Our Fathers Have Told Us

Listen, O my people, to my instruction; incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old, which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us. We will not conceal them from their children, but tell to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and His strength and His wondrous works that He has done. For He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers that they should teach them to their children that the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born, that they may arise and tell them to their children, that they should put their confidence in God and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments, and not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation that did not prepare its heart and whose spirit was not faithful to God (Psalm 78:1-8).

Fathers and Grandfathers, do not underestimate the power of your words and your teaching upon the next generation. Do not assume that they will get it on their own, or that they already know. Tell them. Tell them again. Remind them often. Find creative ways to illustrate these things.

You know, even the world understands the importance of parents telling things to their kids. Listen to all the Public Service Announcements the government puts out telling parents to talk to their children about drugs, sex, money, etc. In fact, we have our own government-sponsored website, Fatherhood.gov, dedicated to helping dads.

 

I encourage you, if you have not done this, to take out your Bible and start looking for as many examples as you can find where God talks to fathers and grandfathers about relaying very important information to the next generation.

Here are several examples.

  • Tell your children about His righteousness (Psalm 22:31).
  • Tell your children about His faithfulness, that He always keeps His promises (Isaiah 38:19).
  • Tell your children about worship and why we worship the way we do (Exodus 12:24-27; 13:14-15).
  • Tell your children about the mighty things God has done, either the works of creation, or what God has done in our lives (Joshua 4:6-7,21-22; Psalm 145:4).
  • Tell your children about the seriousness of God’s judgment. The book of Joel talks about a devastating locust plague that God sent because of His people’s sins, and they were to tell their children about it (Joel 1:3).
  • Tell your children about God’s rules and how important they are to keep (Genesis 18:19; Deuteronomy 4:9; 6:7; 11:19; Ephesians 6:4).
  • Use the Proverbs. Have you counted how many times “My son” is used in the first 7 chapters? It is a great conversation Solomon has with his son, and praise God that we have it recorded for us. Use it.

And even when I am old and gray, O God, do not forsake me, until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to all who are to come (Psalm 71:18).

You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers; just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory (1 Thessalonians 2:10-12).

Prepare Your Outside Work

Proverbs 24:27 – Prepare your outside work, make it fit for yourself in the field; and afterward build your house.

Priorities. Make sure you have an income before you start finding ways to spend an income you don’t have. How much sense would it make for a farmer to build his house when he doesn’t have any crops in the field to support him financially to build the house? That is some sound advice from the wise King Solomon.

But I believe there is a deeper meaning here in Proverbs than merely crops, finances, and brick and mortar. The concept of “building a house” in Scripture also applies many times to building a home and family (See Deuteronomy 25:9; Ruth 4:11).

The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish tears it down with her own hands (Proverbs 14:1).

Having this in mind, I think often about the importance of making sure we direct our children to prepare their outside work before building a home and family. Young people are in a hurry to do a lot of things (except chores). They are in a hurry to grow up. They are in a hurry to start doing big people things. They are in a hurry to have a boyfriend or girlfriend. They are in a hurry to have independence. We were all the same way, weren’t we? Of course, as fathers we should welcome and encourage their desire to grow, advance and become independent, not because that gets us quicker to the “empty nest,” but because that is what is best for their stability and maturity. However, we have to promote patience and setting the right priorities.

Here are a few thoughts about how our children can apply the principle of preparing the “outside work” before building a home and family.

  1. Prepare yourself to be the right kind of man or woman. So many times we go out looking to “find” the right person, instead of focusing our attention first and foremost on being the right person. In order to build my “house,” I need to cultivate the fields of my own heart first so that my heart is producing the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-25). Remember as we saw in Proverbs 14 above, that a wise woman builds her house, but a foolish woman tears it down with her hands. It is not that someone has to be “perfect” before he or she gets married, but it is vital that we encourage our children to place a premium on their relationship with Christ before commencing a relationship with a spouse.
  2. Get your finances in order. How many of us, or folks we know, started marriage with a mountain of debt? College debt. Car debt. Consumer debt. What does that financial stress do to our marriages? Is there a better way? What gift can we give our children and their future spouses? Teach them about money management and how to think about money in a godly way. There are a ton of resources out there now to help you, although we should first direct our attention to Proverbs and the teachings of Jesus. Both Solomon and Jesus said a lot about money.
  3. Don’t start what you can’t finish. This is something I’ve told my teenagers a lot lately and it has a lot of directions we have taken with it. But for today, the application I want to make with this statement is, “Make sure you can provide for her, son, before you pursue her.” Prepare your outside work first, get yourself prepared to be a provider, take the time necessary to get yourself in a position where you can take care of a wife and family, then build your home.

