The American Dream?

The American Dream:  The ideal that every US citizen should have an equal opportunity to achieve success and prosperity through hard work, determination, and initiative.”

As parents we tend to also attach the idea that our children will have a higher standard of living than we had.

This is not going to be a popular article because many will see it as Anti-American.  At the core of being an American is the pursuit of financial freedom and independence.  Too often, however, that pursuit is in direct contrast to what Jesus has called us to be, especially as fathers.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also….No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and wealth.”  Matthew 5:19-20, 24

We read this passage and immediately start in with the “yeah but” statements.  Yeah but we are also commanded to provide for our families.  Yeah but it’s the LOVE of money, not money, that is the root of all evil.  Yeah but we have all kinds of examples of rich godly men in the bible.  I am not trying to argue against being successful in business or prospering financially, I am challenging my own priorities and focus in this life.  What am I pursuing?  Where is my heart?  These questions can be hard to answer honestly because it is so easy to deceive myself in order to protect against having to make difficult decisions.

I believe that a simple way to evaluate my heart is too look at my children.  What is my focus with my children?  What are my goals and aspirations for them?  The time I spend with my kids, what do we focus on?  Education and school activities and soccer practice and band practice and baseball camp…are these the things that consume our time?  God has put four children in my care so that I can teach them who He is, what He desires, and the importance of seeking a relationship with Him.  As I look into the future, would I rather have my children better off financially than I am or better off spiritually?  As I’ve grown older and as my kids are growing up, I see that their lives and priorities are a direct reflection of my heart.

So my advice is enjoy the band concerts and basketball games.  Take pleasure in the academic accomplishments of your children.  Prepare your kids for the realities of life in this world, but never at the expense of their eternal souls.  First through your example and then through your training, teach them how to lay up treasures in heaven. Because that is God’s dream for all of us.

Becoming a Better Listener

The thought for today is…How well do you listen to your children?

“But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger” (James 1:19)

Here are some basic indications of whether we need to work on our listening skills:

  1. If you are doing all the talking (i.e. lecturing), by definition you are not listening very much.
  2. When your children keep saying things like, “Dad, you’re not listening,” then you need to pay attention to this cue. They are probably right.
  3. If you keep interrupting, you are not taking time to let your son or daughter explain what’s on his or her mind.
  4. If you are thinking of what to say next, then you are really not waiting to hear their side of the story.
  5. If you assume what you heard instead of asking questions to clarify, then you become the judge without a fair trial.

“He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him” (Proverbs 18:13).

Keep in mind, dads, that our children first get an understanding of approaching the “Father in heaven” by their experience in approaching their father on earth.

  • Are you approachable?
  • Does your child feel like you are going to pounce on her verbally before she even finishes her sentence?

Today, take some time to reflect upon this. May the Lord give us the patience, humility, and approachable spirit that willingly listens to our children.

Moses was faithful even when…(3 of 6)

Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant… (Hebrews 3:5)

#3 Moses was faithful to God even when he received little appreciation.

Moses is the poster child for leading people who had zero appreciation. In fact, Moses did not only have to do this job without much gratitude coming from the Israelites, he had to deal with them constantly opposing him, falsely accusing him, complaining against him and even attempting to kill him!

But through all of this, Moses remained faithful, even to the point of praying for these very same people to be forgiven.

So, why do we serve? Do we serve for the appreciation and recognition of the people around us? Do we quit or avoid a task when it might not make us very popular? Do we serve in order to look better and more “righteous” than others? Or do we serve for the glory of God?

One way we find out the answers to those questions is how we serve when we are getting a lot of resistance and very little appreciation for our efforts.

Let’s apply this principle to our parenting.

Are you parenting to win the coolest dad award? Are you trying to be your kid’s best friend or are you trying to be their father? There are times when you a buy them a present they’ve “always wanted” or take them to a really awesome place, and they will think you are the greatest. You can even post those things on social media and even more people will tell you what an awesome dad you are.

And then there are those other times.Your child will not always think you’re cool and awesome.

  • Your child will not always do cartwheels and sing your praises when you ask them to do things.
  • Your child will not always know and appreciate what you go through for them (and if you tell them a million times what you do for them they won’t get it…yet).
  • Your child will be thankful one moment and whine the next about what they don’t have. They’re not much different from adults are they?

