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!
Let’s look a little closer at Jesus’ response when his mother and family show up to see him while he is ministering. Jesus was doing his Father’s business when his family came to see him teaching about the kingdom. He got the message that his mother and brothers wanted to see him. His response to the crowd was, “here are my mother and my brothers” (verse 33). Sounds like a cold response from the compassionate Lord doesn’t it? Not really; remember when he was left at the temple when he was a child? His parents came back to find him and Jesus was simply interacting with the priest, doing his Father’s business. Here he is again following the Lord when his mom and brothers showed up. Scripture doesn’t tell us if he pulled aside to see his family or if he just kept on teaching. The point is that he did honor his mother (remember he admonished one of the disciples to take care of his mother as he hung on the cross), but he demonstrated to his followers that obedience is the key. He was here on earth with an assignment and it was important that he carry out that assignment.
One thing we can summarize about Jesus’ upbringing and relationship with his mom is that he wasn’t overly nurtured. In other words, the desire to obey his Heavenly Father took precedence over the earthly relationship with his mother. It seems that in the day we live in many boys (or young men) and girls are coddled by their moms. Usually, this happens because fathers don’t take the responsibility to call up their children in obedience. Before the industrial revolution, dads worked on the farm with the kids and were much more involved in the lives of their children. After the industrial revolution, fathers left the farm and went to work at the mill or the factory for the reward of cash pay. Mom, for a while, was left home with the kids. Since dad was working away from home, the family farm became somewhat unproductive and the kids didn’t have as much purpose. Children started attending the local school and mom started finding things to do outside the home. Now in our modern-day, most families in our neighborhoods who have children send them off to school, mainly due to mom and dad having to work all day outside the home. The issue is not that this is wrong; it just puts dad away from the family and mom in more of a prominent leadership position. Mom raises the children largely alone while dad (if he is even around) goes out and makes a living. Dads need to be a strong presence in the lives of their children or children can’t help but be over-nurtured by mom. We’ve put too much pressure on mom to not only be the primary nurturer, but to lead the boy scout troop, teach the boys how to play catch, and generally try to make men out of boys. Dad, this is not possible. God bless all of the single moms, but only men can call other boys to be men. Fathers need to have a strong presence in the lives of their girls to teach them their security is in Christ. We need to be a strong example of masculinity for our girls to prepare them to meet the man of their dreams.
Hollywood has done mankind a disservice and painted the dad of TV families as the big dummy who doesn’t have a clue how to engage his kids and is overly nurtured himself. The mom typically is the one who has it all together and raises the kids. Jesus demonstrated his willingness to obey his Father as his number one priority. If we are going to raise kids who follow the Lord with tenacity, dads are going to have to be much more involved in the lives of our children. We are responsible to call our kids to take risks, step out in faith and trust God. We are the ones who train our kids for battle and teach them to fight even with pain.
Most of us have heard or read of the story of the paraplegic being lowered down to Jesus. I remember Sunday school teachers telling me the story, sometimes illustrated with props or color pages. What has always amazed me about this story is the desperation of the sick man and his dedicated friends. Their actions could have been misconstrued as rude, but they just wanted to see their friend walk and heard that there was a man in town who could heal people. Did they get permission from the homeowner to dismantle his roof? What would they do if Jesus rebuked them for interrupting his teaching? These friends threw caution to the wind and risked embarrassment to get their friend in front of Jesus. I admire and respect the hunger and courage that these men displayed!
As a father, I long for every one of my children to hunger and thirst after Jesus. I want their love for Jesus to be greater than peer pressure. You my friend, hold the key to your child’s spiritual hunger. They watch you; if you say you are hungry for God, are your actions demonstrating your hunger? They listen; do you talk respectfully to your wife and children? They follow you, and if you hunger and thirst after the Lord, then most likely they will follow your footsteps. We can’t afford to try to teach our kids about Jesus, yet send a different message by the way we live our daily lives. Dad, seek the Lord with all your heart. Cry out today for Jesus to move in your life as he did in the paraplegic’s life. Don’t be satisfied by weekly visits to a church. Make sure you are in accountability relationships with other men who will call you out in your walk with the Lord. The greatest impact you will have on your children is not what you teach them or tell them, it’s the life you live in front of them. Do you encourage your kids? Too many times many fathers are all about setting the standards and challenging our kids to toe the line, but we rarely give them encouragement and support when they make good choices. Your words have weight. As a dad, you can make or break the spirit of your children by how and what you say to them.
