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!
Our reading today is about Jonathan and David’s relationship and Saul’s jealousy of David. Unfortunately, many have used (twisted) the passages about David’s friendship with Jonathan as some perverted text to prove homosexuality. God help us! David and Jonathan had a wonderfully wholesome relationship. Their relationship is an example to all of us of how true friendship can develop and grow. One of the major challenges in parenting is guiding your children to develop healthy friendships. All of us know children and teens that have become involved in a bad relationship and were influenced negatively. Of course, if our children are mature and stand alone, no friend can pull them away from Christ. On the other hand, peer pressure is tough and your child will not be an exception to the constant demands of negative influences. Our job as parents is to train our children so they can withstand peer pressure by knowing “who” they are in Christ. Also, if you have more than one child you should raise your children to be best friends with their siblings. I never enjoyed a very close relationship with my brother growing up. We were separated by several years and just didn’t know that we could have a vibrant loving relationship with each other. Debi and I have tried to raise our kids to appreciate their siblings and view them as best friends. I am amazed at the quality of relationships they have with one another. At different seasons they will do certain things together that demonstrate their closeness. Two of my young teens used to have a ritual each day where they would sit down together and visit over a cup of hot tea. These same two siblings would regularly take walks together. How fun and so rewarding for me to observe their friendship. I grew up thinking siblings just argued and put up with each other, but now I have children whom when asked who their best friends are, they talk about their siblings.
How do we as fathers guide our children in friendships? Help your kids understand what constitutes a good friend. Teach them about similar values. Good friends usually have similar values. If you observe your children establishing close relationships with those who don’t value what your children value, proceed cautiously. When my children are friends with someone who has different values they they do, I remind them that they need to be the influencer and not be influenced. The friendship issue heats up when your kids hit their teen years. The best thing you can do is to stay close to your teens and be friends with their friends. Our home is like a hotel, our older kids know they can bring their friends here at almost anytime. We want their friends to spend time at our home so we can get to know them as well. Your friendship with your teen’s friends is critical. Once you get to know the friends of your teens, you will be able to encourage your kids toward some relationships, but you will also need to caution them with some relationships. Also, make sure you talk! Talk a lot to your teens about their friends. Be a friend to your teen and teach them by example what great friendship looks like. David and Jonathan are wonderful examples of men who love each other and have great relationships. I gain great joy when my children establish friendships that honor the Lord, but they need our training and attention in this area. Allow God to give you creative ideas about how you can guide them in friendship.
Yes, we are reading the same chapter today and dealing with the second half of the story of David and Goliath. One of the most inspiring battle cries is heralded by young David while fighting Goliath,“I come at you in the name of the God-of-the-Angel Armies, the God of Israel’s troops…this very day God is handing you over to me…the whole earth will know that there’s an extraordinary God in Israel” (1 Samuel 17:45-47). Spoken by a young man with true faith and trust in God, a young man who was just a shepherd but stood up and challenged a giant. We all like the concept of bigger and more powerful, but in God’s economy the solution is usually not “bigger is better.” The key is whether God has given strength or not.
I want to raise kids like David who are willing to face unbelievable odds for the sake of Christ. As I’ve written over and over again, the key to seeing our kids overcome is that we must overcome. As dads we must be the first example our kids see of men of God who desire to see God do the miraculous. Whatever Goliaths we face as dads, (worry, overloaded at work, health issues, finances, etc.) we have to trust God to defeat these Goliaths. When our children observe us dealing with our Goliaths, they in turn are strengthened and encouraged in their journey to go after their giants.