We do not mean to say that you should intentionally try to lose popularity with your kids. However, when you tell them to turn off the Xbox and do their homework, and when you tell them that they cannot go outside and play because they did not clean their room, those kids will look at you like you have three heads. When your daughter has been dishonest, rude or ungrateful, and now she expects you to drive her to soccer…guess what? She is going to learn a very hard lesson at that point, and she is not going to like it. “You’re not going to soccer tonight, sister.” Don’t make it a long and drawn out lecture; just state the facts and set down the law and do not waver.

Don’t overreact and go all Mortal Combat on them for their poor attitudes and lack of gratitude for you. You’ll end up making it more about you than them. Be firm, make them obey and let them feel the consequences of their attitudes. Be firm and make sure they respect their mother when she asks them to do something. You might win quick popularity points with the kids by taking sides with them against their mother, but you will lose big time in the end (the kids will become master manipulators).

Just remember: They may not like you now, but they will love you (and thank you) later.

Moses was faithful to God, even when:

  1. He did not want to do the job.
  2. The lack of enthusiasm made the job even harder.
  3. He received little appreciation.

That is a faithful man. Are you like Moses?

Leading my family in worship

Leading In Worship

As a husband and father I have been called to lead my family and that involves more than deciding how to spend the money or teaching my boy to throw a football.  I am responsible for the spiritual growth and wellbeing of those God has put in my care and for too many years I have allowed the distractions of this world to determine my priorities.  One of the most significant things I can do for my wife and children is properly lead them in worship.

When trying to better understand worship, exploring how the word is used throughout the bible is important but it is also important to look at the first time the word is used.  Genesis 22 is one of the first places the word “worship” is used in the bible.  Grab a bible (or electronic device) and read this familiar text in Genesis chapter 22.  What can we learn about worship from this story of Abraham being called to sacrifice his promised son?

“God tested Abraham, and said to him…” (22:1-2)

Worship must begin with the voice of God.  It is not an expression of our own desire or impulse, it is not human opinion, it is not the response of some perceived need.  Worship is God’s command.  Without verses one and two this is just another case of premeditated murder.  Any act of worship begins with us recognizing the Master’s command.

“So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey…” (22:3)

Worship is a response to God’s command.  Abraham gets up and does what he was told.  Every act of Abraham in verse three was an opportunity for him to reconsider, to rebel, to rationalize and excuse a way out of what God had called him to do.  What kind of mental gymnastics would we attempt to perform if we were in Abraham’s place?

In acting, Abraham shows us that worship is not so much a feeling or an emotion.  Worship is an activity in which we pursue obedience to God’s instruction.  Worship is not passive.  Just because we went to the building on Sunday doesn’t mean we worshiped.  Too often we like to maintain a safe distance but God has called us to participate.  Worship is not a place we go or an experience we have, it is something we do.

“Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you…So the two of them walked on together.” (22:4-6)

Abraham leaves the servants behind and takes only the things he needs to complete the task because, even though we are often with others, worship is still individual.  In our families, we primarily lead in worship by putting our hearts into the prayers being spoken, concentrating on the reading, considering the message of each song and making application from the lesson.  We try to leave all unnecessary distractions behind and focus on our God.

“Take now your son, your only son, whom you love…and offer him there as a burnt offering…”   (22:2)

Worship is returning the very best to God.  Abraham is told to offer Isaac as a burnt offering and, as a burnt offering, it was to be offered entirely.  There was no portion of it to be left for other use.  Isaac was the promised son, this was a test of Abraham’s priorities.  What would he cling to when everything he held dear was stripped away?  How would I worship if everything important to me was burned up and consumed?  I wonder what God is asking me to put on that altar?  My job, my physical comforts, Sunday afternoon football?  In this test, Abraham validates that God is truly number one in his life (22:12).  The key to true, acceptable worship is an all or nothing commitment.  We must hold nothing back, we must be all in.  Worship should always be a costly endeavor.  I need to stop “playing church” and give God my very best.

“By Myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this thing…indeed I will greatly bless you..” (22:15-18)

We will never ever give to God more than He will return back to us.  It is impossible to out give God.  “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)  Our complete devotion and sacrifice to God is the key that opens up the store houses of His blessings and in this we begin to understand what it truly means to trust in Him.

What does my family see in my worship?  Do they see a partial commitment, a passive approach or an all or nothing, obedient, active participation in bowing down to my Creator?  It is easy to say that God occupies first place in our hearts but the difficulty comes in doing the things we are called to do in order to validate that claim.