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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!

~Tim

Destiny and Purpose

— Expired films & backpacks 2.

I am amazed with the timing of the miraculous events leading up and following the birth of our Lord Jesus.  One of the more interesting events is the encounter Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus had with Simeon.  Simeon had been longing for the day he would see the salvation of Israel and now he was holding him right in his arms!  Simeon went on to bless the Lord for allowing him to encounter this child savior and then he blessed Mary and Joseph.  I think the most encouraging part of this encounter is the destiny that Simeon recognizes.  Every child born into this world has specific destiny.  Because of the victory of the cross and resurrection, Jesus gives every follower of Christ a destiny.  One of the greatest privileges we have as parents is unwrapping the destiny God has put inside our children.  I wonder how Mary and Joseph stewarded Jesus life as a child?  I wonder how you as a father will steward the life of your child?

The goal in parenting is that each of our children would exalt Christ by enjoying him forever.  Part of enjoying God is walking, living, and working in your area of destiny.  As our children grow and mature and we observe who they are, we can influence them towards God’s call on their lives.  I know many men who are still wondering what their destiny is and they are now mid-life.  Did their fathers help them unwrap God’s purposes for them?  Every child God blesses you with is unique and has special giftings and talents.  We can’t afford to allow our children to walk into adulthood without some assistance in understanding their destiny.  Graduating from college and landing a good paying job is not necessarily helping them find their destiny.  We should start asking the Lord (and our children) when they are 15-years-old or so what God has put inside of them for the future.  I want my kids to be world changers; I am not interested in them just earning a living.  I want them to make an impact for Christ while they are here on this earth.  The clearer they are about their destiny, the greater impact they will make.

There are tools available to help your son/daughter understand their destiny.  The greatest tool is the Holy Spirit and how he speaks to you and your child and works in your heart.  God is not far away and hiding your purposes.  No, he wants to reveal what you are to put your hand to and the difference you are to make.  However, remember the first step to helping your children find their destiny is to help them know God.  Only in knowing God can true purpose be found.  God is more interested in a relationship than he is your children making a name for themselves.  If we help our children develop their giftings and talents apart from God, they will get the glory instead of Christ.  The scripture says “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” The destiny of your children will never be fulfilled apart from Christ.  Do the hard work of seeking the Lord for your children’s destiny (don’t leave this solely in their hands) and use whatever tools you can put your hands on to develop their purposes.

~Tim

Receiving Children

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Luke is the only Gentile writer among the writers of the gospel.  He is certainly an “outsider” writing the gospel story.  Luke is a doctor and gives us specific details of our Lord’s ministry on earth.  Imagine living at the time when the very son of God was being miraculously conceived and later watching as Jesus deals with “outsiders.”  Our reading today is like a crescendo of drama that has been built since the very first few chapters of Genesis.  All of the Old Testament has pointed towards the time of Jesus’ arrival.  Heaven was pregnant with anticipation as God must have signaled the angels and said “it’s time.”  God opened up Elizabeth’s womb first and then Mary’s.  What amazes me about our passage today are the exciting details and drama surrounded by the announcements of pregnancy and new life.  Jesus coming to earth in the form of a baby started the unfolding of the miraculous conception of hope in the hearts of all who had longed for the Messiah to come.  Jesus was misunderstood and rejected by his own, but he was Emmanuel – “God with us” come down to earth to die as a man, paying the ultimate price for our sin.  Heaven couldn’t hold Jesus any longer, it was orchestrated from the beginning of time and Luke shares the exciting news in wonderful Technicolor detail.

It is interesting the difference in the responses of Mary and Zachariah.  Zachariah said, “Do you expect me to believe this?”  Mary responded to the angel’s announcement, “How can this be?”  One was denying the announcement and one believed the announcement, but wondered how it would happen.  Have you ever visited with a couple who are pregnant, but the pregnancy came as a surprise?  Usually the woman is excited but guarded because the father is nervous about how he will provide for this new little life growing in his wife’s womb.  Pregnancy is a wonderful adventure, at least it can be.  My wife has been pregnant 13 times. Our children Nathan and Judah are in Heaven with Jesus; they went to be with the Lord due to miscarriage.  Debi (my wife) is the most amazing woman in the world.  She has had multiple Cesarean sections and some natural births.  I can’t imagine her experience with pain and suffering through the process of giving birth to so many children.  She never complained about being pregnant and always received each child God gave her.  That is the key you know, receiving children.