I love having toddlers around my house. Toddlers think they are invincible. My little guys strap on a toy gun, put on a cowboy hat and they can rule the Wild West or take on any bad guy that would dare to show his face. They have wonderful imaginations and they are always victorious in their battles. As they grow, their fantasy world diminishes, they start reasoning and their make-believe world goes away. Jesus tells us that we must come to him as little children. Our attitude in approaching God should be like that of a child in matters of faith and trust. Don’t you love David’s response when Saul doubted his ability to face the giant? Like a child, David reported to the king his victory over the bear and the lion and didn’t think anything about defeating Goliath. God, give us this type of faith as Fathers, don’t let us get sophisticated and too mature that we lose our child-like faith. Remember, if you take risks and step out in faith following God, you’re kids will have an example before them and they will be challenged to follow your lead.
What are the Goliaths in your life? We all have real or imaginary enemies that are bigger than life and try to defy God and come against us. Sometimes these giants are our own sins or strongholds in our mind. Most giants seem overwhelming, very authoritative and beyond God’s ability to deal with. Just like the real Goliath we read about today, our Goliaths taunt God and often make fun of us.
Dad, in order to prepare our kids for life, we should train and teach them to defeat their Goliaths. Where is the first place we learn to defeat the enemies like Goliath? The battle is in the mind. The enemy tries to establish strongholds or households of thoughts in our mind. These houses are full of thoughts that are not godly and the opposite of what God wants us to think. Like our story today, most of the Israelites thought the battle was hopeless because of Goliath’s physical size. They had a stronghold in their mind that caused them to believe this guy was too big to be defeated. They didn’t think the thoughts that God thought which are illustrated clearly in David’s approach to Goliath. We have the authority to tear down the “strongholds” in our mind because of the blood of Jesus. When we become Christians, we gain the mind of Christ and are able to think like Christ.
Our kids face the lies and deception of the enemy even when they are very young. The media, friends, and especially the enemy all seem to work overtime to establish doubt, fear, and confusion in our children. No, our kids aren’t victims of the enemy but it’s our job to give them the tools and training so that they can overcome the enemy. If we want our kids to be free from the bondage of deception and lies that the enemy brings, we have to give them the weapons they need to overcome the enemy.
Let’s look at one particular area where we can equip our kids and help them have biblical perspective. I grew up with some erroneous thinking about money and finances. The basic lie I believed was that there really wasn’t enough money to go around. In other words, although we lived well, there was someone who always seemed to have more and we never seemed to have the bounty that others did. This thinking fostered the idea that poverty was only a paycheck or two away. I began to focus on what we didn’t have rather than how grateful I should be for God’s many blessings. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I understood that God owns everything and distributes to his children to meet their needs. God has all the resources in the world and is able to bless me abundantly so that his kingdom will come and his will be done. The giant of money had to be broken down and biblical insight about money had to be constructed in my mind.
There are all sorts of giants facing your kids. These giants start being defeated once you begin to confront your own Goliaths. You have the tools to then turn around and train/teach your kids to face their Goliaths.
Samuel was told by God to choose a new king. Initially, Samuel was looking at the appearance of Jesse’s sons, making conclusions about who would serve as the next king of Israel. Then God corrected Samuel and told him that man looks on the outside, but God looks at the heart. Aren’t you grateful we serve a God who does not judge us by how we look on the outside? As the scripture says, “God’s ways are surely not man’s ways.” I think one of the hottest topics around my house is the discussion of the way God looks at situations versus how we look at situations. Our kids are pressured from a very young age to focus on outward appearance. It seems like our society is consumed with how we look. Pick up most magazines and you will find something about a makeover, tummy tuck or some sort of methodology that can alter how we look. The lines are drawn clear in the sand on this issue. “If you don’t like how you look, don’t worry, you can change your looks.” Consider how much time most of us take grooming ourselves. It seems like our society grows continually more and more consumed with fixing ourselves up. Don’t get me wrong, some of us can use some help in this area, but when our focus becomes how we look, what we wear, and how we do our hair, we are demonstrating we don’t really believe the scripture that says God looks at the heart. As fathers, what can we to do to turn the tide in this area?
