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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

The Listening Father

Proverbs 25

“Don’t jump to conclusions – there may be a perfectly good explanation for what you saw,” (Proverbs 25:8).

If you have been a parent very long you know the truth of this Proverb.  I remember one instance where my wife Debi reported an incident to me about the kids, and when I followed up on it there was a completely sensible reason for the incident.  I know on many occasions when my kids have argued I’ve considered it the worse case scenario, and then upon investigation I found out they were trying to convince one another holding to their beliefs.

As a young minster, I learned  in counseling folks, you usually have to hear both sides before drawing a conclusion.  It’s easy to visit with a wife, who’s suffering in her marriage, and conclude her husband bears the blame for everything. Once I’ve interviewed the husband, I find out there are explanations for the difficulties.

One of the most effective means to avoid hasty decisions is simply to listen and be patient.  If I walk into a room and my kids are arguing and I start barking out orders and discipline them without explanation – it would be wrong. I should first observed what was going on, listened to the disagreement or argument and then took action. I don’t always move forward with caution like this.  Besides, I am the dad and when I come upon a situation where there is strife, everyone should jump to attention and immediately cease their foolishness – right? Wrong!

I don’t want my kids to fear me.  There is a healthy respect I want them to have, but fear that I will smack them or lose my temper and go off on them is simply unhealthy.

As a dad, listening and waiting are two responses you need to learn and learn quickly.  No matter what age your kids are they deserve a dad who will hear them out and wait before concluding.

With all due respect, it is important that you are the balancing referee when your wife brings a situation to you.  If your wife is distraught because she caught the kids in something, listen to her concern before you deal with the kids. The situation may not be as bad as she is reporting it simply because she is momentarily full of emotions. Take time to hear your wife’s concerns and talk to your kids before you decide on the consequences.

In the NFL, when a coach asked for a play to be reviewed the referee goes to the sidelines stares into a camera and takes one or two looks at the play that just ended.  Based on what he sees in the review process he may or may not change the call on the field.  There are times our children need swift and clear consequences for their actions.  But, there are those occasions when we need to check out the details, investigate what took place and make sure we are making the right call before we lay down the law!

~Tim

Authority

Proverbs 24

“Fear God dear child, respect your leaders; don’t be defiant or mutinous,” (Prov 24:21).

Respect and appreciation for authority is one of the greatest virtues we can offer our children.  Jesus talked about the importance of understanding authority when he encountered the Centurion man who requested Jesus’ healing power. The Centurion told Jesus he didn’t have to come just say the word, because he knew what it was like to have authority and if he told his men to come they would come or to go they would go.  Jesus stated that he had never seen such great faith in all Israel.  Jesus equated great faith with someone who understood authority.

Living under authority is a way of life, that is it should be.  No matter what profession you are in there is an authority structure.  If you are an independent contractor you still have an owner, city government, or some sort of identifiable authority you must submit to.  Maybe you are reading this devotional while sitting in a jail cell; you probably don’t even have the authority to go to the bathroom when you’d like.  I’ve heard young men talk about wanting to escape from their parental authority, so they join the army!  Everywhere you look authority exists.

I served as a volunteer police chaplain for several years.  I could be called out at anytime to serve a death notification or show up on the scene of a death of a loved one.  When I showed up on the scene the first thing I did was look for the one in authority and find out how I could serve.  I wanted to know who I reported to if I had questions and what they thought was the most effective way I could step in and help in a very difficult time.  Authorities are not always good, but authority is a good thing.

How do we practically train and teach our kids about authority?

First of all, if they recognize you as a man under authority, they will embrace the authorities they have in their life.  I’ve told my wife and older kids if I get out of line, they know who to call.  They have my permission and blessing to go to my authorities if I won’t listen to them or if I am getting off-base. As my children get older I look for others to speak into their lives.