Where do we get off deciding we will not receive children?  Zachariah’s response wasn’t met with wonderful consequences.  Each child God gives you and your wife is a blessing and gift from God.  Is your heart open to receiving children?  Dads especially have a hard time receiving more than a few children.  What about adoption or having as many kids as God wants to bless you with?  Dad, the key is not to have a large family.  The key is to settle in your heart that you will receive children.  God has chosen to use children to perpetuate the generations.  When you don’t receive children, you actually work against God’s plan- not a good idea.  God forgive us for making our own plans and deciding when we will say, “No thank you God, we are not receiving children any longer.”

Join in God’s adventure and be wide open to receiving children; your own, adoption, grand kids, neighbor kids etc…God is in the business of using kids to release the gospel!

~Tim

Embracing Fatherhood

Fall color--Crab Apples

Paul says, “Because of that cross, I have been crucified in relation to the world, set free from the stifling atmosphere of pleasing others and fitting into the little patterns they dictate.” (Galatians 6:14)

Dad, you and I need a revelation of the purposes of the cross of Christ.  It is the cross that allows us to live a life worthy of greatness.  Because of the cross we don’t have to worry about pleasing anyone except God.  Furthermore, because of the cross, God views us as forgiven and free from shame and guilt.  We can be godly fathers because Jesus paid for our courage on the cross.  Our ability to be godly fathers who govern our homes with love is made possible by the cross of Christ. Thank you Lord!

Fathering is one of the highest privileges on the earth.  In our reading today, Paul also talks about sowing and reaping.  It’s a principle of the earth that God created.  If you plant an apple seed, you get an apple tree.  As a father we have the grand opportunity to sow love, discipline, courage, joy, and the kingdom of God into our children.  We also have the benefit of reaping generations of godly fruit.  If you are like me, you’ve wondered if one of your children will rebel as a teen or adult.  The enemy will always try to convince us if we have kids that they will turn out to be rebellious.  The enemy’s tool is fear.  If Satan can cause us to be fearful that our children will be rebellious, then we will decide not to have kids or walk in fear as we raise our children.

Paul is giving us a universal principle here that if we sow godly seeds into our children we will reap a godly lineage.  I don’t want to sit around and be fearful of how my kids will turn out.  I refuse to worry.  I choose to pour Christ into my children and trust the Lord to raise them up to be men and women of God.  Paul is challenging us to live a life full of adventure and wonderment, but it comes only as we embrace the cross and die to our own ways.  Parenting can be overwhelming at times.  Like you, I grow weary of the consistency needed to be a good father.  There are days when I feel like a horrible father.  Nevertheless, if I embrace the cross I realize its not about how I feel or what I think, it is about being crucified in Christ and letting his resurrected life live through me.  When I look at my little boys, I try to envision what they will do when they grow up.  As I hug my daughters, I think of the day they will leave my home with prince charming.  I only have a little time to invest in them and then they will be out of my home.  Let’s take advantage of the time we have to sow into our kids the blessings of God.  Don’t compromise by just teaching them to obey the law, you’re raising world changers.  Each of your children have the opportunity to “turn the world upside down” for the sake of Christ.  May the Lord bless you as you invest in your children today.  May the overriding theme of your parenting be the glory of the cross of Christ.

~Tim

The Selfless Life

thwarted

“My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit.  Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness.  For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness.  These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day.  Why don’t you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence?” (Galatians 5:16-18).

Read this passage over and over again as it is one of the most important passages for raising children.  One of the main goals in parenting is to see our children come to the place that they are free from selfishness and motivated by God’s spirit.  Paul is appealing to the Galatians that they live out of their true identity in Christ.  If our children remained chained to the law of self, they will never enjoy life in the Spirit.  The selfless life means the cross filled life.

As parents, when our babies begin to express themselves, we can observe right away that they are sinners, born of Adam and wanting their own way.  A baby wants to nurse and usually cries when it is time to eat.  As the child gets older, they resist diaper changes by trying to flip over or tense their muscles.  Toddlers may pinch a sibling when they’ve been hurt or throw a temper tantrum when they don’t get that piece of candy when they want it.  These young children need character developed in their life.  So we set about as parents training our children, saying things like, “Honey, you don’t throw a temper tantrum.  Here is what I want you to do, and if you don’t obey, here are the consequences.”  They get the picture often through the pain of discipline.  As they mature, you begin explaining to them “why” they are not supposed to throw tantrums and be selfish.

