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!
“Stay on good terms with each other, held together by love,” (Hebrews 13:1).
There are times as a dad when I look at my children and I am disappointed they don’t get along better with their siblings. I know the words they say to one another hurt at times and sometimes they are less than kind to each other. But, I have no doubt that they love each other. Love goes beyond feelings. Love is a choice that says because I am loved, I will love. Jesus’ words of rebuke to the Pharisees didn’t sound loving, but you and I know he loved everyone. I wish my kids never spoke an unkind word to their siblings, but I also wish I never spoke an unkind word to my wife and friends. I work in vocational ministry and often I mediate between pastors and leaders because they have spoken unkind words to one another. Does this mean that they don’t love each other?
It’s the sacrifice of service we are willing to make for each other that demonstrates our love. I know for sure that my older sons would sacrifice for their younger siblings. I have seen my younger children cry when one of their siblings leaves for a trip or moves away. When I look at their relationship over time there’s no doubt they love each other. Sometimes we judge too quickly. If someone observed your family over a six month period would they conclude that you have a loving home? Let’s be honest if anyone peeked into our homes for an hour on any given day, unannounced, we may be taken aback with what we observe. Thank God we are on a journey and some days we all may want to throw our hands up and say “I’m done”. Again the real question is, over a longer period of time is your family characterized by love?
Let’s get back to serving as proof of our love. Jesus demonstrated the greatest act of love to his disciples when he washed their feet. Jesus took on the form of a servant, humbled himself and washed the disciple’s feet. (By the way, Judas was in that group.) Jesus also served mankind by giving the ultimate gift of salvation going to the cross. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends”. Do your siblings serve one another, you, and others? Are they always the first in line or do they desire the best seat in the building? Serving out of the heart rather than being forced to is an indicator your children know how to love and be loved. Closely kin to serving is gratitude. I love serving my kids, but I can get a little weary of serving them if they don’t say thank you every once in a while. Gratitude is a way of saying, ‘I know you love me and went out of your way to do something for me and I feel compelled to say thank you’. I don’t expect my kids to say thank you every time I make them pancakes on Saturday morning (it’s a Chapman tradition), but I do expect them to say thank you ever so often. My heart is warmed when my children recognize those pancakes didn’t just jump on their plate, but Dad took his time and effort and served them. Service and gratitude are signs to watch for indicating that our children know how to love!
“At the time, discipline isn’t fun. It always feels like it is going against the grain. Later of course, it pays off handsomely, for it is the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.” (Hebrews 12:11).
This is one of the verses that has greatly encouraged me as a parent and given me proper perspective over and over again. The training part of training our children is not fun, but very necessary. I don’t know a kid alive who would say “yea, I really enjoyed being trained by my parents!” but those who received the training are the ones who move on to maturity. On the other hand, I have never heard a parent say “boy, I wake up everyday looking forward to training my toddler!” but the parents who discipline themselves to consistently train rather than react to their children are the ones who potentially enjoy mature children. I know it is a challenge day after day to train your children. Often we want to overlook the misbehavior because we are tired and just look the other way. If we allow too much time to pass or look the other way too many times rebellion and sloppiness will prevail. If you have young children especially, dad, think about what life has the potential of looking like with well-trained children and youth who have godly character. I love the relationships I enjoy with my teens and adult children, but the enjoyment I experience comes with a price- day in and day out training and not overlooking foolishness or sin. I thank God for those who taught my wife and I the importance of being consistent with our training. If you think about it parents who look the other way consistently and laugh at the foolishness of their child have little perspective on what life will look like down the road- miserable.