First, help your children be at peace with how God has made them. Self acceptance is very critical to your child’s overall health. We don’t have a “say so” on how we come out and the quicker we come to peace and accept how God created us, the more secure we will be. If you affirm your children and train and teach them to accept who God made them to be at an early age, they will focus less on how they look and focus more on their heart. Let them know how God made them is unchangeable and their acceptance of how they look affirms God’s creative nature and desire to knit us all differently in our mother’s womb.
Secondly, as fathers we can affirm our kids, especially our daughters, and constantly tell them how much we love them and how beautiful they are. If they hear from us words of affirmation and acceptance early on in their life, they are more likely to focus on heart issues and less likely to alter their appearance. Security in Christ is a big issue in raising kids. If our kids don’t know who they are in Christ, they will always be looking for ways to gain acceptance by others. It’s our responsibility to help them focus on heart issues and not on outward appearance. I will hear my kids make fun of someone from time to time and this breaks my heart because every person was uniquely created by God. When they do make fun of people, it’s my responsibility to bring quick and strong consequences. I don’t want to be a privy to focusing on someone’s looks as the brunt of a joke.
You hold the key to helping your child focus on the heart and not his/her outward appearance. Words of affirmation and encouragement should regularly flow out of our mouths. Our little girls and boys should grow up fully accepting how and who God made them to be. This is a big job but critical to the overall health of our children.
Today’s scripture is meant to encourage us to teach our children to obey. Saul obeyed, but only partially and as I’ve said before partial obedience is disobedience. God never legitimizes our disobedience because we obey part of what he says to do. God help us as fathers to accept the mandate from God to train up our children and teach them the basic principle of obedience. Saul thought he did a great thing because he obeyed some of what God said to do, but the kingdom was ripped from him because he didn’t obey completely.
We’ve all observed the scene in the grocery store or at the market where an uncontrolled child yells or cries because they did not get that piece of candy or toy they wanted. You see the mom giving certain body language that indicates the child is going to get it when he/she gets home or they will often verbally threaten them saying, “I am going to tell your dad.” Usually the parent gives in and the child wins the battle and takes home the prize candy bar. Does this sound familiar? Unfortunately, similar scenes are played out day in and day out all over the world. Children are born sinners, selfish and desiring their own way. Our job is to teach them to say “no” to their flesh and learn to obey. If it is hard for you to say no (especially to that little blonde haired girl), you should start practicing saying “no” in the mirror every morning. Your wife shouldn’t be the only one to restrict and limit what your children do. Training, saying “no” and teaching our kids to completely obey is a joint effort between mom and dad. When we are on the same page as our wife and have the same standard, it makes training children more effective.
Honestly, we all have the potential to allow “Sauls” in our home. Everything may look good on the outside, but inwardly our children do what they want and disobey God. What then is the key to raising obedient children? Training! You teach a horse or dog to obey by going over and over what the expectations are and then holding that animal to the standard. Parenting is very similar to this type of training (hopefully that doesn’t offend you). Unfortunately, in America, folks give more time and money to training their animals to sit and roll over than we do our kids. Training takes time, effort, and planning. If you child is playing with a toy and you ask him/her to come to you and the child doesn’t respond, you have some training to do. Stop what you are doing and go into training mode. This may take some time but it is well worth the effort. Have your child learn to come to you when you call him the first time. Remember delayed obedience or partial obedience is disobedience. Once you allow your child to ignore you or grumble and walk away, you are training him to disobey. If you stick with the training and reinforce that you are serious over and over again, eventually you will gain the victory and your child will learn to come the first time you ask. It is possible, but it may take hours and hours of training.
Saul was like Eli’s boys, they knew what to do but chose to do their own thing. If we do the hard work of training our children, especially when they are young, we prepare them to be mature, obedient adults that can hear God, walk in integrity, and have great character. The key is TRAIN don’t REACT!