As you move along, in order to train and teach them you establish family rules.  “At our home we …” – you fill in the blank.  The big “but” is that at some point you transition from rule living to principle living to grace living.  How is this done?  I don’t think there is a simple explanation for this transition, but let me try to give some thoughts that help us understand where we are heading.  The first big issue is to ask yourself, have your children believed in Jesus Christ as Lord of their lives, repented of their sins, and accepted him as their Savior?  If they have, then the Spirit of the Lord resides in them.  If your child is not a Christian, you can train him/her to be a good moral person, but they will lack the “reason behind” the moral character.  Once your child receives Christ, the Holy Spirit starts witnessing to his/her spirit truth and righteousness.  Their mind, will, and emotions should begin to line up with their spirit person.  First and foremost they are a spirit, they have a soul, and live in a body.  If Christ is not exalted in their life they will live out of their soul and flesh.  You can teach, train, and discipline your child, but you can’t exalt Christ in their lives; only the Holy Spirit living in them can do this.  As they mature in the Lord, they are not bound to the letter of the law as they were when they were youngsters, now they are motivated to do “good works” because of the Spirit of the Lord living in them.  It is very important that this transition takes place.  Otherwise, they become adults obedient to the law and you, but their heart is far from the crucified life.  They remain like little kids bound to their flesh and acting out what they “feel” each day rather than being led by the Holy Spirit of God.

~Tim

A Grace Environment

Baby/Family Photography by Pete Labrozzi

Paul pens some of the most descriptive terminology describing our relationship with Jesus.  As children of God, “we have been set free to experience our rightful heritage” (Gal. 4:5).  We can now call out to God as “papa” or “father.”  We are no longer slaves to sin, but a child of God and an heir with complete access to the inheritance.  What inheritance?  Everything that Jesus received, we receive.  As an heir, you gain access to the wealth of the Father.  If the earth is the Lord’s, then as sons and daughters, (through our inheritance) we have access to rule and reign on this earth taking dominion.  (Sound familiar?  Isn’t this the original commandment God gave Adam?)  The peace that God walks in is ours as children of the inheritance.  On and on we could go talking about the attributes of inheritance.  In Christ we gain full and complete permission to the rich resources of Christ.  If Christ was beaten and forgave those who mistreated him, as children of God we can forgive those who mistreat us.  This is incredible!  We are free from past sins and free from the bonds of the law – thank you Jesus!

How does all this relate to fathering?  Train and teach your children the true gospel.  Paul was concerned that the Galatians were focusing on the law.  Why would anyone want to go back to righteousness by the law when salvation from Christ sets us free from the obligation to the law?  Of course I want my children to obey the law, but I don’t want them to base their salvation and acceptance by God on their ability to keep the law.  As we wrote yesterday, God forbid we should cause our children to grow up in our home thinking they are saved or loved by God based on their good works.  As Paul writes to the church in Galatia, it’s almost as if he is saying, “Are you crazy? Knowing that you are saved by what Christ did on the cross not by your good works, and now you want to go back to a life in Christ dependent on keeping the law?!”

We must be careful that we are not raising children who are focused on “law keeping” as a means of their relationship with Christ.  Graceful parenting is helping our kids see their complete inability to relate to Christ based on keeping the law.  If I constantly compare my kids with other kids who “act better” or seem to be more obedient, I am only reinforcing the salvation by works idea.  If I reinforce the fact that I love my children no matter what, I am sending the same message of love that Jesus does.  Unconditional love has no hooks.  In other words, I don’t love my children based on conditions like, “I love you if you obey me” or “I love you if you treat your sister kindly.”  While we may never say this to our children, if we think this way it will reflect in our parenting.  There are times when I put my children to bed and I say to them, “Son/Daughter, I want you to know I love you even when you disobey me.”  I hope they know this deep in their spirit and are free really free from thinking they have to do something to earn my love.  Ask the Lord to reveal to you if you are raising your children in an environment where grace is prominent.

 ~Tim

Parenting with Grace

06.19.11

Do you understand the purpose of the law? The law was given through angelic messengers and mediated by Moses.  In our reading today we find the purpose of the law, “the purpose of the law was to keep a sinful people in the way of salvation until Christ (the descendant) came, inheriting the promises and distributing them to us” (Gal. 3:19).  The law then is a tutor, as Paul says, to bring us to a place of faith.  The law was not given for us to be righteous, but to reveal our unrighteousness and cause us to cry out in faith for salvation from God.  Jesus’ death paid for our salvation.  Often we work so hard to gain God’s favor and grace by keeping the law.  Our efforts to keep the law only demonstrate our need for salvation.

When I was growing up I fell into the trap of performing for God.  I thought the more I acted correctly and kept the rules, the more God would love me.  My efforts to “do good for God” only made me tired and frustrated and surely didn’t bring me closer to Jesus.  It wasn’t until I realized the law was given to reveal my inability to have intimacy with Christ that I gave up.  It was very refreshing knowing I didn’t have to work to gain God’s approval.  I was delivered from a mindset of thinking my good works bought God’s love.