I look for men and women whom my older kids can share things with.  Folks who speak the truth in love. One of my older girls worked at a place where the owner’s husband really respected and loved my daughter. This man encouraged her and gave her fatherly advice when she needed it.  I want my children to know and experience the blessing of godly authorities in their young life.  Lastly, find a group of people who you can mutually submit to as a church and share your life with.  Your children need to grow up in an environment where they can observe the benefits and blessings of being under authority.

~Tim

God’s Provision

Proverbs 23

“Don’t wear yourself out trying to get rich; restrain yourself.  Riches disappear in the blink of an eye; wealth sprouts wings and flies off into the wild blue yonder,” (Proverbs 23:7).

When Jesus walked the earth,he spoke about money and our resources often.  We gain God’s perspective on finances when we read the account of the widow’s mite.  Jesus pointed out that the woman gave more than anyone because she gave all she had.  Another passage that gives us insight about money is the story of the rich young ruler.  Remember, he chose to walk away from Jesus because Jesus asked him to give up all the riches that he had.  There are many more passages that reveal the heart of the Father in regards to money.  The bottom line is that God owns it all and he shares his abundance of resources with us.  We are managers of what God so graciously gives us to steward.  We are not owners, we are managers.  Therefore, it is God who is our source and not my boss or the company that I work for.

Raising a family of thirteen takes a lot of money. When they were all young, they nursed and ate very little and our monthly budget was slim.  When young babies become young men I marvel at how much food they can consume.  My boys can have a meal and in no less than twenty minutes later they will open the pantry door looking for a snack.  I’ve joked with my wife before that we should keep statistics of how quickly we consume a loaf of bread or how many rolls of toilet paper that we go through in a week. At no time have any of my children suffered from the lack of provision. Thanks be to God! Even though at times my income did not meet our expenses.

What is a father supposed to do when there is not enough coming in to cover what needs?

First, I must realize God is my source and look to him alone for ultimate provision.  Second, we cry out to God for him to provide miraculously. When my wife and I do the budget we must come to a point and say it is enough.  In other words, we may have many more needs than we do income, but our attitude needs to be one of gratefulness.  With an attitude of gratitude we then cry out to God for help in meeting the legitimate needs we have. I can’t tell you how many times that we’ve done this and God has miraculously provided for us.  It’s often right at the final hour, but God has always come through.  Our children have grown up seeing God provide miracle after miracle to meet our needs.  I could get discouraged and think,  why do I have to always be needy?

Honestly, I think God loves us being dependant on him.

Whether you have ample provision or sometimes just scrape by, demonstrate to your kids a proper attitude about money. First that God owns it all, second that he allows us to manage his resources, and third that God is trustworthy and able to provide for our needs above and beyond anything we could ever think or ask.

~Tim

Fear

Proverbs 22

“The loafer says, ‘There’s a lion on the loose! If I go out I’ll be eaten alive,” (Proverbs 22:13).

Fear has a way of causing you to come to the wrong conclusions. The devil has used fear as a tactic since the beginning of time. I have especially faced moments of fear as a parent when my older children began to drive.  I will be minding my own business and the enemy will whisper, “your son that is driving to the store probably had a wreck”.  Usually I recognize the voice of fear and don’t receive it.  If I give in to the fear from the enemy I will begin to worry.  Some parents live in the cycle of worry and fear.

The greatest act of love, by Jesus giving his life on the cross, took care of the fear problem for us.  We need not fear – except a healthy fear of God.  There is an old hymn called Trust and Obey that refrains “..trust and obey for there is no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey”.  Trust is the opposite of fear.  As a parent, I have to make the choice (sometimes daily) that I will trust in God and not give in to fear.  I am so grateful that my older children have been able to travel internationally on missions trips.  Between my two oldest daughters, they have been to Taiwan and the Philippines and they traveled without me.  When your kids are across the country in America, it’s conceivable to hop on a plane should they need you.  Traveling internationally is totally different.  When you are in the United States and your children are half-way across the world and they have a need you can pray, but getting to them quickly if they need you is not an option.  Rather than worry, I have the opportunity to trust God that he is and can do a much better job of overseeing my children than I can.  The trips that my daughters have taken have definitely been God ordained.  I can wave goodbye to them as they go through security at the airport holding back the tears and know God is watching over them every step of the way.

