It seems like no matter where you go in the world, families are in crisis. When I ponder this, as a father, I realize it is my responsibility to allow the gospel of Jesus Christ to transform me so that I, in turn, will be the father that God has called me to be. The Bible is not a handbook for parenting. Scripture is truth that leads me to Jesus and Jesus, in turn, transforms me by his Holy Spirit. Therefore, as a “son of God” and “heir of the King” I am able, through the power of Christ, to be transformed.
Starting January 1 – Legacy Devotional will send a daily post to encourage and help equip you as a father. I wrote each entry with you in mind. Fathers need a lot of encouragement! Through this blog, you can open the Bible daily and receive strength and direction as you build a legacy of faithfulness in your own homes.
I have linked to The Message Bible as a daily devotional. Once you’ve read the designated chapter along with the Legacy blog-post for the day, make some notes of your own and spend time asking the Lord to transform you through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I hope you subscribe and journey with me in building a lasting heritage of faith!
Our reading today is 1Timothy, chapter 3. In this chapter, Paul gives us some descriptions of qualified elders. I’ve walked through some pretty tough trials with churches and found it to be very important that the elders of a church are strong spiritual men. Handling crisis is tough when you don’t have men with spiritual grit. The apostle Paul knew that the men who would lead the churches needed to be mature men of God. Leadership is important. Maybe you are not an elder, even close to being an elder, or could care less if you are ever an elder, but the list of qualifying characteristics should still mean something to you. I hope that you, as a father, are growing spiritually and desire to mature. If so, the list of elder qualifications can help you evaluate your maturity. The list is not exhaustive nor meant to be a checklist for righteousness. Paul is simply helping Timothy learn how to qualify leadership.
I find it very interesting that in the midst of qualifying characteristics, Paul tells Timothy to find men who can rule their own home well (otherwise how will they manage the church?). In other words, when considering a man’s qualifications for leadership, look at his home life. Sounds very antiquated, don’t you think? How do you think corporate America would change if leaders were chosen by examining their role as a father and husband? What condition would the church be in if every pastor and elder were required to lead their homes well before stepping into leadership in the church? The home is a microcosm of the church. Do you view your home this way?
It makes sense that Paul specifies an orderly home as a requirement for someone who would govern the church. I encourage you to be diligent to qualify yourself as a leader simply by working to achieve order and peace in your home. Set the proper atmosphere in your home by modeling what you desire and expect from your family. When you consistently set an example of orderliness and self-discipline in your own personal habits and responsibilities, your family will likely follow your lead. If you are sloppy with your time and allow your children to disobey regularly, then peace and order in your home will be but a distant wish. I challenge you to seek the Lord as to how your home can be a place of order and peace. Be aware if you have three children under the age of five, order and peace are relative! What I am getting at is a mindset that you must have as the leader of the home. Don’t allow the families around you to shape your home. We’ve “dumbed down” the standard the home should have. Why can’t our children obey and be smarter than the children around them? Is it impossible to expect our children to stand out among other children simply because they don’t throw a temper tantrum at the store? Paul is calling leaders to a higher standard in Christ. Remember, you are an ambassador of Christ. Take your ambassadorial leadership as a father and lead your family well!
Paul exhorts Timothy to lead others in prayer. Paul even gives Timothy some tactical instructions on who to pray for and how to pray for those in authority, lifting up holy hands. I desperately want my children to perceive prayer as a natural part of their maturity in Christ. The key to seeing my children turn to God in prayer is seeing their dad pray. We are like most Christian families and we pray before meals. But what about prayer as a normal part my day? Children often learn more from observation than they do from instruction. If my kids witness me praying and leading my family in prayer, they will understand this is normal Christianity. If I only pray when I am in trouble, my kids will likely view prayer as just an emergency measure.
