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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

Conviction and Change

crossroads

In the midst of the story of Joseph and his life, we have this bizarre tale of deceit and immorality.  As was the custom of the day, Judah was responsible to provide a husband for his daughter-in-law.  Barrenness was a curse and no woman wanted the stigma of being childless.  The first solution that Judah initiated failed because Onan stopped short of impregnating Tamar.  Obviously God wasn’t happy with Onan and struck him dead.  By the way, this is not an appropriate text to use to prove contraception is a sin.  Whether you believe contraception is a sin or not is a matter of personal conviction.  Onan was selfish in carrying out his duty, knowing the child would not be his.  Selfishness is never pleasing to God.  Most parents choose to limit their family size due to selfishness.  I encourage you, as the leader of your home, to keep you heart open to God when it comes to “how many” you should have.  However, this is a discussion for another time.

This bizarre passage almost seems out-of-place.  Judah basically forgot about Tamar and was seemingly willing to allow her to be an old maid.  Tamar knew a sure way to get Judah’s attention was by posing as a prostitute.  Her plan worked and Judah’s lack of discretion exposed him.  It is interesting when we read ahead about Joseph and Judah’s role in the story, how Judah pleaded with his brothers not to kill Joseph, but provided an alternative.  Also, it was Judah who pleaded with Joseph to allow him to stay as a servant of Joseph in place of his little brother.  What does all of this have to do with our story?  Judah demonstrated mercy on several occasions.  Judah also sinned on at least two occasions in our reading today.  He forgot about providing a husband for Tamar and chose to treat Tamar like a prostitute.  Judah appears like a calloused man whose hard heart caused him to be very selfish.  But in the story of Joseph, Judah is the one extending mercy and love.  Could it be that God did a work in Judah’s heart between chapter 38 and chapter 39?  Here is the point; you and your kids are going to sin and screw things up.  We are flesh and blood and heirs of Adam.  However, because of the saving power of Jesus, he can turn selfishness into selflessness.  God must have done a work in Judah’s heart, allowing him to respond differently to circumstances.  This is good news for all of us fathers who are raising our sons and daughters to know God.

I confronted one of my sons recently about some hidden things going on in his life.  I was thrilled as a father when he confessed his sin and repented.  Of course I would have preferred him to not choose to walk in deception, but I am even more thrilled that once he was confronted, he allowed the Lord to soften his heart and repent.  The story of Judah should give every father hope that when our kids sin, we have an advocate, the Holy Spirit, who is working to convict and change the heart of our children.

~Tim

Dreams

Untitled

What do you do with a dreamer?  Joseph does get a bad wrap for dreaming.  Whether he was arrogant or not, the scripture doesn’t say.  We do know that he brought a bad report to his dad about his brothers and that he was his dad’s favorite.  Being dad’s favorite and tattling on your brother are not the best combinations for love and fellowship.  However, we get a glimpse of Israel’s wisdom beyond his favoritism.  After Joseph shared his dream, the scripture says his father “brooded over the dreams” (verses 10-11).  Do you have a son or daughter who dreams?  How do we encourage dreaming in our children?

I believe raising kids who will think big and dream God-sized dreams begins with us as fathers teaching our children how big God is.  Perhaps Joseph was simply following in the footsteps of his father and other ancestors who wrestled with God and dreamed with God.  If he heard stories of how God spoke to others through dreams, perhaps when he had a dream or two, he realized that God was speaking destiny into him.  Remember, Joseph was serving the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – the God who stopped rivers from flowing, provided water from a stone, and performed many other miraculous feats.

I hear people talking all the time about personal destiny.  It thrills me that folks are seeking God about their destiny.  As fathers who want the best for our children, we should teach our children about God and how great he is before we teach them to understand their own destiny.  Focusing on personal destiny before focusing on God could lead to a self-righteous attitude.  God is awesome and his wisdom and attributes are much greater and deeper than we know.  He created us for his glory.  When we achieve success, it’s because of God’s goodness and mercy.  So much of the focus of children is on themselves and so they often think life is all about them.  Dad, remind yourself and your children that our life is about bringing glory to God.  The greatest comment anyone could make about any achievement for you or your kids is “Look what God did!”