Fear can make you crazy. I’ve talked to parents who worry themselves into sickness.  Worry and fear are twin sisters. If the enemy can’t cause you to fear for what will happen to your children, he will try to get you to worry. In Philippians 4:6 we are told “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God,” (ESV). Prayer is an appropriate response when worry or fear tries to come in.

Dad, take the lead, especially demonstrating to your wife that you will not be parents who give in to fear. Don’t think it’s some macho man thing to just excuse fear out of your mind either.  When you are tempted to fear, cry out to God and ask him for perspective.  Every man will face certain fears in his life, but  real men turn to God when fear comes. Fear of death, fear of financial devastation, fear of loss of health…all these fears are temptations the enemy will use to distract us from trusting in the Father.  Trust God – he alone is trustworthy!

~Tim

Humility

Proverbs 21

“Arrogance and pride – distinguishing marks in the wicked – are just plain sin,” (21:4).

Jesus displayed humility when he willingly laid down his life on the cross.  The world has never witnessed such a great act of love and humility.  Christ lives in us and we have the opportunity to demonstrate a humility that will be refreshing to the world. If you want your children to be humble – be an example of humility. Your children are watching and will draw their own conclusions about what it means to be humble.

Humility doesn’t mean you have to look sad and down trodden. 

One defined humility as , “recognizing what you are able to do and accomplish comes from God and those around you who have shaped your lives”. Humility means you don’t take the praise for right choices and accomplishments you’ve made, but defer to your creator and your authorities.

How do we raise our kids to be humble? Training, pure and simple by training our children to humble themselves when they sin or wrong someone. It is typical of most children and for many adults when we mess up to blame someone else. Pride causes us to resist taking personal responsibility for our mistakes. Don’t let your children get away with the blaming game, train and teach them to admit when they are wrong.

Around our house when we make a mistake (accidentally spill something for example) we ask our kids to say, “I’m sorry”. Being sorry means we didn’t mean for the intended consequences to come about.  On the other hand, when someone willingly causes harm we train our kids to say “please forgive me”.  The difference between the two is intent.

“I’m sorry”, means I made a mistake. I didn’t mean to harm anyone or cause any problems. “Please forgive me”, means I got upset and intended to inflict harm or do damage.

Humility leads us to understand the difference between a mistake and intentionality.  If someone shuts the door by accident and a goose egg appears on the head of the one behind the door, we don’t condemn the child for making the mistake – we just require them to show some mercy and apologize. If the door was slammed in anger, the child must seek the forgiveness of the one he hurt in the process. Failure is an opportunity to humble ourselves not an opportunity for the enemy to treat us like failures. You are not a failure in Christ.  If I fail to humble myself and make excuses, my children will learn from my actions and may follow suit.

Humility is the currency of grace. 

If we want God’s grace to envelop our lives then we must humble ourselves. God created the universe and placed the stars in their place. He chose to have a relationship with us and then sent his son to demonstrate how life could be lived “in Christ”.  If we desire the type of love and relationship God gives, then we must humble ourselves to receive this grace.

~Tim

Prodigals

Proverbs 20

“God is in charge of human life, watching and examining us inside and out,”(20:27).

 

Boy, is this a wonderful promise for parents!  Debi and I have prayed for God to change our kids’ hearts on many occasions.  It is important to realize when our kids are resistant to our authority (or in a season of rebellion) before we start the process of discipline God is already working in their heart.

