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Today many children grow up in homes without a father: In fact, one of every five children lives in a home without a father.

But I don’t think the missing ingredient is merely a father in every home. The missing ingredient is the blessing or benediction of a Gospel-transformed father, who blesses his children with a word of promise and a gentle touch of hands resting on their children’s heads. 

Jacob cheated Esau for his dad’s blessing (Isaac), and Esau cried: “Bless me, father, bless me!” In Hebrews 11, a tiny summary of each of the major people of the Bible is given. Of the five scenes of Jacob’s amazing life experiences of God’s grace, what does the author of Hebrews pick? Hebrews 11:21 reads: “By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, bowing in worship over the head of his staff.”

Every night before bed I rested my hand on each of our five children and said something like: “The Lord made you and loves you. May he pour out his promised spirit upon you, use you mightily in his church and world with a clear sense of calling. May he give you a godly spouse, godly children, and grandchildren. Amen.” Obviously, there were a variety of words that pertained to each of the five children each night. Our children say that it was one of the most meaningful things we did, and we believe the benedictions all came to pass. There is power in a father’s blessings or benedictions over the heads of his children.

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Second, it is the legacy message a father leaves his children. It includes God’s promises in his word, faith in Christ’s faithful shepherding them through life, and an envisioned future so great and wonderful under God’s favor. 

John Paton was a missionary to the New Hebredes, today called Vanuatu, in the South Seas. Paton remembers his father’s last word, which was backed up by a life’s message. Paton remembered how his “dear father” walked with him the first six miles of the way on their parting journey. His father’s advice mixed with tears and Christian discussion were still fresh on his heart as if it was but one day before. Paton recalled how his father’s lips kept moving in silent prayers for him, and how tears welled up in his eyes when their eyes met and talking seemed to be in vain. When they halted on reaching the final point of departure, he grasped his son’s hand firmly for a minute in silence, and then solemnly and affectionately said, "God bless you, my son! Your father's God prosper you, and keep you from all evil!"

Unable to say more, his father’s lips kept moving in silent prayer; in tears they embraced, and parted ways. 

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Smart is senior pastor, Christ Church, Normal.

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