When your kids grow up in a home where the awesomeness and greatness of God is talked about, they can understand God’s specific destiny for them.  They can dream grand dreams for God which lead them to greatness in God.  I want my kids to have dreams and goals that are beyond human reach.  When I hear my children start talking about what they want to do when they grow up, I encourage them to think beyond anything they can ever imagine.  Too many of us limit God to dreams that we can only humanly achieve.  Joseph simply told his family what God had given him in a dream.  Even Joseph had no way of knowing how his dreams could be fulfilled.  Little did he know that his brothers would literally bow down to him!  Little did Joseph know that God would give him wisdom to save a nation from starving.  God is in the business of fulfilling dreams.  Teach your kids to dream for God and don’t limit the greatness of God’s ability to fulfill the dreams they have.

~Tim

The Impact of a Decision

dominoes fall

We learn about Esau’s family and people in today’s reading.  You may be thinking that this is not a very inspiring passage, but family trees are very important.  I know this first-hand because my family tree just expanded yesterday.  On the day of this writing, my oldest daughter married a wonderful young man and we hope they are blessed with children that continue the family tree.

When I read chapters listing the lineage of families, I am reminded how much of our thinking is centered on the here and now.  Most of us don’t consider the effect that choices we make today will have on future generations.  When you read a roll call of generations, it causes you to consider how much of an impact one generation’s choices have on another.  For instance, my parents were divorced and so were my wife’s parents.  Debi and I decided when we got married that divorce was not an option.  We didn’t want our children living through the tragedy of divorce.  As a young couple, relating to each other came easy.  We lived away from our parents and did life together.  Later when children came and we settled into a home and so forth, we came across specific challenges that caused us to have some conflict.  It became important that we worked through our conflict and resolved our differences.  I know couples who live together for years, but eventually divorce because they never resolved conflict that was deep-seeded in the relationship.  Debi and I have learned that we can’t afford to put issues on the shelf.  Regular date times help us to talk about issues that are important to us.  I don’t want to wake up one morning and have a pile of unresolved conflict.  Most couples sweep issues under the rug and try to forget.  If you do this regularly and consistently, that little pile becomes a heap and then a wall.  When the wall seems impassable, couples think divorce is the only option.

When someone is in pain they will do almost anything to relieve the pain, not really considering the difficulties their decision will have on their children’s children.  A father and man of God should think beyond his own generation, considering how his single decision could devastate not just one, but many generations.  As a father I can’t afford to walk away from my marriage when I am unhappy because my selfish action will have definite consequences on my grandchildren.   I think the ultimate act of selfishness is not considering the consequences your decision will have on future generations.  The next time you are making a major decision, think about the effect that decision will have on your future grandchildren.  Most of us have a tough time considering past next week, but for the sake of the generations to come, we must be wise.  The next time you read a chapter in the bible listing lineage of a family, consider your lineage and the potential impact your decisions have.

~Tim

My Little Girl

A lot of action takes place in our reading today.  God spoke to Jacob to return to Bethel.  Jacob then told his family to get rid of all the alien gods they possessed and Jacob buried the idols.  God spoke to Jacob and repeated some of the original command that he spoke to Adam and Eve, “be fruitful” – have children.  Then, Rachel had a child and died in child-birth.  Wow, so much happens in one chapter.  While reading our passage for today I can relate to the changes that are taking place in Jacob’s life.  Today is the wedding day of my little girl.  At the time of this writing, my oldest daughter will be getting married later today.  Let me depart from our normal routine and share some thoughts about this special day.

My oldest daughter is such a delight.  She is a strong but gentle lady.  I am so impressed with how she has given her life to the Lord and the love relationship she maintains with Father God.  While I knew she would grow up one day and be married, I guess in some ways I was ill prepared for this day.  How do you say goodbye to someone who has been in your house for 23 years?  A child whose diapers you changed, who you cleaned up after when she was ill, who you taught to ride a bike and later to drive a car.  She will always be my little girl, but today she becomes a wife and in a week or so will be moving across the country to make her new home.  While I choose not to focus on my sadness of losing her, I do have to say there is a hole in my heart that only Jesus can fill.

I don’t know how old your daughter is or even if you have a daughter.  If you do have a little girl yet to be married, cherish the time you have with her.  The last month before my little girl got married, I took her to coffee once a week just to spend time with her.  Those times were so special.  Some mornings we talked about wedding details, others we cried over knowing we would miss one another.  There is one thought I have never had in raising my children- that we spent too much time together.  You will never regret the time you’ve had with your daughter.  Prioritize your schedule so you have some face time with your little girl, because she will not be little much longer.

