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!
There is so much truth and application for fathers in our chapter today that we need to take two days to consider what the Lord is saying. Reread this same chapter tomorrow and look for more insight.
Some of the saddest words in the Bible appear in 1 Sam 2. The scripture records that Eli “kept getting reports” on how his sons were ripping off the people and sleeping with the women who helped out in the sanctuary. How would you, as a father, like to hear reports that your children were stealing and desecrating the guidelines God had set for worship while committing sexual impurity? I think a scenario like this would be some of the worst news I could ever receive as a Father. Obviously, Eli did not know the state of his flock (family) or did not care. Many of us as fathers look the other way when we should be attentive to the state of our kids. Adam did the same thing. Where was Adam when Eve was tempted and sinned? Are you aware of your children’s disobedience? Do you look the other way when your children disrespect your wife? I know its tempting to let your wives take care of the major discipline issues and training, but doing that is wrong. Eli looked the other way and chose to have a “hands off” approach to his parenting. In some weird way Eli seemed to put his kids’ happiness at a higher priority than his love for them. If Eli truly loved his children he would’ve trained them and disciplined them. It’s a dreadful sin that we commit as fathers when we refuse to discipline our kids because we are afraid to hurt their feelings or concerned we will make them unhappy.
We can’t afford to look the other way when it comes to the training or discipline of our children. Training and teaching are a way of life. If you’re like me and you don’t want someone to inform you of your children’s bad behavior, then you must stay very involved in the lives of your children. Continually cultivate your relationship with your children. As long as they are in your home you are the main one responsible to train and teach them. Stay connected to your children and to your children’s friends. Monitor where they go and how they spend their time. Although it may sound like control, it’s really responsible parenting.
To act successfully in business and the marketplace and be absentee at home is unacceptable. A true sign of success for fathers is not how they are doing at the office or how much money is at the bank, but knowing and tending to their “flock” at home.
God forgive us as men for letting our wives take on too much of the training and discipline of our children. God help us to stay informed and be the leader in our home in the area of raising up our children.
The book of Samuel was written around 1,000 BC, almost 1,000 years after God cut covenant with Abraham and about 1,000 years before Christ. One of the main characters in the first part of the book of Samuel is Hannah. In the Old Testament era being childless was not a blessing. In fact, in those days when a woman had a child it was a sign of blessing and favor. There was a strong emphasis on generational transfer and children were viewed as conduits to pass along the traditions of Jehovah. Obviously there were many other benefits of having children, not in the least obeying God’s original mandate to “be fruitful and multiply“.
As the book opens, we have Hannah begging God for a child. God in his mercy opened her womb and granted her request. My how times have changed, now we beg God to close the woman’s womb or use birth control to make sure we only have a few children so that we fit within our parameters of the “normal family.” Here are just a few reasons parents plan their family:
- We have to have time alone as a married couple and enjoy our relationship before we have kids
- It’s important to finish college before we can start a family, or for that matter even get married
- It’s very important to have insurance and/or a nest egg saved up because children are very expensive
- We would never consider having more than two children since that is all we can handle
- The world is overpopulated and we must be responsible as Christians not to add to this problem
Can you imagine Hannah’s response to these issues? Fathers, you obviously don’t carry the child in your womb, but your leadership in this area or lack thereof makes all the difference in the world. Do you have a philosophy or conviction about receiving children in your home? Remember, the bible says children are a blessing, and we are commanded to be fruitful and multiply, and to make disciples. Consider carefully and prayerfully your attitude toward children. Open your heart to receive children. Why not let God be God and instead of limiting potential blessings (children), let God give you all he desires? Men tend to want to be in control in this area, but it is hard to live a life of trust and adventure when you are in control.
The above reasons we give for not having children may seem legitimate, but are the reasons we site for limiting God’s blessings really valid? Some of you will be unable to have children, but are you still open to receiving children by adopting or helping raise children that aren’t yours. Remember, parenting is about embracing the cross, not modern thinking and intellectual assent to “this is how the world does it.”
Paul lays out some qualifications for leaders in our reading today. These qualities are important for us to recognize as we raise “leaders” in our home. The first thing we need to remember about any of these qualities is that if we are “in Christ” we posses the nature of Christ and these qualities are in us. Whether these qualities are laying dormant or are growing they are in us because Christ is in us. Our redeemed nature follows the list of requirements for godly leaders. If we recognize that we have been given everything pertaining to life and godliness, our goal is not so much to reach toward these qualities as if they were unattainable, but to let Christ in us shine through. For instance, when I discipline my kids for something they’ve done wrong, I remind them God has already put in them the character they need to obey. When they deny their flesh and follow the spirit of the Lord in them it leads to obedience. I think that often we consider any “lists” in the bible as something we work towards our entire life but know we will never achieve. On the contrary! When our spirit is filled with God’s spirit, we are loving, faithful, patient, etc. because we possess the fruit of the spirit. Why then do we deal so much with disobedience and children who want their own way? Once again, our flesh is desirous of getting its way and we often choose to do what “feels” right instead of allowing our Christ nature being prominent.
