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!
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.
Samuel did something that we as fathers should do, he inquired of the people if they had any complaints to bring before him. He wanted to know if he had cheated them, stolen from anyone, or made any bribes. He wanted to know if he had done anything to cause them to complain about his leadership. He asked the hard questions and the people said he had not done anything to cause them to complain.
Every so often we should ask our wife and children similar questions. One of the biggest issues we sometimes find is making promises and not keeping them. Have you told your kids you would take them somewhere or buy them something and not followed through? If you are not sure then just ask them. If you promised them something and haven’t fulfilled the promise, chances are they remember and will let you know. Obviously, they need to respond in a situation like this respectfully and we shouldn’t allow them to talk unkindly or disrespectfully. Nevertheless, your sincere probing with questions like this will be an encouragement and a godly example to them. They know you are not perfect, but often they put you on such a high pedestal that they don’t know how to communicate to you if you’ve sinned or wronged them. Giving them the opportunity to give you honest input is a vital part of being a dad.
I have actually conducted a “Daddy Review” with my kids from time to time. I have questions written out that I ask the kids who are old enough to read to give me input on. The questions are fairly simple:
- What is my strongest character quality?
- What is my weakest character quality?
- Have I made any promises to you and not kept them?
- Is there anything about our family you would like to change?
- What is your favorite thing our family does together?
- Is there anything about me (dad) you would change?
- What input would you give me about my leadership as a dad?
Although I think the kids have worked together in answering a few of the questions, the input I received has been invaluable. Maybe you should try this. One year they encouraged me to start doing my hair differently and get some cool shoes (I think they cheated and worked together on this one). One time they told me my weakest character quality was mercy, in fact mercy scored as my weakest character quality two years in a row. This is not something I really wanted to hear, but it was information the Lord wanted me to hear, and it came honestly and clearly through my children. I don’t necessarily do this every year, but like Samuel I wanted to know if they had any input that would be helpful for me.
Even though Israel walked in rebellion with her choice to have a king rather than allowing God lead them, God still accomplished his purposes. God chose to work through kings, priests, and prophets to lead and rally his people. Saul was one of the first kings to lead Israel in military victory. When Saul observed the humility in which the people of Jabesh Gilead were suffering, he was enraged. God used Saul to execute a swift deliverance for Israel. The Message Bible records Saul’s response when he heard about the situation in Jabesh as,“The Spirit of God came on Saul when he heard the report and he flew into a rage” (1 Samuel 11:6).
As fathers and leaders in our home it is important we respond as Saul did when the enemy is bringing destruction against our wives or children. We must recognize we are in a battle- not the kind with guns and knives, but a spiritual battle. The enemy comes against our family like a roaring lion seeking to devour us. He tries to discourage our wives, children, and us from fulfilling God’s plans for our lives. He tries to bring sickness, discontentment, hurt, etc. He uses whatever he can to distract us from God’s purposes. How do you respond as a dad in these times of testing and trials? We need to be quick to respond like Saul and let the spirit of God enliven us so that we stand ready to fight. When we fight we can be certain that Christ has already won the victory on the cross. Ultimately any battle we face is simply a test of our character so that Jesus may be glorified in us. When we face a battle we can do so with confidence because,“..we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose,” (Romans 8:28).
We don’t have to respond like Adam. Adam shrunk back from his responsibility to cover, pray, and fight, and he gave in to temptation. Where was Adam when Eve was tempted and why wasn’t he strong enough to withstand Eve’s counsel to eat the fruit? Where are you and what is your response when difficult times come or the enemy tries to bring destruction to your home? Is your tendency to shrink back or to respond quickly and diligently as Saul did?
Men, let’s us not leave the fighting to our wives and children. We should take our rightful place and be the leaders God has equipped us to be when the enemy comes in like a flood. God has a plan for us to withstand and even gain victory when the battle heats up, but we have to show up. If we allow Christ to rule and reign in us through the battle the enemy will be re-routed, the character of Christ will be formed in us and the battle will pass. The worse thing we could do is run from the difficult times.