Prayer is often misunderstood. The simplest definition of prayer is communication with God. When we walk with the Lord, we learn to establish trust and faith in God. Like any healthy relationship, communication is critical. Nevertheless, communication is not just about talking. Listening is a major part of communication and the part we are usually the weakest at. Some people pray for an hour every morning, and others pray before going to bed. If prayer is communication with the God of the universe, then we should be in constant communication with our Father. God has the right at any moment to interrupt our day and redirect our course or speak encouragement to us. We can pray through singing, meditating, being still and listening to God speak, or watching him reveal himself in nature. Prayer is not just you and I talking to God. When our kids complain of a tummy ache or feel sick, the first thing we try to do is pray for them. We want them to learn to cry out to God first for any need they have. When Debi and I go on a date, as we pull away from the house we pray protection over our kids and our home. When we have family Bible study, we end our time with one of the kids praying. Don’t let prayer be a boring ritual that your children don’t look forward to. Prayer is a great privilege that you and I have as children of God. We have the opportunity to communicate with the creator of the entire universe!
When my little guys pray, they often ask God to “help them have a good day and have fun.” That may seem like a selfish prayer, but for children, having fun is very important! I think God honors that prayer. I know I can get very “spiritual” and think I only need to pray about really serious stuff. But I need to model my children’s prayer, ” help me to have fun today”. My fun can be determined by walking out my day following the Lord. What better way to experience joy and fun than to commune with Jesus and allow His life to flow through you!
Today we begin reading a letter that the Apostle Paul wrote to his son in the faith, Timothy. Paul knew that in order for the preaching of the Gospel to continue after he was gone, many sons in the faith needed to be raised up to carry on the work of the Gospel. Therefore, Paul wisely invested in Timothy and taught him how to be a great leader. Raising leaders begins at home. Let’s look at what Paul had to say to Timothy. This should spur us on to begin training leaders in our home.
The first issue Paul is dealing with to help young Timothy is those who pretend to be godly leaders in the church, yet are only trying to make themselves look good. Paul reminds Timothy that Jesus came to save sinners. Paul calls himself “the number one sinner”. It’s as if he is reminding Timothy that no one has the right to speak of any other gospel than the Gospel of Christ. Timothy was well aware that Jesus had revealed to him that he was to preach this Gospel and give his life, as Paul did, for the proclamation of the message of Jesus Christ.
One of the first and greatest lessons in raising up leaders is to make sure to focus on the greatness of Christ Jesus. I’m afraid we’ve put too much emphasis on people, rather than on Jesus Christ when we talk about leaders. Whether we are discussing pastors, business leaders, athletes or whomever, our attention should be drawn to Christ who resides in the person. This is especially tough on teens who normally think life revolves around them. I was talking to a Christian leader the other day who said, “If we could just get people in our churches to stop thinking about themselves for 15 minutes, there is no telling what we could see God do.” Americans are especially stuck on themselves. Most of our focus is on how to be more comfortable, how to look more physically attractive, how to make more money and drive a better car. Paul’s focus was to help Timothy realize that the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not Timothy’s comfort, was the key issue at stake. Since when is it okay to measure effective leadership by how many people follow him/her and by how handsome or pretty they were? Being a great leader does not mean you will ever win a popularity contest. As long as our children are driven by how they look and act, true Christ-centered leadership will most likely elude them.
One of the greatest leaders I’ve ever known is a man by the name of Dudley Hall. His hand of leadership has been on my life for many years. Mr. Hall’s greatest impartation to me has been to point me to Christ. He has given his life for the sake of the Gospel and encouraged me to do the same. Please don’t think I am just talking here about being a pastor or in the ministry. Anyone wanting to raise up godly leaders must desire to exalt Christ, not any person.
Dad, you may have babies in your home or teens. Each has the potential of being a world changer, but it all starts in your home. Your investment in the future leaders in your home will make all the difference in their lives. Focus your energy in making Christ prominent in their lives! Greatness in leadership is all about Christ and less about you!
How encouraging to read our chapter today and be reminded of all the ways God led his people! Joshua gives Israel a history lesson and reminds them that God is the hero, then challenges them to follow God. God is so serious about calling them on that He cuts a covenant with them.