Yesterday we read about the Hall of Fame of Faith, and if you desire your children’s legacy to be named in the Hall then training is necessary when they are young. Christians with great faith don’t give up, but have great endurance. Much of the endurance that a young man or woman demonstrate when they are adults was learned at home at the hand of parents who chose to train them, not to quit or give in to sloppiness. Now that I have older children I can’t imagine raising them without training them. Training children is much like training in any other area. Consistent training over a long period of time will bring about obedience that is desirable. When a coach trains an athlete one aspect of training is to go over the basics. The fundamentals are the building blocks to training in any sport. Once you have the fundamentals down you methodically practice and begin to train according to the players bent. We are told to train up a child in the way he should go, which means in their “bent.” Each child is different and requires specific attention and specialized training. While we never get rid of training in the fundamentals (instant obedience, telling the truth, etc.), as dads we learn specifically the heart of each child and specify our training to fit that child. Sounds like work doesn’t it? Training children is some of the hardest work you will ever do, but it also is the most rewarding work you will ever put your hand to.
This chapter has been called by some “the Hall of Fame of Faith” – amazing men and women who are credited with believing God. The first step to being a man or woman of God is to believe that “he is” and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him. These heroes of the faith give us a great example of knowing God and walking in his promises.
I try to remind my kids that while the examples of the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11 are limited, examples continue to be lived out every day. I want my children’s name to be among the list of those who courageously and boldly trusted God with their lives and futures. I am dissatisfied with raising kids who learn how to make a living, have a couple of kids and settle down until Jesus comes back or they go to be with Jesus. The Christian life is anything but boring. I’ve seen some homeschool classrooms have a timeline starting from Genesis and go until 2050. The timelines list the heroes of faith along with other events and historical figures of that day. The parents put a picture of their child on the timeline on the day they were born. In other words, they are communicating to their children that they are a part of the story. Noah, Abraham, Moses and Joseph are not just stories of great men of days gone by. Their lives are significant because they fit into the narrative of God’s story where Jesus is the hero. Your children are connected to the God story. This is why it is very important we don’t just teach our children about the Old Testament patriarchs as if they were outstanding moral examples. The heroes of faith sinned and often sinned big. We should place the heroes in the context of the bigger story. Each of these Old Testament examples has their redemptive story as a part of Jesus’ redemptive nature. This is one way we help take the focus off of our darlings. As parents we tend to think life is all about our children and their interests. What do you think it was like being a parent of lets say, Moses? Our children should understand the universe doesn’t begin and end with them. One of the greatest attributes about living in the kingdom of God is that each of our stories are only significant as they tell His story. Teens often get very wrapped up in how they look, who their friends are, and how popular they are. While there is an appropriate time for self discovery, the greater virtue is a life lived for Jesus Christ. Most people spend too much time consumed with thoughts about themselves. As parents we have the wonderful privilege of turning the attention of our children off of themselves and focusing them on how they fit in the plan of God. This is a noble task for dads and moms, but a necessary one if we intend to see our children be world changers.
Walking with Christ and living a life of faith is not for wimps or quitters. The writer of Hebrews makes statements like going “boldly into his presence” and not giving up once we’ve tasted the blessings of God. Jesus’ finished work on the cross set precedence for all of us so that we would be bold and courageous in our faith like he was. I want to raise children that radically trust God and look at life through the eyes of adventure in Christ, don’t you?
I am concerned that our children don’t have the foundation and character to live out the adventure God has for them. As fathers we have the opportunity to set a good foundation of character so that when the Holy Spirit reveals to them God’s love and forgiveness they can walk in victory and power. Let’s spend some time discussing our part as fathers establishing a solid foundation of character.
First, teaching our girls and boys to work prepares them for life. Requiring our children to do chores around the house is more than cheap labor. While we appreciate a clean house and tidy property, the goal of assigning chores is to teach our children character right? If one of my boys takes out the trash and makes a mess of the job time after time we have a major teachable moment. If I allow him to continue in his sloppiness how will he develop the character to carry the anointing of God? So many saints we read about in the bible carried the presence of God but lacked the character to sustain that anointing. I want my children to do as much for God as he desires of them. It’s a joke to think that I can raise children with little to no quality character and desire God to use them. Make sure your children have jobs around the house and make sure they do the jobs with excellence. How early should they start doing their chores? As early as you can get them started. Your toddler can help you pick up his/her room. My five-year old looks forward to helping his big brothers with their chores. We’ve tried to make it a privilege and honor to be old enough to graduate to bigger chores. Of course certain chores are reserved for the older children, but everyone gets to participate. We must gain a vision for the future of our children then back up and train/teach them how to work so that as they move into parenthood, the marketplace and marriage they will have a solid foundation of character to build their lives on.
