A Message about Fatherhood to Dads, Moms and Children of all ages and stages

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A request was made to write a post about Fatherhood.  It’s an important topic – for dads, moms and children – of all ages and stages of life.  I hope you enjoy it …

This was a special message for fathers, children and mothers for Father’s Day 2013. Here are my sermon notes from the message on June 16, 2013.

3 THINGS CHILDREN SHOULD DO FOR THEIR FATHER

(note: Remember, we are all children, so this applies to all of us).

Honor Your Father

This is a command (the 5th) and is also mentioned several other times in the Bible (including by Jesus).

Ephesians 6:2-3 – Honor your father and mother (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.

What does it mean to “honor” your father? We go through stages, that overlap. First, we honor our father by being obedient when we are younger and under their authority/household. Strive for “first time obedience” which is especially honoring of him. Second, we honor our father by showing respect, involving him in our lives, allowing him to participate with us and on behalf of us in our lives. (illust. – Sadie and Willie returning dress on Duck Dynasty). Third, as they (and we) grow older, we honor our father by caring for him.

Learn from Your Father

Proverbs 2:1-5 – My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, 2 making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; 3 yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, 4 if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, 5 then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.

note: this passage, written to a son from his father, encourages an active seeking of help and advice from the father. From our fathers we learn about life as well as about how to do things. We can also learn from our father’s mistakes. In any event, I believe that dads want “better” for their kids and desire for their children to learn from them – both the good and the bad.

Forgive Your Father

“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” – Matthew 6:12

Fathers make mistakes. Sometimes big ones. Forgiving them for those may be the best father’s day present you can give him. Forgiveness is about leaving the past in the past and focusing on the future.

3 THINGS MOTHERS SHOULD DO FOR THEIR CHILD’S FATHER

This section is for mothers — all mothers. Even if you are not with your child’s dad any longer, you have one of the largest influences over the nature of your child’s relationship with his/her dad.

Encourage (don’t nag) Dad

1 Thessalonians 5:11 – encourage one another and build one another up, …

Try not to impose what you think is right upon the dad/child situation. This often leads to a situation where whatever dad does it’s not “good enough.” Be encouraging. Tell dad “thank you”. Compliment him.

Praise Dad in Front of Your Children

I read a blog post recently titled “Is Dad a Hero or a Bum – the Answer often Depends on what Mom Thinks.” — That is so true. Praising dad in front of your child strengthens the relationship more than you can imagine. You can do it — at one time in your life you thought at least something about this guy was pretty awesome.

Be a Partner

Don’t setup a situation where it is “mom and the kids v. dad”. Don’t hide things from dad. Don’t complain about him with the kids. Instead, do all you can to be a partner with the dad — unified in parenting the children as a team.

3 THINGS FATHER’S SHOULD DO FOR THEIR CHILDREN

Be a Godly Example

Like it or not, good or bad, you ARE an example. But are you a Godly example?

John 13:15 – For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.

Being a Godly example involves being an example in these areas:

Character – this is what you are all of the time, no matter where you are or who is around. Your kids are watching you. Are you a man of honesty, integrity, consistency?

Discipleship – this is showing your kids what it looks like to follow the Lord Jesus and grow in your faith. Do they see you going to church, studying the Word, etc.

Service – your kids need to learn from you that life is not about them (or you) but about other people. They learn this from your example in serving others who need help, serving your church, and serving your community.

Demonstrate Unconditional Love

Unconditional love is the theme of the Bible — God loves us not because of anything that we can do and in spite of anything that we have done. Your kids (especially your daughters) will come to believe that God loves them the way that you love them. Love them unconditionally, which means:

Love them for who they are, not what they do

Love them in spite of their mistakes and bad choices

Remember: love is an action not a feeling

Leave the Right Legacy

You will leave a legacy of some form. But, God has given us the power and the freedom to choose what our legacy will be. Will you leave a legacy where your children and your children’s children seek to know the Lord personally? Or will it be a legacy of absence, abuse, excuses or mediocrity?