It is okay to wait. It is encouraged by God often in Scripture to be patient. God blesses us richly when we set our hearts upon Him, and set our priorities in a wise and prudent way. Let’s encourage our children daily to prepare the fields before building the house.

In Our Image

“And Adam…became the father of a son in his own likeness, according to his image…” (Genesis 5:3).

The picture you see is that of my daughter side by side with my great grandmother. We noticed recently now much they resemble each other, so my daughter took a picture and tried to mimic the same expression. It really blew me away to see how two people 5 generations apart could look so much alike.

Our children are truly born in our image. Genetics may be powerful, but our influence upon our children is even stronger. The way they respond to things is the way we respond. The things they value are the things we value. How they talk is how we talk. How they see God’s word and His church is how we see it. How we deal with conflict is how they deal with it. The choices they make are usually based upon choices we make. They are truly in our image.

That is why as fathers and grandfathers we must take seriously and prayerfully this position in which God has placed us. Never underestimate the power of your influence to shape the character of your children. They are being fashioned daily in our image.

For example, God used a common proverb in Ezekiel’s day to illustrate to His people Israel how they were mimicking the Canaanites who previously lived in the land. “Like mother, like daughter” (Ezekiel 16:44-45). The Israelites’ parents were not God; sadly their mother and father in a spiritual sense were the idolatrous and pagan people of the land. Jesus made this same point to the Jewish leadership of His day. He told them that their ancestor might be Abraham, but their real daddy was the Devil because they acted just like Him (John 8:37-44). They bore the image of their parents.

The question bears asking, “Whose image am I reflecting?”

Our goal as fathers and grandfathers is first and foremost to be transformed into the image of Jesus (Romans 8:29; 2 Corinthians 3:18). If we know that our offspring will bear our image and most likely follow our ways, then it is crucial that our character is as close to Christ as it can be. As the apostle Paul said, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).

This is not to mean that we are perfect, nor that our children are to be raised in a “perfect” environment, because the only perfect environment that exists is in heaven. We also must remember that our children, just like us, make their own choices. Many of us have overcome less than ideal home environments because we gave our hearts to Jesus. Remember that God loves you and that He loves your children as well. His grace is with us and with our children as we seek to grow. His Spirit is with us as our image is being transformed into that of His Son.

Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him (Colossians 3:9-10).

Opportunity Cost

“An opportunity cost is defined as the value of a forgone activity or alternative when another item or activity is chosen” (referenceforbusiness.com).

No, I am certainly not an economist, and most certainly not an expert on personal finances, but this concept I learned in high school economics about opportunity cost often comes to my mind. Recently, I used this principle in teaching one of our teenagers.

If you have multiple children, you will most likely have children who have very different mindsets/personalities about everything, including money. Just like adults, some are savers, some are spenders. We have to help the savers learn how to have a little fun sometimes and enjoy the fruits of their labors, and we have to help the spenders to restrain themselves from having all the fun at once. Their personalities usually reflect those of their parents. Yes…I’m the spender.

So, here is a simple example on opportunity cost that I used recently and for this particular teenager it proved to be very effective. When you spend in a month $10 on a shirt, $15 on music, $15 on going out to eat, and $10 on candy bars, pop etc., what other things could you have done with that $50? $50 may not be much to an adult that makes a lot of money, but to a teenager who is making minimum wage that is a significant portion of his or her check. There are a lot of directions you could go with this, but here are a few.

  • Remember that concert you wanted to attend? Well, that $50 is your ticket to that concert.
  • Remember that part you needed for your vehicle? That $50 would cover it.
  • Get online and search for an investment calculator and figure out how much $50 invested every month at a certain interest rate will be worth in 20 years. This exercise was a jaw-dropping experience for this particular teenager of mine. By the way, saving and investing is a very Biblical concept (Proverbs 6:6-8; 30:25).

I wish that I would have had this kind of mentality earlier in life!

Now, this is not intended to pile and heap up guilt on your son or daughter, and if we are not very careful that will be the result. We certainly do not want them to feel guilty anytime they do something fun with the money they have earned (Ecclesiastes 3:12-13). However, especially for those personalities that love to have all the fun all at once, we have to enlighten their pathway to help them see how those little expenses on various things really add up quickly.

Another quick point, allowing them the freedom to make those financial choices, whether wise or not, provides them with the experience they need to learn wisdom and discretion.

I hope this helps.

 

 

Abundant Preparations

Now David said, “Solomon my son is young and inexperienced, and the house to be built for the LORD must be exceedingly magnificent, famous and glorious throughout all countries. I will now make preparation for it.” So David made abundant preparations before his death (1 Chronicles 22:5).