If we beat our kids down saying things like “you will never” or “why don’t you just” they will never attain the Christ likeness we desire. Call your children up to walk in the nature of Christ. Correction and discipline should lead to a more spirit filled walk, and not cause us to hang our head in shame.
Keeping all of this in mind, reminding our kids of the qualifications of leaders and calling them to a high standard is wise. Adam and Eve chose their own way because they didn’t believe God had given them everything they need to thrive and survive. Our kids often believe the same lie- that God hasn’t given them enough money or the right parents or the ability to make the right decisions. Combat the lies the enemy tells them with the truth of the Word so that they know they are overcomers and that God has given them everything that pertains to life and godliness. If we constantly correct and discipline our kids without this perspective, shame will creep up on them and hang on to them throughout their whole life. Train, teach, correct and discipline, but remind your Christian children that the presence of God in them will lead them to obey and walk in the qualities that make great leaders.
As he often does, Paul points out particular situations and people who need attention, and we get the impression by reading this passage that he is pointing out lazy folks. “Our orders- backed up by the Master Jesus- are to refuse to have anything to do with those among you who are lazy and refuse to work the way we taught you” (2 Thess. 3:6). And then the often quoted verse I mention to my children “if you don’t work you don’t eat.” Paul knew that in a community of believers each person had to carry his weight of responsibility. Apparently there were some who chose not to fulfill their responsibilities in the community. Paul reminds his readers “the Master” is able to help you and give you strength to work or cause you to be confident to rebuke those who do not.
In another time in America, a 14 or 15-year-old had a different set of expectations on their life. One hundred years ago, young teens were making great contributions to their family and society and many were going to college or seminary at age 14. Family farms were run by young men. Today, many parents rejoice if their teen makes their own bed and takes their plate to the sink after a meal. Remember, the family is a microcosm of the church and society. Your family can’t operate correctly as a “community” unless each person carries their load of responsibilities. When you launch your children out of your home some day, you definitely want them to be good workers. Laziness means you let others do what you should be doing. Unfortunately, many parents fall into the trap of letting their children stare at the television too long or play too long on the computer. While watching television can be entertaining and computer work educational, I urge you to develop chores and physical work around the house as tools of teaching your children to work.
Children can start very young with chores. As they get older, graduate them to harder chores that take a longer amount of time. I know kids aren’t around for slave labor, but in America especially, we don’t really have this danger looming over us. I want to raise a very high standard for my kids so that once they look for a job outside the home, they will excel because they are hard workers. My older children that have taken jobs have done well. Their success is partly due to the fact that when they were young we required them to work at various jobs in the home. There is no reason why a 5-year-old can’t be taught to work hard by helping with the chores. I know Lego’s are hard to pick up, but most children begin to learn a good work ethic simply by picking up their toys. If you have boys they should be trained on how to change a flat tire and possibly even change the oil on the car. Things like mowing and weeding are all opportunities for our kids to learn a great work ethic. If you live in the city and find it hard to have enough opportunities for your child to gain a good work ethic, find a widow or grandparent that you can partner with. I guarantee there is someone around town who would love to have a young person do some chores for them.
Paul knew it was “the Master” working within his readers that brought about character change. The “Master” desires to work in your heart and the heart of your children to produce energetic kids who will view work as worship and do all that they do unto the Lord.
Paul has a way of helping his listeners see where they fit in the big story of the gospel – “God picked you out as his from the very start. Think of it: included in God’s original plan of salvation by the bond of faith in the living truth” (2 Thes. 2:13-14). For all of us reading a passage like this we have to be confronted with the reality that God, the very creator of the universe, considered us in his plan for salvation and living truth. Talk about giving someone value and reason to live! Knowing God had you in mind from the very beginning should motivate all of us to pay attention. Realizing the Father of the Universe loves us and includes us in his redemptive plan makes getting up in the morning and facing the issues of the day purposeful.
The truth is that many of us face the issues of life too “daily.” Guys, we especially tend to compartmentalize our lives. We face this issue and then that issue, and don’t always tie the issues together in order to see a master theme. God clearly operates with the big picture in mind. If he had you and I in mind before the foundations of the world and knit us in our mother’s womb, then he certainly knows how we fit in love and life. Pull yourself out of your day-to-day mindset and look to the Lord for understanding about where you and your family fit into God’s big picture of salvation and redemption. Fathers, we need to be a spokesman in this area to our wife and children. Whether things are great around your home or you are facing tragedy, take time to see how each situation ties into the bigger picture of how God is shaping your life. Our children need us to help them connect the dots. In other words, if a close friend of your child moves away, you can help them see God’s bigger purposes in this. Don’t go in when they are grieving and say, “thus saith the Lord” and then wax eloquently about the benefits of suffering. Be sensitive to your child, but at some point help them to recognize God’s bigger purposes behind a close friend moving away. As fathers we don’t have all the answers, but we do have a responsibility to help our children see beyond the day-to-day issues of life and understand God’s purposes for why things happen. A true father in the faith has a perspective beyond going to work and coming home every day. Your children need to know your hand of guidance and wisdom is available and able to lead them.
