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!
One of the greatest leadership qualities we can train/teach our children is servanthood. Jesus demonstrated servanthood in the parable in our reading today. Is it fair that the servant who worked one hour received the same wage as the servant who worked all day? No, of course not, but life is not fair. The principles of the kingdom of God don’t always seem fair in our eyes, especially when comparing them to the world’s principles of fairness. Most of us are like the disciples, thinking we want to be first, while all along not realizing what we will have to suffer as a servant of Christ. Greatness in God’s kingdom comes from learning to be a servant to all. This is the direct opposite of what your children will hear in school, at the workplace, and from friends. Servanthood is unpopular, but it is a foundational value for Christians.
Servants have masters. Jesus, the son of God, is our master and we have everything we possess because of him. We find our sustenance in Jesus and our daily provision in the Master. Jesus teaches us the ways of the kingdom and shows us how to walk out his principles. A servant is not above his Master! It is hard for us Westerners to wrap our minds around being a servant to someone. This is a principle you must begin training your children in when they are young and teach them as they get older. Let’s talk about some ways we can practically train/teach our children in servanthood.
Like in any area we are trying to train our kids in, we should model being a servant. How are you doing with this, dad? Are you consistently demonstrating a servant’s heart to your kids? Do you willingly change diapers, wash dishes, and offer your help around the house? Do you pick up after yourself or do you expect others to follow along after you and do this? Are things like holding the door for others, giving up your seat for a lady, and letting the other car go first things your kids regularly observe you doing? Remember, you can teach and train your children all day to be servants, but your actions will speak louder than your words.
I’m convinced the dad should be the greatest example of a servant in the home. At times we call it taking the low road. Dad, do you take the low road? Are you always looking for the best seat or are you willing to take the low road and serve others. In addition to being an example, there are plenty of scriptures and principles in the Bible of servanthood. Make sure you highlight the verses about being a servant and reinforce these principles over and over again in your home. Honor the children who serve and are willing to take the worst seat rather than the best seat. Teach the older children how to serve the younger children. When you are visiting another family, train your kids to offer to clean up or help with washing the dishes. Just about everyone appreciates the help a servant offers. Your kids will rise to the top of their class, their work environment, and just about any other situation they are in if they become servant leaders. The world is in desperate need of folks who understand servanthood and see being a servant as the character Christ demonstrated.
Someone once said the best thing parents can give their children is a loving marriage. In other words, even more important than training our children, is giving them an example of a mom and dad that love each other unconditionally. Someone else said that discipleship is more caught than taught. The example of a loving relationship with our wife speaks volumes to our children. Many of you, like my wife and I, grew up in single parent homes. The relationships we witnessed between our mom and dad were not healthy. When Debi and I got married, we had very little understanding of what it would take to have a great marriage. We did make a commitment to never consider divorce as an option. At times we found ourselves not in agreement with each other and at times we didn’t have the same values. Nevertheless, we have worked hard to improve our relationship and make our relationship a priority. Children are not to be the center of the home. When God gives us children, they should be a blessed addition to our already existing family. If children are the center of our home, then what happens when they leave home? Have you ever observed older couples eating out at a restaurant that never say a word to one another? Could it be that children were the center of the home and when they left home the parents had nothing in common?
Father, keep your marriage relationship a priority. If you have a great relationship then thank the Lord and work to make it better. If your marriage is struggling, I encourage you to find life coaches, counselors, or friends who can encourage you and hold you accountable. As fathers we should be reading parenting books on a regular basis, and as husbands we should be reading books that help us be great husbands. Do your kids witness you dating your wife regularly? This is a great way for your kids to know how much you value the relationship you have with your wife. I know when you have little kids at home dating may be hard. Try trading out babysitting with other young parents. Get creative and do whatever it takes to regularly date your wife. Maybe you think you don’t have the money to date regularly. Take a walk, pack a lunch, and go to the park or go window shopping. Prioritize your finances so you can go to dinner with your wife regularly. She may not think she needs this, but your relationship is important and dating your wife is very important. Consider getting away for a weekend as often as you can with your wife. Some are only able to do this once a year. Don’t let the years go by and one day wake up to the fact that you have not romanced your wife. Our children are watching and learning how we treat our wives. Your sons will learn how to treat their wife one day by watching you. Your girls will not settle for the first guy that comes along if they see you treating your wife respectfully and lovingly. Raise the standard!