Another bit of counsel, my daughter shared at her rehearsal dinner some words of gratitude to her mother and I.  But of all she said, the greatest news to my ears was that she had a wonderful example of marriage by watching her dad and mom live life.  Did you get that?  She was influenced by what she observed day-in and day-out from the relationship my wife and I have.  Dads, make your relationship with your wife a priority.  Your kids are watching and observing how you treat your bride and it’s preparing them for their own marriage one day.  My kids know date time is important for Debi and I.  We tell them that we will be better parents if we spend time dating and loving on each other.  I can’t afford to let my relationship with Debi just exist.  Do you want to help your children be prepared for marriage?  Then give them an outstanding relationship between you and your wife.

I have to go now, the wedding bells are ringing and I have a date to walk my daughter down the aisle.

 ~Tim

Chivalry and Courage

The guardian

Jacob continues to reap what he has sown.  He manipulated early on to get his way and now someone tries to manipulate him to gain the hand of his daughter.  Once Jacob’s sons heard that someone had raped their sister, they came up with an evil plan to punish those who had mistreated their sister.  While scripture doesn’t condone the killing tirade Jacob’s sons went on, it is evident Dinah’s brothers would not stand for abuse of their sister.

If you have sons, teach them to be chivalrous.  Chivalry is a virtue of days gone by.  I want my boys to stand up for their sisters and if need be, deal with boy bullies who harm their sisters.  This all starts when as fathers, we teach our boys to be mannerly toward girls.  I try to teach my boys to open the door for girls, let girls go before them in a line, and especially watch their manners around females.  Jacob’s sons were angry that someone had mistreated their sister and I don’t blame them for being angry.  I regret that so many boys and men don’t know how to treat women.  When I travel, I talk to the oldest son and ask him to be the protector of the home while I am gone.  I ask him to make sure all the doors are closed and locked before bedtime.  My hope is that the boys in my family will step up and be heroic if an emergency arises.  You can’t decide if you will be a hero when a crisis arises, you have to decide beforehand.  I desire for my boys to know they will lay their life down if necessary for the girls.  If someone mistreats their sisters or other girls, I hope they get angry like Jacob’s sons did.

Anger is a legitimate emotion. The bible doesn’t say not to get angry, it says “be angry and do not sin.”  I hope that anger is stirred in my boys when a female is being mistreated.  If we see a woman on the side of the road with her hood up, we stop almost every time to see if we can lend a hand.  One time an accident happened right in front of us and we watched as a woman’s air bag deployed.  I made sure we were in a safe location and then jumped out of our van and tried to help the lady who was injured.  My boys still talk about that incident.  Courage is a character quality all fathers should instill in their sons.

While we don’t agree with the method of retaliation Jacob’s sons took, we do respect their courage and chivalry. Teach your sons to be respectful to your wife and every female.  I had a friend once tell me that when he was a boy sitting around the dinner table, his brother smarted off to his mom.  My friend said in no time at all his father got out of his chair and knocked his brother to the ground and said, “No one talks to my wife like that!”  My friend said he learned that day to never speak disrespectfully to his mother.  Our boys first learn how to treat a woman by how they treat their mother.  If our boys don’t talk respectfully to our wives, we have some work to do.  Train your boys to treat women with respect and honor the females in their life.  Not only will God honor their chivalry, but you will be preparing them for marriage some day.

 ~Tim

Forgive

Comfort

Jacob had to be very nervous about his reunion with Esau.  When he left home Esau was angry enough to kill him. Would this still be the case or would Esau’s anger have subsided?  Jacob prepared gifts for Esau and had all the protocol in place for the reunion.   Jacob was thrilled to find out that Esau had a change of heart and was no longer angry at him.

Holding a grudge never benefits anyone.  If you are bitter towards someone it only hurts you.  Forgiveness is the better way.  Dad, you will lead your children into the abundant life if you train them to forgive.  When your little guys are hurt by an older sibling or friend and they come to you for comfort, teach them to verbalize their forgiveness.  If possible, help them to look the person that offended them in the eyes and say “I forgive you.”  If you have your children practice verbalizing their forgiveness over and over again, they will gain an understanding of how important not holding a grudge is.  You may ask, “What if they don’t feel like forgiving?”  Forgiveness is a choice.  It’s true, you can say you forgive someone and be bitter and hold a grudge.  Nevertheless, if your children grow up in an atmosphere where they are trained to forgive, hopefully forgiveness will become a lifestyle for them.

