          We give our children the gift of ownership.

            John 13:1b, “..Having loved his own…”; John 10:14, “…I am the good shepherd. I know my own sheep…”. And then in John 21:15, “Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”

            Jesus is very possessive of his disciple, his followers. They belong to him. We too belong to him.

            In the OT, is the story of David and his son, Absalom. Absalom rebelled against David. He committed some hideous sins against his father. He sought to kill David so he could be the king over Israel. In the end, he died in the battlefield. After learning the death of Absalom, in his extreme grief, David cried out, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!” (2 Samuel 18:33). Even after all that Absalom had done to him, David cried out, “my son, my son, my son.”

            I think of the parents sitting before me after the funeral of their only son. “Our son, our son…..our son…” Our children belong to us.

            When you watch your son or daughter play soccer, in the Band or in a school play, don’t you sometimes wish you could stand up and say, that is my son? It is not necessary that he/she has performed superbly, but because of the relationship. Regularly or at least on their birthdays, we can tell them, “we are so glad that we have you as our son/daughter.”

            Nowadays, there are more and more blended families. Your wife’s children are part of the family now. You may not be their birth father, but they are just as important as your own. It is important that these children also know they belong to you. When they belong to us, we then have the responsibility to protect and provide for them.

            You see, when children feel and know that they belong to their fathers, it makes them secure. This is a very important aspect of a healthy environment.

II.         We give our children the gift of Love.

            John 13:1b, “having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” Here we see the emphasis on how Jesus loves his own. He has loved them, he loves them to the end. There are two aspects of this love we can explore.

1. Unconditional love.

            Among those whom belonged to him was Peter. Soon after this passage, Peter, denied Jesus 3 times. When Jesus was on the cross, with the exception of John, the disciples deserted him. They had followed him for 3 years, yet hardly understood his teaching and mission on earth. When Jesus was on the cross, instead of looking forward to his resurrection 3 days later, they were so scared that they hid in a house. To this group of individuals, Jesus loved them and loved them to the end. This is unconditional love.

            It is this unconditional love that has also loved us. We are vain, morally worthless, corrupt, at times mocking his providence and rejecting his guidance, insisting on going our own way. Yet he loves us.

            How do we love our children? In the movie October Sky, a true story about a father who was a miner, expected his oldest son to follow his steps. But the son, a high school student, had no interest in mining. Instead his interest was in rockets. The father was mad and rejected him. His love was conditional. In the end, he reconciled with his son. This son later became a rocket specialist and worked at NASA.

            There is a father who refuses to attend his son’s wedding. Why? Because he didn’t like the future daughter-in-law. Or the father who threatened to end the father and son relationship because the son is planning to go into full time ministry. Don’t we sometimes favor the child whose career is similar to ours? Or don’t we tend to reject a child because we perceive he or she has shamed the family name by marrying someone we don’t approve or getting pregnant out of wedlock? This is conditional love.            Unconditional love means loving our children, young or adult, even if they don’t live up to our standards and expectations. Unconditional love means loving them when they rebel and hurt us deeply; even if they forsake or mock the principles that we hold dearly to. Unconditional love is difficult, but because our children belong to us; this is how we are to love them.  

2. A Persevering Love.

            John 13:1b, “having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” Jesus loves those who belong to him from the beginning to the end. He doesn’t stop half-way.

            Its easy to love our children when they are young. What is equally important is loving them from the beginning to the end. There are fathers who desert their children when diagnosed with birth defects. Loving our children is a life long process.

III.       We give our children the gift of knowing.

            John 10:14-15, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father….” Proverbs 27:23, “Know the condition of your flock…”

            Jesus clearly tells us that we belong to him. Moreover, he also tells us that he knows us; not only by name, but also a very intimate knowledge of us. He knows the life circumstances we are in. He knows our temperaments and personalities. He knows our strengths and weaknesses. What a comfort and assurance that this mighty God knows us so thoroughly yet still loves us unconditionally, from the beginning to the end.

1. Know our child’s personality.

Isn’t this also true with fathers? We too are to know our children. My kids get frustrated when I call Robin, Sean. Well, we usually don’t have this problem. But really, how well do we know our kids? Here are some of the areas about our children that we need to know.