Secondly, don’t make life to easy for your children. One of the benefits of having a large family is that day-to-day living is a bit more of a challenge just learning how to cooperate together. I prefer my children having to share rooms, bathrooms and limiting their freedom and choices. Too many times we fight for the independence and leniency of our children. Your kids need to learn to suffer and struggle through issues like sharing their space and not being so independent. I have friends with only one child and they have to work harder to provide an atmosphere so that their child doesn’t get everything they want and learns the importance of sharing and rejecting independence. Dad, be strategic in your thinking of raising your children. Don’t give into what is easiest, but instead train your children to have great character. By doing so you equip them to walk courageously into the destiny God has for them.
“Like a will that takes effect when someone dies, the new covenant was put into action at Jesus death,” (Hebrews 9: 16-17). Thank God that Jesus stayed the course, because it was our salvation that Jesus secured by giving his life on the cross. The pain, ridicule and humiliation came as Jesus became the substitutionary atonement for our sin. There would be no more significance to the animal sacrifices because Jesus paid it all.
The need for a savior and final sacrifice for our sins was signaled from the very beginning of the Bible. The narrative story of man’s sin and God’s deliverance through Jesus began to be revealed when God told Eve her seed would crush the serpent’s head. The story builds when God raises up leader after leader who share attributes with Jesus. Moses the deliverer was a type of Jesus, the ultimate deliverer. Israel’s story is our story. They were in a situation where they were in bondage and needed a deliverer. God sent Moses and Joshua and others to lead them out of their “wilderness” and into the promise land. The people rejoiced at their deliverance, but soon grumbled and complained at having to trust the Lord. God was looking for a people who would walk by faith and trust in him. Once the people complained, God would allow them to taste the consequences of their lives without his favor and they would find themselves back in the wilderness. God would use a leader to bring them out of their wilderness or exile and lead them into a place of favor and obedience in God. One of the major themes of the Old Testament is “exodus and exile”. Once you begin to see this as you read the Old Testament you certainly recognize you and your children’s need for a savior to lead you out of your own wilderness into a place in Jesus of favor and mercy. The writer of Hebrews is communicating how Jesus was the final deliverer, and the final sacrifice for our sins. Jesus is the hero of the story.
Dad, please teach your children the gospel story. Yes, your kids should memorize passages, but don’t let them memorize random verses without being able to know and tell the story of the gospel – the narrative story as it begins in the Old Testament. Your children should grow up recognizing the Christocentric gospel. By this I mean the gospel story that makes Christ prominent. There are two books that I recommend you read over and over to your children that will help them gain an understanding of the narrative of Christ centered gospel. The first book is by Peter J. Leithart, called A House for My Name and the other book by Philip Greenslade is A Passion for God’s Story. Reading these books to your children will help them understand the connection between the Old Testament and the New Testament. If your children don’t understand the Christ centered gospel story they will miss the essence of the message of the Bible. You are the prime person to study the story yourself and to train and teach your children in this way.
“We have such a high priest who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in Heaven,” (Hebrews 8:1, ESV). The writer of Hebrews summarizes in this statement the essence of his message to his audience. Why would anyone want to go back to old dead religion when we have access to the high priest Jesus? While many do choose to hang on to lifeless religion, God has given us the opportunity to embrace a living loving relationship with Jesus Christ. Religion measures holiness by rules, a believer measures holiness by the intimacy of relationship with Christ. Many choose religion over relationship because it is easier. We can raise our kids to follow a certain set of rules and values and they may grow up to be good kids who stay out of trouble and offer some sort of contribution back to society. Or we can raise children who fall in love with Jesus and because of the nature of Christ in them they make choices that honor Christ. When you measure holiness by intimacy of relationship it gets a little messy. Holiness based on some set of values and rules is clean-cut and merciless – you keep these rules you are holy, you break these rules you are unholy. The woman caught in adultery, while she had broken the rules, had an encounter with holiness. Jesus in the flesh extended to her life and the command to go and sin no more. I know parents who have focused on externals with their children yet when they release them into the world (college, work, marriage,etc.) the kids seem to lose their mind and go hog-wild after sin or abandon all the values they were taught at home. Why is this? I certainly don’t want to stand in judgement because I have no way of knowing if the child is reacting to the strictness of the home or if the son/daughter is simply rejecting Christ and all they have been taught. Nevertheless, I know in some cases what contributed to the radical departure of how the child was raised is a reaction to trying to “be” something they never had a desire to be.