I talk to adults regularly who were hurt or wounded as a child and have held bitterness in their heart ever since the event.  It’s important as fathers that we watch our children for any signs that they may be carrying bitterness.  We can’t always protect our children from hurt.  If your child has been traumatized or mistreated, watch especially close that they don’t become bitter.  The most effective cure for bitterness is forgiveness.  Ask your children regularly about their relationships, especially your older children.  If a friend or sibling has inflicted pain on them, help them walk through the steps of forgiveness.  Forgiving someone is an act of your will.  Just because one may not feel like forgiving doesn’t make it right to withhold forgiveness, right?

Another area our children may tend to get bitter in is when we make them a promise and don’t fulfill that promise.  One way to remedy this is by asking your children regularly, “Are there any promises I’ve made to you that I have not kept?”  If they say yes, be quick to ask them to forgive you.  Remember, your example of asking forgiveness and forgiving others will make a big impression on your children.  Also, pay attention to your child’s attitude when they are disappointed.  Disappointment often causes people to become bitter.  Unmet expectations can also lead to resentment and bitterness.  If your child is carrying bitterness, usually this will reflect in their attitude and often you can look in their eyes and see that they are upset.  Be diligent to work with your child to make sure their countenance is clear and they are not holding unforgiveness.

Our reading today could have easily ended up in a war between two brothers.  Although the text doesn’t say, Esau chose to forgive and release Jacob, otherwise he could not have received him with such gratitude and happiness.  Teach your kids that forgiveness is a way of life!

~Tim

Brokenness

Broken Heart

In our passage today, Jacob is still manipulating, but this time he does it with gifts. He thinks if he gives his brother enough gifts then Esau will forgive him and not be angry any longer.  He sent the gifts on ahead with servants to soften Esau’s heart.  Nevertheless, Jacob remained fearful for his very life.  What would Esau say, what would he do?  When Jacob left many years before, his brother was so angry he could kill him. Would this still be the case?

Since Jacob left his brother, God had been working on his heart and Jacob had become a broken man.  Now, right before Jacob is to meet up with Esau, an angel wrestles with him.  Jacob was used to getting his way and while the angel told Jacob to let him go, Jacob refused unless the angel would bless him.  The angel did bless him, but not before knocking his hip out of joint thus causing Jacob (now known as Israel) to walk with a limp.

Brokenness is a wonderful and painful state, but the perfect place for fathers.  God pursued Jacob on several occasions, just as God has pursued you.  Like you, Jacob didn’t always have God’s interest in mind.  Nevertheless, God knew Jacob needed a revelation of his own depravity and ultimate dependency on Father God.  While Jacob may have been known as the deceiver, in our reading today, he has an encounter with God and is given a new name and a limp.  No father can truly be an effective dad unless he has had a name change and is broken.  Before I came to Christ I was a sinner with the potential of being a very bitter person.  Once I came to know the Lord I was renamed and God calls me a saint.  Sure I sin just like you, but now my identity as a child of God is a saint.  In addition to a new identity I walk with a limp because, like Jacob I have walked through times of brokenness.  We will never reach our potential as a father unless we are broken.  What are we broken from?  Pride, great reputation, being liked by everyone, looking nice, owning a nice home, driving a nice car etc., are all areas where God desires to break us.  So am I saying we shouldn’t desire a nice car or want to be liked by everyone?  No, but when these issues come before our devotion and love of God, we need to be broken.

I work with pastors and one of the most challenging areas of pastoring is measuring success.  Most pastors measure success by the size of the church they lead.  In our modern-day world of  “mega churches” many pastors think they are failures because they lead a small church.  Ideally, pastors should measure their success by the effectiveness of the church to make disciples.  When pastors realize it’s not size but discipleship that matters, it’s usually due to being broken.  When a pastor is broken, he regains a deep abiding love for God and stops comparing himself with the pastor down the road.

Dad, realize your number one priority is to know God.  To know God is to enjoy him and desire to lay everything else down that stands in the way of loving God.  Jacob walked with a limp and we should as well.  The limp indicates that we are broken.  Pride causes us to resist God and his love for us.  Don’t compare yourself with other dads, seek the Lord and be broken to his purposes.  When you walk in brokenness you will be the father your children need.

~Tim