            How does my child relate to his world? Is he/she an extrovert or introvert? Do they like to be with people most of the time or prefer spending time by themselves? How do they absorb new information? By thinking through the process or by feeling? Do they like to do things in a very orderly way; or all over the place? Using a slightly different analogy: are they like spaghetti, with different threads going on at the same time. Or like eating Chinese donuts, one at a time?

            How about some other characteristics? Are they a born leader, liking to take charge; or a good follower? Some children like to work with things, while others prefer to be with friends. Some get energized when being applauded; others will be very pleased if you give him/her a simple reward. How do they learn? Some children learn by moving around, others by sitting still. Some learn best when they are actively participating, others by absorbing everything in by quietly listening.

            Fathers, it is important that we know our children. How? First, by observing them. This implies that we have to be involved in their lives. Secondly, read books about understanding our children: Understanding Your Child’s Personality by David Stoop. You know, by reading, it may even help us to know ourselves better. Thirdly, talk and listen to the teachers and the youth group leaders.

2. Train the child according to his natural bend.

In Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go; ….” Very often we take this verse to mean that we should train our children God's way, teach them God's word. But taking a closer look of this verse, it refers to “his way…” the child’s way. The word train implies God's word. Nowadays, his way is often being interpreted as his natural bent. Using contemporary terms, train up our children according to his personality bent. If he is an introvert, we can encourage them to be more social, but don’t force him to be with others all the time We are to train our child according to his way and not our way.  

3. Being known by our child.

            John 10:14-15, “I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father;” Not only Jesus knows his sheep, but his sheep also know him. Yes, we are to know our children, but our children also need to know us. in Canefield’s book, “7 secrets of Effective Fathers” he lists several areas where our children need to know about us.

            First they need to know our consistency. Are we consistent in what we say? Or do we say one thing today and change it the next day? Do they know when to expect us home on a daily basis? If there is custody involved, do we show up whenever we feel like? Secondly, they need to know about our integrity. Do they see consistency in what we say and do? Do they believe us when we tell others that we are obedient to God's word. Thirdly, they need to know if we keep our promises. When we promise them something, do we carry it out? And lastly, it is about our emotions. Are our emotions predictable before our children? Or is it like the weather forecast: Today, 20% rain and 80% sunshine. Tomorrow 60% cloudy and 40% rain. I think you know what it is like to live in such a household. There is unpredictability, not security. Everyday, the children have to guess what mood is daddy in today. Children need to live in a stable, safe and predictable environment.

IV.       We give our children the gift of loving their mother.

           The last gift I want to share with you is not from the Bible, but through human experience. That is, loving their mother. I have seen adult children expressing their bitterness and resentment over their fathers for not loving their moms.

In the recent World magazine is a special report on the Japanese families. It says that many young Japanese, seeing the loveless relationships of their parents, find the prospect of marriage and family unattractive. Isn’t this also true here? It’s so sad when we see a family in which there is no love between the parents. Fathers, one of the most important gifts you can give to your children is to love their mother.  


            There is this children’s book called, “The Memory Box”. It is about a boy’s relationship with his grandfather. During a summer vacation at his grandpa’s cabin, grandpa just learned that he has Alzheimer’s disease. He wants to make sure important memories won’t be forgotten. He took out a box called a Memory box. Grandpa explained that, “It’s a special box that stores family tales and traditions. The old person and a young person fill the box together. That way, no matter what happens to the old person, the memories are saved forever.”

            For the rest of the vacation, every fishing trip, they not only catch fish, they also had a small memento landed in their Memory Box. When they picked blueberries, another reminder was put into the box. Grandpa also found some old pictures to put in the box.

            As the summer progressed, so did the Alzheimer’s. The grandpa began to forget things, get lost in the woods.

            Finally it was time for the boy to return home. “As the car hit the top of the hill,” the boy says, “I watched grandpa slowly disappear into the horizon. And I hugged my Memory Box.

            One day you and I will fade into the distance through age or illness. What our children will hold onto are the pictures we leave behind. Our gifts of ownership, love, knowing our children, and loving their mom are like those memento and pictures that we put into the Memory Box. And this box will stay with them for a long, long, long time.