Did Saul exasperate his son? Saul seemed to make an unreasonable decision in the midst of the fury of battle. Saul’s troops were battle weary and Jonathan (not aware of the curse Saul pronounced) took some honey to energize himself. I remember as a young man going water skiing with my buddies. We would ski all day and of course, we would not go to the trouble of preparing food or drink for our day. When we had finally skied so long our muscles ached, we would grab some of the honey we had brought and take a chug or two of the honey. We would very quickly gain energy and strength that we didn’t have before, so I can understand why Jonathan took some honey.
Jonathan seemed to be the son everyone would dream of having. In our reading today, we see him taking his armor bearer and killing twenty Philistines, sending havoc through the Philistine camp. Jonathan was bold, courageous, and full of life. I can relate to Saul though, because out of my desire to win a certain battle I’ve made foolish decisions that exasperated my children. Part of the competitive nature God has put within us is displaced when we use that nature in the wrong way. Actually, God has called us as men to take dominion. Often we take what God has put in us in terms of “dominion taking” and turn it into an unhealthy competition. Many men spend way too much time focusing on sports. This is often a replacement for the true desire God put in us to take dominion and rule. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing inherently wrong with sports, but when our focus on them become a substitute for men ruling, governing, and taking dominion, sports become a problem. Use the energy and desires God has given you to partner with your children and help them succeed. In other words, don’t get lost in sports or weekend softball games to the extent that you neglect coming alongside your kids and helping them fulfill their dreams and visions.
Sometimes it’s awkward when I talk to other men about sports because I know very little about who plays on which team and who the top player is. Nevertheless, I refuse to spend too much of my time focused on things that really don’t have much eternal significance. I enjoy a good football game as much as the next guy, but if my focus in this area takes too much time away from my family then it’s unhealthy. Fathers, God has given us plenty of dominion opportunities to invest in our children, so make the good investment and raise some Jonathans, mighty in battle.
One of the greatest challenges of parenting is teaching our children to wait on the Lord. Honestly, a greater challenge is for us as fathers to learn to wait on the Lord. In our reading today, initially it appears that Saul is willing to wait for Samuel, the priest, to show up and take care of the customary sacrifice before Saul leads the troops in battle. We read in one verse about Saul waiting, in the next verse we observe Saul preparing the sacrifice himself and then the final verse, Samuel shows up. Saul’s impatience in doing things his way cost him his leadership in God’s kingdom.
How often have you and I thought God was not going to show up in a particular situation so we took things in our own hands? When Samuel realized what Saul had done he said, “that was a foolish thing to do,” (1 Sam. 13:13). Have you ever sensed God saying that to you? I know I have. Patience is a virtue God wants to develop in us as his sons, but also as fathers. I’ve observed my kids being exasperated before by my lack of patience. If they don’t see me dealing with them in a patient way or they watch me become frustrated by doing simple things like driving in traffic, how do I expect them to learn patience? If we want them to learn patience, they must observe patience in us. Don’t make the same foolish mistake Saul did and miss God. Ask the Lord to develop the patience he has already placed inside of you and remember that patience will be tested by trials.
Also, let us remember if we want our teens to develop patience, we need to start training them when they are 2-3 years old. If you have a toddler then you recognize the need to train them in this area. Usually, a toddler wants what he wants when he wants it. It’s our responsibility to train our children to be patient. Training them to be patient actually trains us to be patient, too. It takes a great amount of great consistency to train our little guys. If we miss basic training when they are young, we will raise children who will want their own way as teens and as adults.
One of my daughters had saved money for a car. She worked very hard to save her money over a long period of time. When she reached her goal, we began test driving cars. It seemed like we drove over one hundred cars (I am exaggerating a little bit). She became so tired of test driving so many cars that she was ready to compromise and settle for a car that was really below her standards. When day came that she was to give the person the money for the car, a friend was prompted by the Lord to call her and to sell her a car that was much nicer and better taken care of. She almost missed God’s provision, but because she was patient, God blessed her.
Lord, help us all to resist being like Saul and instead wait on the Lord.