Jesus points out the faith and simplicity of a child in our reading today. As a father, you understand how important “child-like faith” is. I am amazed at the simple ways my kids approach the Lord. When they pray, it’s fairly simple and when they respond to the Lord, it’s usually void of our complex adult response. Dad, you and I have the opportunity to honor the simplicity of which our children approach life and to learn how we can keep a child-like faith towards the Lord.
I was thinking of the many different times when I remember my kids praying or approaching God and I was in awe of how simplistic their approach was. Once I was driving down the road with my oldest son (he was about 4 years old at the time) and we were having a deep discussion about giving things to God. I was probably waxing eloquently about some doctrine of sacrifice and he was most likely clueless as to what I was saying. When I finished I asked him if he knew what I was talking about and he said, “Sure! It’s like this piece of trash in my hand and if I want to get rid of it, I just hold it up and say, here God.” I’m sure I tried to explain that it was not that simple and then I realized that yes, it really is that simple! If I have a burden, care, or a weight I am carrying, I need to simply turn it over to God. As for you, I’m sure you have your own stories of kids saying cute, but very simple things about God.
As our kids mature and grow, they tend to become religious. We all like patterns and principles and prefer to “know” rather than to “seek first his kingdom.” Our job as fathers is to facilitate our children to remain simple in their pursuit of God. Abiding in the vine sounds so simple, yet we make it so complicated. You know how a child responds fearlessly? If daddy says “jump,” the child says “okay” and leaps in your arms. Our heavenly father calls and our children trust him in the same child-like way.
How do we know if our children are leaving a simplistic approach to the Lord? If we see our kids leaning more on the law than the spirit of the law, they are losing sight of the simplicity of their faith. If you still use your authority to direct your teens instead of your influence, chances are they have strayed from simple faith in the Lord. In other words, if you are having to remind your teens of the rules all the time and use force and cohesion to get them to act a certain way, then their simple faith has been substituted with a mindset of how much can I get away with. By their teen years, our children should be led and motivated to follow the Lord by the witness of the Holy Spirit in them. If your kids are still needing strong guidelines and rules as teens, then you should cry out to God and ask the Lord to stir up the child-like faith that once motivated them. It is never too late to retrain our kids to seek the Lord in simplicity. As our children watch us they should witness an adult responding to God like a child – trusting, expecting, faithful, and joyful.
It’s important as fathers that we teach our children not only to read the Bible, but that we also teach them how to read the Bible. Most of us go to the Bible for answers to our problems. Most definitely the Bible does provide answers to life challenges. Nevertheless, the Bible is about God and the love he demonstrated to his creation by giving his son as the ultimate sacrifice. The Bible tells us about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.
In Matthew 17, Jesus took three of his closest disciples up on a mountain (significant events took place on mountains). Jesus was transformed and begins to shine with brilliance. Along came Moses representing the “law” and Elijah representing the “prophets.” Moses and Elijah disappeared and then Jesus was left standing alone. The Message bible reads, “When they opened their eyes and looked around all they saw was Jesus, only Jesus” (verse 8). The law and the prophets are fulfilled in Jesus. A casual reader of the Old Testament would not understand this fulfillment issue, but comprehending this is paramount.
Our children need to understand that the first coming of Jesus gave us the opportunity to live, really live, fulfilling all that God has done for us. We don’t have to wait on the second coming of Jesus just to get our of our “earth suits” and join him in the “sweet by and by.” Today because of Jesus, we along with our children can experience the powerful life flow of God everyday. When Moses and Elijah left Jesus on that mount, the only one standing was the only one that should have our attention. All of the law and prophets are fulfilled in Jesus. Jesus came to give us life and life more abundantly. Sure we teach the law to our children, but when your children get older the law will no longer keep them. The law is a tutor to grace. The law revealed our need for a savior and when our children pursue Christ, they can live with a heart after God and not be bound up in the matter of breaking the law or not. Yes, we should teach character to our kids; sadly even many Christians neglect teaching their children godly character. Nevertheless, lining our lives up with Jesus is the best character training we can have. Jesus is the plumb line; he is the judge. We should reflect Christ in the way we live, our habits, our manners, and so forth.