Dad, go for the heart. Train your child when he/she is young to obey the rules, but press in relationally especially as they mature and move through the young adult years and know their heart. Most parents are comfortable with external measurements of holiness, especially dads. Remember holiness is first a relational issue with the Holy of Holies – Jesus. Jesus’ nature in me causes me to be holy. Holiness is more about abiding in Christ and His will working through me.
I want to be clear and say as many times as I need to that I am not against rules. Rules will save your child’s life. What I am trying to communicate is that if you simply measure your teens’ godliness by a set of external house rules and he/she does not have a the presence of God dwelling in them motivating them to follow Christ you have dead religion. Jesus was vicious with the Pharisees because he knew their dead religion robbed them of relationship with the living God. Teach your kids to obey the rules, but know their heart and turn them towards a relationship with the great high priest – Jesus.
“He’s done it, once and for all: offered up Himself as the sacrifice,” (Hebrews 7: 27). The writer of Hebrews is telling the Jews that the old system of priestly sacrifices is done away with because Jesus has come and “once and for all” made the sacrifice. Under the old covenant the priest would have to cleanse himself and then on behalf of the people make sacrifices. This system has no end, so it took the perfect spotless lamb to complete this system and become our great high priest.
When you are working with your kids through a discipline matter please remember that “Jesus paid it all”. If you are like me there are times you tend to lecture your kids too long or raise your voice too loudly to get your point across. We don’t need to heap condemnation on our kids. We want them to get the point and recognize their sin, but condemnation is the opposite of conviction. If they are condemned then they have to find a way to deal with the condemnation, which usually means they will perform better so they can “make up” for their error. If your child recognizes their sin, then they repent and understand they are in desperate need of a savior. The sin issue with us and our kids is settled in Christ. When we sin repentance is the only good option. When I spank my kids for being disobedient I am working towards repentance with them. My desire is to see them come to terms with their sin and deal with it. When I discipline my kids I try to state as clearly as possible what their sin is, ex.“you disobeyed daddy by doing that didn’t you?”. I want to help them name their sin and then lead them to repentance. Once they have received their spanking I pray with them and lead them through a prayer of repentance. I usually try to give them a hug, tell them how much I love them and remind them “who” they are in Christ. In other words, if they told them a lie I remind them as a child of God they are not liars but people who tell the truth. If they bullied one of their siblings I try to remind them that Jesus is love and when they bully they are not acting out of their true nature, Christ in them. True godly character is saying yes to Jesus and no to your flesh. When my kids are tempted to do evil I want them to remember that Jesus has already paid for their sin and appropriated to them the power to do what is right- they now have the opportunity to tap into that power.
Some would argue that using any sort of rod or paddle to disciple our children is the opposite of what a loving heavenly father would do. When a shepherd worked with the sheep, if a sheep would not stay with the flock he would take the sheep and break one of its legs and then carry it on his shoulders. I don’t like to spank my kids and would wonder about anyone who does. I do think that spanking is a loving gesture towards raising our kids to obey and hear our voice. Too often parents default to lectures or simply ignore bad behavior. The loving discipline from a father or mother who uses a rod as a tool for spanking is an act of love, not harshness. Once the spanking is over our children are free from condemnation and can enjoy the benefits of the sacrifice that Jesus made.