Turning Point
Philip Lancaster

“He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.” —Malachi 4:6
“And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” —Luke 1:17

  There is something special about fathers. There they are in the very last breath of Old Testament revelation. And there they are again in the angelic announcement that opens the New Testament era.

Both references are describing the work of God through his prophet John. John's ministry was to prepare a people to receive God's Son, Jesus Christ, and inherit the kingdom he would establish, a people through whom the Lord could spread his gospel and kingdom over the earth. Truly we could describe the historical moment prophesied by Malachi and fulfilled in Luke as a turning point. Indeed, it is the turning point of history.

Fathers play a crucial role at this critical juncture in God's plan. Specifically, the favorable condition that God seeks to advance his cause is the turning of the fathers' hearts to their children. That is the one condition that is mentioned in both passages. Malachi adds the balancing condition that the children's hearts must be turned to their fathers. In Luke the angel speaks of another turning, that of the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous. Thus the turning point of all history is characterized by a turning point in the lives of individual men: they turn to their children, and they turn back to the only source of wisdom and right living, God's Word.

By God’s grace we are living at another turning point in history. There is electricity in the cultural air today as everyone senses the momentous changes in which we all seem to be caught up. Nations are transformed and national borders become less important. Technology opens vast new windows of opportunity even as it complicates man's stewardship of the planet. Economies overheat and approach the exploding point as individuals find wealth both easier to gain and easier to lose. Old standards of morality collapse into the ruin of immorality.

Yet in the midst of all these sweeping changes is a quieter change hardly noticed in the tumult. It is the beginning of a gracious movement of God's Spirit upon his people. It is the first evidence of a fresh outpouring of revival, another wave of that "turning" which the angel first announced to John's father, Zechariah.

There have been many who have claimed in recent decades to see a revival springing up in our nation, but where is the evidence of it? Our land still appears to be struck with a curse. (Mal. 4:6) Yet in the last decade a movement has been growing which appears to bear the promise of a genuine revival of the kind that occurred at the original Turning Point.

The home education movement carries with it the greatest hope of revival of any Christian trend in recent history because through it fathers are being turned to God's priorities. And when fathers return to the twin priorities of raising children and strictly obeying God's Word, it is evidence that God is preparing a people through whom he can powerfully spread his kingdom.

Most homeschoolers began to teach their children at home because they did not like any of the alternatives, or they believed that home education was simply the best option for their children. Few began with any grandiose visions of restoring families or catching a wave of spiritual revival. Yet in the process of bringing education back to

the home, many have begun to realize that their choice has opened up a whole new universe of thought. A new vision of family life, of children, of the roles of husbands and wives, has been opened before their eyes. They have begun to see possibilities for a deep reformation in their lives that they never dreamed of when they first kept Johnny and Mary home from school.

Most significant among the elements of this new vision has been the rediscovery of the father's role of spiritual leadership in the home. It is certainly true that home education has been, in large part, a kind of women's movement. Women most often take the lead in choosing home schooling for a family, they do most if not all of the teaching, they provide most of the leadership in support groups and organizations, and they produce most of the publications that have appeared in support of home educators. Yet, at the same time, there has been a growing awakening on the part of the men to the need to reclaim their place of leadership in the home and to be active in the spiritual preparation of the next generation. This turning to the children is the mark of a deep work of God.

What is the nature of this turning of the fathers' hearts to their children? Approached from a biblical point of view, it is certainly more than Dad hugging his kids or warmly affirming them for just being themselves. These merely subjective definitions are typical of our modern psychologized view of life, but they fall far short of the real "turning".

The "turning" the Scripture speaks of is the movement of a father's heart out of the limited sphere of immediate, temporal, selfish concerns. It is the movement toward the sphere of long-range, even eternal concerns that is expressed foremost in his selflessly serving his children. A man who shares God's mind and priorities sees in his children his most important mission in life. He sees in them the foundation of many generations, generations which he can shape for God, and which God will use to shape history.

A godly man embraces fatherhood because he embraces God's plan for history. The Lord's goal is in Christ "to reconcile to himself all things" (Col. 1:20). Christians are God's agents of reconciliation in this age (2 Cor. 5:18), the means through which Christ spreads his kingdom. The godly man wants to prepare a quiver-full of well-wrought arrows (Ps. 127:4,5) with which he can participate in the defeat of Christ's enemies. Turning his heart to his children is the prime manifestation of his turning his heart to his Lord.

A father's foremost responsibility in preparing the next generation is to teach his children the Word of God and help them apply it to all of life (Deut. 6:6,7; Eph. 6:4). He must also equip them with the general knowledge and life skills that will prepare them for a productive vocation in which they can serve the Lord. Finally, he must guide each child toward a godly mate with whom to establish a new family and raise yet another generation for God.

When a father so applies his heart to the preparation of his children it is inevitable that the children's hearts will respond by turning to their fathers. A father's loving his children in these tangible ways causes them to love and respect him in return. The younger generation learns to value the wisdom of those who are older, indeed, of all previous generations. There is no generation gap when fathers do their job. Quite the contrary: there is a solid generational bond. How can a child turn against his father when their hearts are bound together? For such a child to rebel would destroy his own heart as well as his father's.

In addition to fathers rediscovering biblical fatherhood, another sign that the home education movement may be the harbinger of a new revival among God's people is the deepening hunger to know and do the will of God as revealed in the Bible. Submitting to God's priority of child preparation has created an accompanying willingness to reexamine all of life in light of the Scriptures. Many homeschoolers have been led of God to identify new ways to apply "the wisdom of the righteous" in areas as diverse as birth control, courtship, and church life. This attitude of repentant longing to discover the will of God and put it into practice at all costs has marked any true work of God from the time that John prepared a people whom God could use to spread his kingdom.

So it is a reappearance of the double turning described in Luke 1: 17 that strongly suggests that we may be at another great turning point in history. Once again a critical historical moment is characterized by many men turning to God's twin priorities of (1) training children as a foundation for generations to come and (2) obeying God's revealed will in the Bible despite personal cost.

However, the outcome is not certain. We could yet squander our opportunity. Every man among us must decide if he is willing to shoulder the responsibilities God has called him to. God wants men to be leaders, beginning in their families, and he wants them to lead according to the patterns given in his Word. But leadership is costly. It means dying to ourselves and our selfish ambitions and becoming servants of others. It means giving up our own vision of life in favor of the vision the Lord reveals in Scripture.

May God help us to become true men, true fathers, true disciples of the Lord Jesus. At this turning point in history, may God help us to turn our hearts toward him and his plan, that we might be a people prepared for the Lord.

Posted here with permission from Patriarch Magazine

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