Hunger is interesting. In raising eight boys, there are only a few times in a 24 hour period when they are not hungry, and that’s mostly when they are asleep. It seems like my guys eat a meal and then 20 minutes later they are looking in the refrigerator or pantry for a snack. Where do they put it all? Have you ever heard your kids say “I’m starving”? A hungry person will do almost anything to get food. Let’s translate that physical hunger to spiritual hunger. I teach my kids the Bible because I want them to know the story of God. I long for my children to see how Jesus established his earthly kingdom and then released his disciples to spread the gospel. The scripture teaches that each person has a destiny or assignment to fulfill on this earth. As I teach my kids these truths from the Bible, I am attempting to stir up their spiritual hunger. I know if I can get them to have an appetite for truth that they will begin to study on their own and seek the Lord. Of course I can’t make them come to faith in Christ, but I sure can salt the oats and make the gospel real to them. You have the opportunity (like the friends of the paraplegic) to carry your children to Jesus and let Him work in their lives.
Our reading today tells us that the sick and evil-afflicted were brought to Jesus. Imagine the whole city lining up at his door! Jesus is still the same yesterday, today, and forever and while he is not here in body, he still heals the sick and afflicted. Just like fathers, mothers, and friends brought their sick to Jesus, we should do the same. You’ve heard the saying that when things get really bad or someone is on their death-bed, guess all there is left to do now is pray. Oh, God forgive us for using prayer as a final plea for help. As men of God we should carry our needs to Father God and ask him for healing and health. If you have a child that gets sick, he may need a doctor, but first pray for him. Cast your needs upon the Lord and call out to the great Physician. Jesus still wants to heal and deliver, but he is expecting us to bring our children to him just as they did when he walked the earth.
We have seen God do miraculous things in the lives of our kids when they were sick or needed a touch from God. One of our children had some health challenges and the doctors didn’t have a clue as to why our child was having problems. As we attacked the health issues with prayer, God healed our child. There are times when we’ve prayed and our prayers didn’t seem to make a difference in healing of our child. Nevertheless, it is always right to cry out to God for our needs. Our children should understand it is standard procedure that when they are sick, we are going to call out to the Healer. At times as we pray (or based on the circumstances), we have been led to take our kids to the doctor. We thank God for doctors who have given shots to help clear up strep throat or stitch a wound. God may use the doctors to provide the healing that our children need. Nevertheless, looking to doctors for help doesn’t negate needing a touch from the Lord.
I encourage you as dads to lead the way in praying for your children. Moms are usually used to this as most moms have sat up in the night rocking their babies fevered body and praying for God to heal them. It’s easy for dads to get too practical, and when our kids get sick, just give them a pill or take them to the doctor. Why not pray first? God desires to show himself strong and reveal his power, and it’s up to us to tap into the source.
I served as a volunteer chaplain for the police department of the town I lived in for several years. I was called out in the worst of situations and experienced some very difficult times interacting with folks who had lost babies or just had a spouse commit suicide. It is very interesting when I showed up on the scene and asked them if we could pray. I was never turned down for prayer. In other words, the folks I was ministering to had a desperate need for the power of God to be revealed to them and they were desperate for God. They didn’t ask me what religion I was or how long I was going to pray, they usually just grabbed my hand and prayed with me. Jesus was moved with compassion and healed the people. He still desires to heal our children. Fathers, cry out to God for deliverance and healing when your children need it.
How unbelievably incredible and glorious the resurrection must have been! What if you were one of the women coming to care for the body of Jesus and an angel appeared to you telling you that Christ had risen? On your journey to tell the other disciples, Jesus appears to you and reassures you that everything is going just as planned. All very amazing and exciting. Jesus, the one they just witnessed being crucified, was now alive and the disciples witnessed his resurrected body as well. What were the disciples to conclude about the resurrection of Jesus? Did Jesus really come out of the tomb? Was this an imposter that was claiming to be Jesus? Even when Jesus presented himself to the disciples, some of them kept their distance. They must have wondered if they were just dreaming and their hopes of Jesus being raised from the dead were coming true. At some point, just as they first followed Jesus, the disciples had to take a leap of faith and proclaim in their heart “I believe!” They could see with their eyes that the resurrected Jesus resembled the man they walked with before the crucifixion, but was it really the Messiah? Each of the disciples and followers of Jesus had to make a decision to step out in faith and believe this Jesus was who he said he was or keep denying the reality of the resurrected Lord.