As the patriarch of your family, make it a regular practice to recall all that God has done for your family. All of us should be able to recall many ways God has blessed our family. We can start with thanking God for the basics. Most of you reading this have a roof over your head, and your children never go to bed hungry. If that was all that you could rejoice about that is more than many people in the world can say. The simple fact that God provides food for you and your kids and gives you a place to lay your head at night is miraculous enough. Often, we think of the “necessities” of life and believe we have a fundamental right to have these necessities met. Not so. God’s grace and bounty give us the sustenance we need to make it through each day. Sometimes we may have to depend on daily provision as the children of Israel did and other days the pantry will be full. Nevertheless, most of us can rejoice that our children go to bed nourished and comfortable.
Many young people are simply not grateful. Is it possible that one of the main reasons for their ingratitude is that we have not trained/taught them to be grateful? As a dad, when you recall the blessings and provision of God to your children, you are helping them learn to be grateful. Children seem to read the heart of their parents. If dad and mom are grateful, the children will usually follow suit. When you recall the many blessings of God to your children, it will most likely cultivate a heart of gratitude within them.
We went camping this past weekend with some friends who own several hundred acres of land. Everyone had a blast! We fished, shot guns, walked in the woods, looked for animal tracks, cooked the fish we caught, built a fire, told stories and didn’t get much sleep. If I complain about the lack of sleep and don’t emphasize how much fun we had, my kids will pick up on that one area of negativity despite all the blessings and enjoyment of all the other areas. It is my responsibility as a father to remind my kids (just as Joshua did) how great God is to give us such a wonderful camping trip. Our friends were so generous to share their land with us. I need to talk to my children and remind them all how good God is for giving us great friends and a wonderful weekend of building memories.
God is serious about recognizing that all blessings flow from Him. Jesus died for us. We didn’t do a thing to deserve it, but we gain all the benefits from being “in Christ.” Christians should be the most grateful people on the face of the earth. Lead the way Dad, in heralding appreciation for all God has done for you and your family!
Joshua’s parting words to Israel carry a lot of weight. What he is saying to them is so important. He stresses the point that God has been faithful to do His part. God drove out the enemies of Israel and delivered them to victory many times. Joshua knows God will remain faithful, but he warns Israel to faithfully follow God. You and I can rest assured that God always has been and always will be faithful. His power to help us parent our children is dynamic. We never have to wonder if God is able to touch our kids. God is, and by the very nature of him “being” he can do exceedingly and abundantly above all that we think or ask. Most of us are fairly good at recognizing our own weaknesses but often not very diligent to recognize God’s greatness. Joshua reminds Israel what God has done, because honestly we humans too quickly forget and place our trust in our own plan.
As a parent, each day holds a new adventure. Raising children is not static. You can’t just learn a bunch of parenting techniques, apply them, and expect everything to turn out okay. God has set up parenting (and life for that matter) to cause us to recognize our weaknesses and his strengths. Dads, you and I need to hear this over and over again. It’s not about how well we parent, it’s God’s faithfulness to us that really makes the difference. You and I could be the greatest parents around yet not depend on God and lose a generation. God is the source of all wisdom and knowledge. Most of us don’t really believe this. God is love. We have a hard time reconciling all of the bad stuff with the belief that God is love. We are so far from understanding how God puts things together and why he allows suffering. God’s ways are surely not our ways. I come to conclusions about situations with my human wisdom that are not even close to God’s conclusions. We can’t parent effectively without recognizing how awesome God is and how much He loves us. The deeper we gain an understanding of who God is, the greater we depend on Him to give us the wisdom we need to parent. Joshua was declaring God’s faithfulness. Dad, God is faithful to meet you where you are at. Cry out to God, and He will come!
What an awesome commentary Joshua gave to three of the tribes before he sent them off to possess their inheritance! “You have carried out everything Moses the servant of God commanded you, and you have obediently done everything I have commanded you,” (Joshua 22:1). He goes on to tell them they shouldered every bit of the responsibility they were given. Wouldn’t these be great things to have people say about our children? It’s not impossible you know. We can raise children that love and fear God, obey us and the voice of the Lord. Let’s talk a little bit about expectations.