Jesus, only Jesus, was standing on the Mount after Elijah and Moses left, and only Jesus will sustain the purpose of your children. Teach your children to read and study the Bible through the eyes of Jesus. If you look at the Old Testament through the eyes of Jesus, you find all sorts of life. If you look at the letters to the churches through the eyes of Jesus, you will make greater applications than seeing the letters as rules.
Jesus, only Jesus.
Jesus was in the boat with his disciples when he compared the Pharisees to yeast. The disciples didn’t get it; they thought he was scolding them for not bringing food along for their journey. Jesus was constantly helping his disciples to gain the bigger picture of life. Often the disciples were fairly “earthbound” in their thoughts and Jesus would gently remind them of the heavenly perspective.
As a father we have the unique opportunity to help our disciples (children) gain perspective of the heavenly nature of day-to-day life. I don’t know about you but life is pretty daily around our home. The spectacular is often the exception while daily living is about diapers, training, taking out the trash, and various other non-glorious responsibilities. At times, miracles come by very natural means. I remember cleaning out yet another one of my guys training pants in the toilet. Mistakenly, I left the pants in the toilet and another child came along and flushed the toilet. I remember whispering a short prayer when I grabbed the toilet plunger (this tool is a must for fathers of children in training pants). Amazingly, one run with the toilet plunger and up came the training pants. You would’ve thought I struck gold. Sometimes it’s the little things in life that give you the most perspective. Thank God life is much more than stopped up toilets!
Jesus wanted his disciples to understand what life was really all about. Dads, we can give our kids the perspective they need by reminding them of God’s call on their life and God’s bigger purposes of seeing his kingdom come and his will be done. Our kids can gain a God-sized vision of life if we help them. Insert talk of vision and values in the midst of mundane chores. You can share with your kids that doing daily chores is being faithful in little and God says if you are faithful in little he will reward you with more. Remind them of the character that is established as they submit to daily chores. Making the bed is a spiritual act of worship, but our kids will never see it unless we help them with the right perspective.
Jesus Christ came to the earth and made the ordinary miraculous and the miraculous ordinary. Guide your children to embrace a God-sized vision for their life and keep their eyes on things above. We can become too familiar with the day in and day out of our routine and miss God at work. If we speak destiny into our children and talk about their role in the kingdom, we can help them understand we are here on this earth for more than just taking up space. The scripture says “let no man despise your youth.” If our kids gain a healthy perspective of who they are in Christ and what God has called them to, opportunity is all around them and they have the potential to make a generational impact.
Jesus confronted the Pharisees again and was ruthless with them. The disciples pointed out (as if he didn’t know) how upset the Pharisees were with Jesus’ comments. Why did Jesus act so strongly with the Pharisees? They represented the group of folks that conformed to a set of legalistic rules that supposedly marked a person as holy, while totally missing the spirit of the law. Justice without equity is legalism. In other words, when we apply only the letter of the law, we create a scenario of failure. Righteousness should be recognizable by the work God does in our hearts, not by outward manifestations of “rule keeping.” Here is where we have to work really hard and pray for our children. You and I can raise up children who will obey the “rules” we set down in our home and people can observe them and say what good children they are because they follow the rules. Nevertheless, those same children can be inwardly rebellious and mean-spirited. We should train and teach our children that it’s the heart that matters. If no real heart change is taking place, we are raising children that will be just like the Pharisees, and Jesus wasn’t real happy with the Pharisees.