One of the most joyous experiences as a dad is to watch your children take the “leap of faith” and trust that Jesus is indeed Lord. Each of your children will have to make a decision as to what they will do with the reality of Jesus as Lord. The truth of Jesus’ resurrection must become more than a historical fact to your children in order for them to know and experience the power of God in their life. You can present the truth to your children and teach them the principles of God over and over, but at some point if they are going to follow Jesus, they have to say “yes, I believe.” People believe different things about when one is actually converted – is it when the person prays a prayer? Does salvation come when someone walks an aisle of a church? No matter what you believe about this, the reality is that salvation is a leap of faith, but it is much more than a one time decision. Jesus told the disciples in our reading today to train and disciple those who they go out and meet. Most Americans have believed a lie that Christianity is all about praying a prayer. Jesus taught his disciples to lay down their lives and abide in the vine to demonstrate their relationship with Jesus. Don’t give in to a theology that says salvation is a one time decision without the reality of walking daily with the Lord.
As a dad, I look forward to each of my kids praying and receiving Christ, but I know reality will set in and their faith in God will be tested. As my kids grow older, I wait with anticipation as they seek the Lord on their own. I rejoice when they talk about hearing God and they make choices that I know are against their own will but reflect God’s will for their life. I look for them to have a hunger for God’s word, to desire to spend time in fellowship with God. If they can live each day without calling on God and experiencing his power then I have to question the reality of their salvation. Is their relationship with the Lord growing and maturing? This is what we want to see. Do they have a hunger, not for religion, but for God to move in their lives? If your children are not at this place and they are in their teen years, then cry out to God and be an example yourself of a man who hungers and thirsts after the Lord. Your kids are watching to see if the reality of the Lord makes a difference in your daily life. How often do you seek the Lord? When times get tough do you press into God? The greatest legacy you will leave your children is the legacy of faith in God!
No matter how many times I read the story of Jesus’ death, I am shaken and reminded of the unbelievable pain and suffering he experienced for you and I. Jesus’ redemption plan culminated in the final human sacrifice of his life. The traditional method of sacrificing bulls and goats were no longer sufficient. All of the Old Testament pointed to this day of pain and suffering that would end the traditional sacrifice for sin. The perfect lamb was led to slaughter and willingly laid down his life. The penalty of sin was paid once and for all when Jesus said, “It is finished.” You and I no longer have to make animal sacrifices to atone for our sins; we simply choose to “believe” and “receive” the substitutional atonement of Jesus. When Jesus breathed his last breath, strange and wonderful manifestations took place. There was an earthquake; graves were opened, dead people started walking around, and the temple curtain (veil) was torn from top to bottom. The tearing of the temple curtain signaled that the temple was now unnecessary for animal sacrifice and that all could come straight in to the presence of almighty God.
Let’s look back at the response of the accusers of Jesus. Pilate eventually washed his hands in the sight of the accusers stating he was not responsible for the life of Jesus. After he washed his hands, the crowd of accusers responded “we’ll take the blame, we and our children after us” (verse 25). I have read this chapter many times, but was struck by this verse. As a responsible Father, surely you want to leave a legacy for your children that honors the Lord. I don’t know about you, but I want to transfer the blessings of God that he poured out on me onto my children. I can’t even imagine telling Pilate that the children who are born to me will take the blame for the murder of Jesus!
So, what will it be for your family? Will you lead your children into the fullness of the blessings of Jesus’ death and resurrection? Each of your children has an opportunity to respond to the gospel as you share it with them. Will your children believe in the salvation of the Lord and respond in gratitude to the good news you’ve shared with them? I urge you, dad, to preach the gospel to your children. Share the story of the good news of why Jesus came and how he can deliver each of your children from the grip of sin. Otherwise, we become like the parents on that day of Jesus death who told Pilate that their children would bear the blame of Jesus’ death. If you share the gospel with your children and they receive and repent of their own sin, they will not bear the blame of Jesus’ death, but will actually enjoy the benefits of the death of Jesus. You can’t afford to wait on the youth pastor or someone else to share the gospel with your children. Your assignment is to preach, share, demonstrate, and proclaim the gospel to your children. The story of the redemption of man begins in the beginning when Adam and Eve chose to sin and culminates in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Learn the gospel story from the Bible and share it with your children. If we want generations of godly seeds, we must begin with the patriarchs proclaiming the gospel to our children and leading them to salvation. There is no greater joy than to see our children walk in truth!
Peter’s denial of Jesus surely caused him shame. The Message bible says that after Peter denied Jesus for the third time he went out and “cried and cried and cried”(Matt. 26:74-75). Later we know Peter was delivered from his shame and was used mightily by the Lord.