As fathers, the way in which we relate to our children often prepares them for how they will relate to father God.  If we are very rigid and strict in our relationship with our children, they will often grow up viewing God as a strict and rigid heavenly Father.  On the other hand, if we are loving and tender, they will likely view God this way.  This is why it is so important as fathers that we are conformed to Christ’s image.  We can either hinder or help our children as they learn to relate to Father God.  Is there an atmosphere of grace in your parenting?  If we are not careful, we can easily slip into a “rule keeping” atmosphere in our homes.  It is much easier to raise kids in a strict rule setting.  We can lay down the law when they are young and say “this is how it is going to be – if you keep the rules it will go well with you, if you break the rules, life will be tough.”  While rule making and keeping is important, we have to be careful to see the rules as “tutors” to grace.  In other words, my little children have rules they live by (brush your teeth before bedtime, don’t be rude at the table, talk respectfully to parents, etc…) as they get older these rules turn into values.  I don’t tell my 4-year-old why he should brush his teeth, he is just expected to do it.  When my 4-year-old grows up, I may begin to explain to him the importance of good hygiene.  As he continues to mature he hopefully values clean, healthy teeth and takes care of himself appropriately in this area.  He is given grace to take care of his teeth and values it for his own benefit, not because I am constantly on him to do it.  This is how the law/rules work.  The law should lead us to a place where we value grace.  As my children get older, I use my influence to parent them and not my authority.  This is grace in parenting.  If I treat my 13-year-old like I treat my 3-year-old, I am maintaining an atmosphere of law/rules/authority instead of grace/influence/values.  Many parents fail to make the shift in their parenting from authority to influence.  As stated earlier, it’s easier to just lay down the rules and expect everyone to conform, but I can’t afford to saddle my 18-year-old with a bunch of rules.

Grace in parenting is training and doing the hard work of correction and discipline when the children are young so that we can enjoy a friendship and relationship based on similar values when our children are older.  Ask the Lord to show you if your parenting is founded on grace.  If you still aren’t sure and you have older children, try asking them some probing questions to ascertain if you have grace in your parenting.

~Tim

Confrontation

Father and son

Paul tells the church at Galatia about his confrontation with Peter.  It must have been a big deal!  Paul observed how Peter acted one way around Jews and another way around non-Jews.  Paul knew this was wrong and talked to Peter about it face to face.  When Jesus rebuked his followers or even those who sought to follow him, he did so face to face.  Paul was only following the pattern that he observed in the life of Jesus.

Parenting provides more than enough opportunities to follow Paul’s pattern of face to face confrontation.  Usually for me, confronting is more like choosing my battles.  Since we have a bunch of kids there always seems to be an attitude to address, a scuffle to break up, or a character flaw to deal with.  Years ago I heard a popular author discuss emotional deposits and withdrawals.  His thesis was that you could not make an emotional withdrawal (correction or even input) to someone until you had made a deposit.  A deposit would be a compliment or encouragement you would share with someone.  In building relationships, one of the ways you earn trust is to encourage one another.  Hopefully as fathers we are encouraging our kids.  They need lots of affirmation and positive comments about who they are and also about God’s love and admiration towards them.  As fathers especially, we need to be cheerleaders for our kids.  “You can do it! That a boy, I knew you had it in you!” are all phrases our children should hear from us regularly.  As we make these “deposits” it is like depositing money in a bank account.  Once I have made some “deposits” we are ready to make a withdrawal when needed without being overdrawn.  The apostle Paul often did this in his writings.  He began his letters with affirmation and words of love and admiration and then rebuked those he was writing to.  If I constantly rebuke my children without affirming them, I can get way overdrawn emotionally in their heart.  Balance is critical when it comes to giving correction versus giving praise.  As dads we oftentimes forget to praise our children, but we are usually quick to point out their weaknesses and problems.

When we need to correct and discipline our children, it is very important that we rebuke them in love.  Fortunately, I don’t ever remember my dad or mom disciplining me in anger.  I am sure I made them angry, but when it came to spanking me or chastising me they didn’t do it in anger.  Most of us have heard story after story of fathers going off and hurting their child in some angry tirade.  Get a handle on your anger before you discipline your child.  Let love constrain you from flying off the handle and doing something you will regret later.  You can be stern and clear with your discipline if you have demonstrated to your child how much you love them.  The “deposits” you’ve made will allow you to discipline your children and they will walk away knowing you love them.   When I discipline my children I try to be clear about the sin they are being disciplined for.  Secondly, once the spanking or correction is over, pray with them and help them repent of their sin.  Finally, I hug them and tell them I love them.  The last thing I want them to do is walk away and leave them feeling condemned.  They need to feel the sting of discipline and correction without the guilt and condemnation the enemy tries to put on them.

~Tim