 

I can recall many situations where Debi and I were distraught about a decision the older children had made, or a pattern we were watching develop in their life.  It is easy to give into fear when you observe these types of things happening.  All sorts of negative thoughts swirl around in your head and the enemy would love to cause you to get on the defense.  The first and most important offensive movement you can make is to pray for your children and ask the Lord to change their hearts.  If God is all-powerful and all-knowing (as the Bible confirms), then we can trust that he is brooding over the lives of our children and we will be able to answer our prayers and change their heart.

 

Remember, as Christian parents we have a very active and interested God who desires for us to cry out to him.  This doesn’t mean that God will turn the hearts of our children immediately.  I have friends whose children are adults and they are walking in major rebellion.  I know these parents are crying out to God for his mercy and help.  Our hope must rely in the truth that God is in charge of human life.  If we think the battle is all in our hands, we can easily become discouraged and hopeless.  The father of the prodigal son must have been busy fattening the calf while his son was off spending his inheritance.  If our children are in rebellion we must act in faith believing they will turn back to the Lord and start “fattening the calf”.  Real faith doesn’t give in to circumstances as they appear, faith chooses to believe things that aren’t as though they were.  In other words, instead of giving in to worry and unbelief when our children go astray we should trust in the Lord and know He is fully able to turn their hearts.

 

If you have a child that is in rebellion or wayward, your first response is to cry out to God and ask God to change the heart of your child.  Secondly, examine what the Holy Spirit shows you could have been done differently in your parenting.  Don’t beat yourself up we’ve all made mistakes raising our kids. I am the “chief of sinners” when it comes to parenting.  It is all by the grace of God that our children come to faith in Christ and follow him.  Thirdly, fatten the calf and wait.  Create an atmosphere of love so when your child comes to their senses or returns from their rebellion they know home is a place they can run to.  We can trust that God is in control and his timing is perfect!

~Tim

Anger

Proverbs 19

“Kids who lash out against their parents are an embarrassment and disgrace,” (19:26).

Remember the writers of Proverbs are writing about what wisdom looks like from God’s perspective.  I wonder if he has seen children talking back to their parents and observed that from God’s perspective how wrong this was?

Talking back, disrespect and rudeness from our children should not be tolerated.  It is simply a training issue.  What seems to be cute back talk from a toddler can become downright disrespect from a teen.  Train your children when they are young to have the quality of character so they will speak respectfully to you or any adult for that matter.  The phrases yes sir, no sir, yes mum and no mum while not heard as often these days from children, should still be required responses from our children.  If you don’t train your children to respond respectfully when they are young, you will have a hard time putting this into practice later on.  Remember with our little guys training doesn’t require all sorts of explanations.  We train them by telling them what to do and then when they get older we teach them why they do what we’ve trained them to do.  I am not going to have a discussion with my toddler about saying yes sir or no sir.  I am simply going to train him that this is right.  Nevertheless, I am hopeful that if you asked my 9-year-old why he speaks respectfully to an adult, he can tell you.  Training comes before teaching.  We should also train our kids that responding respectfully to parents is not just about words, but about attitude as well.  If my son says yes sir when I ask him to do something but rolls his eyes, then I haven’t properly trained him.

I once witnessed a child lashing out at his father that not only had to embarrass the father but embarrassed everyone in the room.  I took my kids to the local recreation center for gym class.  There was a father that was trying to get his little 5-year-old girl to obey the teacher.  When the little girl threw a temper tantrum, the dad began to make all sorts of unreasonable promises if she would only cooperate.  The little girl said hateful things to the dad while he kept begging her to obey.  This dude looked like a body builder type of guy, he was all muscled up and looked like he was too smart to allow this sort of scene to unfold.  I wanted so badly to tell this guy he didn’t have to put up with that kind of talk from his 5-year-old (I probably should have).  What was the deal here?  Simple lack of training.  The little girl was training the daddy instead of the daddy training the little girl.  If you want your children to speak respectfully to you, then you must train them when they are young and teach them as they grow older.  If you do, you will be blessed when they are older and look up to you.

~Tim