Some time ago, one of my daughters was traveling on an international trip. Her first connecting flight didn’t happen and she was alone in a big city and a little frustrated by her circumstances and the change in plans. When I talked to her, I encouraged her to face the situation as an adventure from God. This simple encouragement helped her to change her attitude and understand why God may have set her on a different course than what she originally thought. Fathers, our children often need our insight and wisdom to see God’s bigger picture of life. Take time to guide them through this process.
I realize some of you reading this devotion may be single fathers, but today I want to address those of us who are married and have children. I may say it many times over, but (if we are married) one of the greatest gifts we can give our children is a good marriage. In other words, for us as husbands, loving our wife as Christ loved the church is our assignment. Because Christ is in us, we have the ability to love like Christ did and part of loving our wives is praying for them. Our reading today contains a great prayer all of us as husbands can pray over our wife.
“Pray that our God will make you fit for what he’s called you to be, pray that he’ll fill your good ideas and acts of faith with his own energy so that it all amounts to something. If your life honors the name of Jesus, he will honor you. Grace is behind and through all of this, our God giving himself freely, the Master Jesus Christ giving himself freely,” (2 Thes. 1:11-12).
Love your children enough to work on your marriage. It’s easy to let the priorities of parenting overwhelm us and our marriage moves into a survival mode. I’ve seen older couples go out for dinner and never say a word to each other the entire meal. I wonder if they gave themselves so deeply to their children that they put their own relationship on the back burner. While they enjoy a nice meal together they seem to have nothing in common and very little to talk about. Debi, my wife, is my best friend and my hope is that our relationship will get better and better as the days pass. However, I must be proactive and lead our marriage this way or it may not happen.
Years ago, we had another married couple challenge us to improve our relationship by having weekly dates. Early on we made excuses like “we can’t afford a date” or “we have too many little ones to keep a regular date time.” Once we made dating a regular commitment, God gave us creative ways to date. There were times when we took one of the babies with us and maybe even times we took a couple of the little guys. We would co-op with other couples to watch our kids when we went out and us watch their kids so they could get away. We all have the same amount of time and we get done what we prioritize. If you prioritize dating your wife, you will have the time and resources to make it happen. Also, taking some special time off to do an overnight date or special getaway is critical for the health of your relationship. Obviously when you just have younger children this is tough, but once again what you prioritize will happen. Use your imagination and ask God to help you be creative in this area. Whatever you do to work on strengthening your relationship with your wife, don’t let the years go by and not cherish her!
In our passage today, Paul discusses the Master’s coming with the church. Not all scholars believe Paul is referring to second coming of Christ, some believe Paul is referring to 70 AD when God came in judgement. While it is important for us to have some basic understanding of eschatology and guide our children in this understanding, we can’t take the time now to get into details on the matter. However, whatever your view is on Jesus returning to the earth and the study of end times, our viewpoint should not be doom and gloom. A victorious eschatology is key. Train and teach your kids that God’s kingdom is building, expanding, and increasing. We don’t have to just stand by and watch things get worse and worse.
I grew up in church- literally. As a baby I was in the nursery and very seldom missed attending. As a young boy, I remember films and messages that caused me great fear. The overriding theme was Jesus was soon returning to the earth and it was going to be rather spooky so you better get your act together now. I remember being scared and motivated to live a holy life because I didn’t want to be left behind. I didn’t truly have a grasp of eschatology, but instead what I believed about Jesus returning was born out of fear!
Father, take care not to raise your children with this type of fear. If we really believe Jesus dealt a death-blow to Satan on the cross and that Jesus’ triumph over the grave purchased our freedom, then we have so much to be grateful for and very little to fear. Jesus said, “I will build my church” and he spent lots of time talking about an ever-expanding and developing kingdom of God. Jesus has given us everything that pertains to life and godliness, so we are fully equipped for victory and stand triumphant in Christ. There is no sense of doom and gloom in the good news of the gospel. Some would have us believe the world’s getting worse and as Christians our job is just to try to stay happy until the Lord returns. This type of thinking and believing leads us down a road of defeat and hopelessness. Train and teach your kids that indeed Jesus is returning, but that God’s kingdom will continue to advance and expand. Surely God doesn’t measure things the way we do -simply by numbers, but he is looking for people who hunger and thirst after righteousness. We are part of the army of God and our marching orders are clear, to take dominion and rule and reign with Christ. While we may experience defeat, we are not defeated. While we may lose battles, we will never lose the war.