I was visiting with a young mom recently, and she was telling me how she could not get control of raising her two kids. From what she told me, her two kids were raising her instead of the other way around. What’s wrong with this picture? The expectations are really low that this mom and dad can raise children who will obey. My counsel to her (counsel that I give to many parents) was that she should go home and talk with her husband and agree on one or two areas that they wanted to see victory in. Once they decided which area to focus on (whether it was a peaceful bedtime experience, no more hitting among siblings, etc…), they should cry out to God for his help and then work like crazy while focusing on victory in these one or two areas. Once you gain victory in one or two areas, you move on to conquer the next battlefield. The reason why many parents don’t do this is because they don’t really expect that they can have peace and live in victory in these areas. Dad, raise your expectations for your children, especially in the area of obedience. You can have children who will follow your instructions.
We live in a society that keeps lowering standards when it comes to raising obedient children. “Kids will be kids” is a popular quote we’ve all heard. We begin to believe our children can’t rise up to a high standard, so we lower our standards. Remember, Jesus was fully man and fully God when he went to the cross, but he chose to walk through that experience as a man, and his obedience allows us to obey. In other words, because Jesus said yes to the cross and since Christ lives in us and in our children who have come to faith in Christ, we can expect them to obey also. I am not interested in raising kids who just get out of my house, make it through college and make a decent living in the suburbs. I want to raise world changers and in order to do this my children must learn to obey the first time, completely and without grumbling. Do my children do this every time? No, but I think they are characterized by being obedient, and my older children who are on their own now have learned to listen and obey the voice of Father God.
Let’s all agree to raise the standard of obedience in our children and grandchildren. There are victories to be gained if we learn how to obey.
We are combining several chapters today as Joshua divides up the land between the people. What God commanded to Adam, (then later Noah) he now commanded Joshua saying,“Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it”.
Now we have another generation literally possessing the land. God was serious about having a people who would prosper, have babies and fill the earth. The tribes are taking the land and the rule of God is expanding. While Joshua is concerned about occupying the land, God seems determined to occupy his people. Establishing Israel in the land is important, but more important is the matter of God having a people who will obey and follow Him. God wants a relationship with Israel just as He does with us. The people of the Old Testament came to God the same way we do, by faith. If we believe God is love and come to him in faith, then we are coming the same way the Old Testament saints did.
Stewarding the earth is part of our responsibility as Christians. We are to rule over the earth, not allow the earth to rule over us. Train and teach your children to respect God’s creation and preserve the earth for future generations. I am definitely not an environmentalist, but as a Christian I want to train my children to take care of God’s creation. Most generations only think about stewarding the earth according to their needs. We must teach our kids to consider the next 200 years and how we are currently caring for the earth.
I spent some time leading backpacking expeditions when I was a seminary student in beautiful Northern California. Everything we would need for 7-10 days of wilderness survival was carried on our backs. I learned some valuable lessons about caring and stewarding our environment. I enjoyed the beautiful outdoors and gained a love for the wilderness. Now as often as possible, we go camping as a family. Our camping adventures began when a friend gave us all his Boy Scout equipment, which immediately made camping a successful and popular family activity. Now that I am middle-aged, I don’t necessarily look forward to sleeping on the ground (yes, I do use an inflatable mattress), but I enjoy being outdoors with the family. We have a great time living outdoors and sleeping under the stars. When we go camping, I try to instill in my children the awareness of appreciating God’s creation around us. We never leave our campsite trashy. In fact, one of our parting activities before we pull out of the camp site is to form a human wall, hand to hand and walk the camp ground area picking up trash, ropes, wires and anything else we or someone before us had left. I want my kids to show consideration for the next campers by leaving the site in its natural state for their enjoyment.
Pessimists tell us we are ruining our earth and trashing it daily. I don’t buy into some conspiracy theories on how we are destroying the earth, but I do believe as Christians we should be the best stewards of the earth. Train your children to appreciate God’s creation and work hard to care for it properly. We should never worship the earth, but we should consistently demonstrate our honor for God by grateful stewardship of the earth He put us on.