One area the enemy will target our children in is shame. Shame comes in many different forms and shapes, and as dads we must guard our children from shame. I was hunting with one of my boys and didn’t check the spot my son was hunting at before we left the field. He had accidentally left some trash and a box of empty shells at the property where we were hunting. I got a call from the friend that had allowed us to hunt on the property, the landowner had found the things my son left and was upset. We were promptly uninvited from hunting on the property. When I told my son, he was disappointed and repentant, but it didn’t seem to really bother him. A few weeks later he seemed to be down and I asked him what was going on. He told me he just didn’t think he could do anything right. As I kept probing with questions, I found out he was ashamed that he had left the trash in the field and had gotten us uninvited. I told him that I forgave him and that God forgave him, and asked him to sit down and let me pray over him. From my perspective, I could see the work of the devil to discourage him and put shame on him about leaving the trash in the field. As I prayed over him, I simply exposed the lie of the enemy- my son was not a bad person; this was an accident and we would not allow for any shame to come upon him in the name of Jesus. I prayed as if we were at war (which we are); not against my son, but against the “accuser of the brethren” or the devil. I took authority over the lies and cut off the work of shame that had begun to work in my son.
Dad, you must attack shame as it tries to get on your children. If there is any area in which you sense the enemy has put shame on them or they have shamed themselves, pray over them and expose the lies of the enemy. Jesus’ death and resurrection dealt a death-blow to any shame we think we have. Jesus took all of the shame on himself and you and I can be free from shame forever. If we allow the devil to inflict shame on our kids, they will grow up condemned and potentially useless for the kingdom of God. No sin is too great that Jesus can’t forgive and cleanse. Teach your kids how to repent and how to get the shame off of themselves. What about you dad? Do you have shame on you from your past or present circumstances? If so, repent and ask someone to pray for you. We disqualify ourselves from walking with the Lord when we walk in shame. Don’t hang your head because of some past incident that you were a victim of, or that you inflicted on someone else. Repent and ask the Lord to remove the shame. Shake off the shame that you are walking in and you will be able to train and teach your kids to live shame free lives as well.
Faith is the currency of heaven and God desires for us to relate to him on a basis of faith. Faith usually means risks. Abraham is a man we look to who had great faith, but he took plenty of risks while demonstrating his faith. All through the Old Testament we read about men and women of faith relating to God. The entire redemption of man requires a faith response from us. We can marvel at the wonderful works of God and his love toward us, but in order to receive his love and walk in it, we must believe. The story of the gospel remains only a story for us if we don’t believe it!
I often hear parents say, “I am raising a strong-willed child,” and my usual response is, “Great! I think Moses, David, Paul, and Timothy were probably all strong-willed children.” A little boy who may have strong opinions as a child could very well turn out to be an excellent communicator for Christ as an adult, right? Your little girl who has a flair for the dramatic and commands all of her dolls to pay attention to her could very well be a woman of God who instructs young moms and encourages them. I am concerned that we tend to raise children that are too safe when it comes to life choices and decisions. I want my girls and my boys to be risk takers. I want my kids to step out in faith as adults to obey God, whatever the cost.
Debi and I have had a number of times in our marriage when we needed a financial miracle. I could recount to you story after story of how we prayed for a financial breakthrough and God gave us a miracle. Our kids grew up in our home aware that God still performs miracles. We’ve decided to go on vacations before and had to “pray in” the money. I hope we never lead our kids to worry about money or provision, but we did encourage them to pray for provision for certain needs. Now that some of my kids are older, I see them experiencing the same type of miracles we did. Why is this? They were trained to expect God to do miracles and took risks to position themselves to receive, like praying and pursuing God for the unexpected.
How can you help your children learn to step out in faith? Begin training them at a young age to talk to God about their needs. Trust me, I am like any other father and want to bless my kids and give them everything they need. Not only is this impossible most of the time, but it is also very unwise. Your children should have needs and desires that drive them to the Lord and not to you for answers. Are there one or two areas your children can be encouraged to take risks and demonstrate faith in God? Maybe you force them to step out in an area and speak to a group or serve a widow. Ask the Lord to give you wisdom about how to push your children to take risks that will then prepare them to be men and women who walk in faith. I watched my mom raise my brother and I while working two jobs at times. She never missed giving financially to her local church and we never did without. My mother demonstrated to me what belief in God looked like. She taught me with her life to be a risk taker. I want to leave this same legacy with my children and grandchildren.
Whether you are training a toddler who has a strong will or working with a teen who challenges you, keep your eyes on Christ and train them to take risks in Christ. Remember, you are raising up leaders who can impact the world around them!