In contrast to yesterday’s article about David, today we see one of the many reasons David was called a “man after God’s own heart.” David’s great desire was to build a temple for His Lord, but God told him that his son (Solomon) would build the temple instead. Since Solomon was going to be the one to build the temple, David devoted the remainder of his life to get Solomon ready.

What David saw through his wisdom:

  • The task of building the temple was enormous. There were plans to be drawn up, treaties to be made, finances to secure, suppliers to be set up, priesthood and temple workers to be organized, etc. This was not an overnight project. This would take years to plan and years to build. By the way, 7 years of Solomon’s reign was devoted to building the temple.
  • The temple was for God – and for His name’s sake, it needed to be magnificent. David clearly grasped that this temple would be called by Jehovah’s name, and that more than David or Solomon’s reputation would be at stake. How this temple turned out would not only reflect upon the king, but upon God Himself.
  • Solomon was young and inexperienced, and David knew he needed to prepare Solomon so that he would be set up for success. David knew he couldn’t just hand the keys of a Ferrari over to a 10 year old and say, “Drive carefully.” David spent a great deal of time teaching and training Solomon both in the duties he would perform as king, but also in his relationship with God.
So, as we turn our attention to our children and grandchildren today, how can we learn from the example of David? We can look at our kids and the tasks to which God has called them and see that we, like David, need to make abundant preparations. We cannot prepare them for every eventuality, but we do know some basic areas where our sons and daughters need our guidance to help set them up for success, such as:
  • The value of prayer and seeking God first.
  • The fundamentals of how to read and reason from the Scriptures.
  • How to handle conflict.
  • Money and time management.
  • Respect for authority.
  • How to behave around the opposite sex.
  • A strong work ethic.
  • Compassion for the hurting and helpless.
  • Talk about God’s grace often.
  • Learn about their unique gifts and personalities and find ways to encourage them in those areas.

“And give my son Solomon a loyal heart to keep Your commandments and Your testimonies and Your statutes, to do all these things, and to build the temple for which I have made provision” (1 Chronicles 29:19).

Charting a Course, Leaving a Legacy

Throughout the books of I and II Kings there are repeated phrases as power changes hands.  Unfortunately, the most common phrase is like the one found in II Kings 15:9, “He did evil in the sight of the Lord, as his fathers had done; he did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel sin.”  Another phrase, that is found far too infrequently, is like the one found in II Kings 18:3, speaking of Hezekiah, “He did right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father David had done.”

In I Kings 11:38, when God was splitting the kingdom because of Solomon’s sin, God makes a promise to Jeroboam.  “Then it will be, that if you listen to all that I command you and walk in My ways, and do what is right in My sight by observing My statutes and My commandments, as My servant David did, then I will be with you and build you an enduring house as I built for David, and I will give Israel to you.”  You can read the promise God made to David in II Samuel 7.  We have two kings.  Both received promises from God but they have very different legacies.  David became a model of faith, setting an example for all the kings that would follow.  David’s heart for God became the standard by which all other kings were compared.  Jeroboam, however, became the model of rebellion and his sins set a course of faithlessness for generations to follow.

Fathers we are setting a course for our children and leaving a legacy.  We can ignore this responsibility or embrace it, but either way the decisions we make now will impact generations to come.  If I am consumed with work, putting my career above all else, I shouldn’t be surprised when my children sacrifice spiritual things in pursuit of a higher education.  I can pray before meals and drag my children to church every Sunday, but if my free time is consumed with golf and football and TV my children are learning a lesson about priorities.  Coming to grips with the significant impact we have as fathers can overwhelm us and, at times, paralyze us.  Take a deep breath and consider this:

  • Being a father is not about perfection, it is about direction. David wasn’t perfect.  The scripture gives the good the bad and the ugly in his life.  What David had was a heart that longed for God and could be shaped and molded by Him.  What does your heart long for?
  • It is not too late to change direction. I don’t care what your background is, if you’re reading this it is not too late to chart a new course for your family.  Read the description of Hezekiah in II Kings 18:3-6.  Now take a look at how many kings there had been in Judah since David and how sinful they were.  In fact, Hezekiah’s own father “walked in the way of the kings of Israel, and even made his son pass through the fire,”.  (II Kings 16:2-4)  Hezekiah broke the pattern and so can we!
  • Take it one step at a time. If you’re like me, you come to a realization of your mistakes and things you need to change and it is hard to find a place to start.  II Kings 18:4 says that Hezekiah started by removing the high places.  What idols can you remove from your life?  Maybe it is time to turn off the TV or give that big project at work to someone else and focus on more enduring things, like our children.

We are all setting a course for our families.  We are all leaving a legacy.  What will your legacy be?

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.