One way we provoke our kids in this area is to expect legalistic obedience to the rules. What do I mean? Let’s say one of your toddlers is feeling sick and needs you. If every night I tell my kids at bedtime, “it’s time to go to bed and I don’t want you to get up for any reason,” what does my child do? Does he get up and come to you or is he so scared he might break the rules that he just stays in bed and suffers? There are many other examples where if we are not careful, we can train our kids in legalism. Someone has said that legalism is elevating the rule above the principle. We must be careful we don’t establish a method of godliness that doesn’t deal with the heart. Most parents would never intentionally do this, but if we aren’t diligent to check our children’s hearts on a regular basis, they can develop and be like Pharisees.
How did Jesus keep his disciples from developing attitudes like the Pharisees? First, he spent lots of time with them and it wasn’t all about ministry either. In other words, they walked from place to place and I’m sure the disciples had many questions. They lived life together and Jesus gave them many tests to see if they were getting the kingdom message that he was preaching. Jesus spent regular times of prayer away from the disciples, no doubt asking the Father about each one of his disciples. The point is, we can’t father our children without spending time with them. We can never really know if they are developing the heart of a Pharisee unless we take the time to ask questions and discern their heart. You can develop your own test and find out whether your children are just conforming to a set of rules or if their hearts are really on board with the family values. Ask the Lord to give you insight in discerning if their hearts are hardening towards you or your family values. In other words, be diligent in this area to see Christ exalted in your children’s life and don’t be satisfied with children who look one way but inwardly act another way on the outside.
The disciples observe Jesus feeding thousands of people with just five loaves of bread and two fish. Then they climb into a boat and when Jesus comes to them, they think it’s a ghost. Peter wants to walk on the water with Jesus and jumps in. Once he starts looking at the waves under his feet, he starts going down. Jesus pulls Peter to safety, rebukes him, and climbs into the boat. The wind dies down and they continue their journey in safety. The disciples got a hands-on lesson in faith, yet they didn’t learn very well. Living a life of faith is abnormal in our world. With our microwave generation of “I want it now” and our “I must see it to believe it,” we have a hard time trusting God for the miraculous. The currency of heaven is faith. We can’t really be fulfilled in the kingdom without walking in faith. How do we teach our sons and daughters about faith?
Take time to read the stories of the heroes of faith in the bible to your children. Read them the stories over and over again. Read the passages of Jesus’ miracles and talk about how awesome God is to make something out of nothing. The bible is full of faith messages. Help your children be familiar with the stories of faith. You can’t go wrong telling the story of Peter walking on the water as a bedtime story. When they can’t figure out how something will happen, use the occasion to talk about faith in God. We’ve had so many occasions to demonstrate how to have faith in God through the various needs we have had. We once drove a van that was rusted and in pretty bad shape. We felt we needed an upgrade, but did not have the money at the time. Debi and I prayed about what to do and asked our children to pray with us for God to provide a van. Not long after that, I was handed an envelope with a note by a friend. The note said that the check was for a van that had been picked out for us, plus enough money for tax, title and license as well as insurance money for one year. We were so surprised and blessed. Our kids witnessed what having faith in God was like and they saw a miracle. We’ve seen so many miracles since then, but usually only when we needed a miracle and were pressed to trust God for the miraculous. See, you don’t really pray for a miracle and have faith until you really need a miracle.
If you always provide for your children’s needs each time something comes up, they will not have to trust God. Try helping them stretch their faith by challenging them to pray about a particular need and ask God to provide. In other words, if they need a car or money for something, (even if you can provide for their need) ask them to pray about their need. God may be ready to show them a great lesson on faith. Ask the Lord with them how He intends to provide for this need. Our kids have seen God provide vehicles, houses, tables, etc… and they understand God wants them to pray and trust him for provision. There are times when we pray and God says “no” or “wait.” The key is to learn to live a life of faith. We approach our days much too practically. Be an example to your kids of faith, like Peter. Sure he failed, but he had the thrill of his life for a few minutes walking on the water. Faith means taking risks. Your kids will never understand faith if you don’t require them to take some risks. Some of my children are more willing to take risks than others, but we require them all to step out in faith in certain areas. When your children step out in faith, they will fall and stumble at times, but you can be there to pick them up and encourage them.