Discipline Makes the Impossible Possible

This article continues my series on spiritual disciplines titled Why Men Need Discipline.”  Today’s article is called “Discipline Makes the Impossible Possible” and speaks to the continuing development of the Christian into a person who is “perfect”  as our “heavenly Father is perfect.”

Did You Say: “Be Perfect”?

Sometimes I am disturbed by what Scripture says.   An example is contained in Matthew 5:48 where we are commanded to “be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Really?  Be perfect?  That appears quite impossible.  I know I am not perfect.  Far from it.  Anyone who knows me knows that I am not perfect.  And neither are you.  So, why would God issue this seemingly impossible command to us?  (It is a “command” and not a “suggestion” by the way).

Well, I know that God is perfectly just, meaning that He is perfectly fair to us.  So, I can know that God would not require something of me, or from me, that would be impossible for me to attain.  Therefore, it is only logical that “being perfect” must be possible.  And, more than that, not only must it be possible for me to achieve, it also must be GOOD FOR ME! (see Matthew 7:9-11)

The good news for us is that God doesn’t leave this “possible impossible” task to us to attain on our own.  Quite the contrary.

We are Perfect because of Imputed Righteousness 

The Bible tells us that when we repent of our sin and believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, that God considers us righteous in his sight.  This means that even though we aren’t “really” holy, God chooses on His own to declare us holy.  Essentially, for our benefit, God “pretends” that we are completely righteous because Jesus has “covered” our unrighteousness with his sacrificed blood.  That’s the only way true relationship with a completely holy God can exist – if He chooses not to count our unholiness against us.  It’s imputed righteousness that “gets us into heaven.”

That’s the first way that the “impossible becomes possible” – just because God says so!

We are becoming Perfect because of Imparted Righteousness

It is not so difficult to accept that God can look past our transgressions and determine on His own that we are righteous (i.e., perfect) in His sight.  God is merciful.  God is full of grace.  However, it is hard to accept that we are also being made perfect; that in this life that we can live a perfectly holy and righteous life.  But that’s also what the Bible teaches.

In 2 Peter 1:4, we are told that we are “partakers of the divine nature.”  What that means is that over time, through our circumstances, our choices, God’s leading, and our decisions, that we become more and more holy.  We become more righteous as we are transformed into the likeness of Christ.  Our daily lives here on earth actually change from unholiness to slightly less unholiness to slightly less unholiness and on and on.

This takes training and it takes time.  Spiritual disciplines such as prayer, Bible study, participating in worship, learning self-control, seeking wisdom and patience and goodness and kindness, and allowing love to be evident in our actions slowly (and not so slowly at times) mold us into people who reflect Christ and are permanently changed.  This is referred to as “imparted righteousness” meaning that God is “imparting” (or “giving to us”) righteousness.

This training is not easy.  It takes the discipline of making the right choices daily.  It means sacrificing what we may naturally desire in exchange for what God desires.  It means being obedient to the Word even if we don’t feel like it and even when we don’t fully understand it.  It means learning from failure.  It means conforming our attitudes, our minds, our hearts and our actions to the Word of God and His ways, more and more every day.  It’s imparted righteousness that makes us better disciples and ambassadors for God’s work here on earth.

The Bottom Line

God gives us the ability to “work out our salvation” (Philippians 2:12).  As we “train” ourselves by engaging in spiritual disciplines, regularly and in increasing measure over time, we do just that – we work out the unholiness that wants to control us, and allow God to work in the holiness that He wants to control us.

What’s Next?

Hopefully, you’ve been reviewing the various spiritual disciplines that I outlined previously and have been identifying which of those could use some improvement in your own life.  If not, I suggest that you review them now.

It is now time to make a specific plan of action.  What is your plan for Bible study?  What is your plan for quiet devotion time?  What is your plan for prayer?  Where are you going to serve the Lord this week?  Make a decision to implement these into your life right now in specific, detailed ways.

 

A Simple, Intentional Bible Reading Plan

“The more that you read, the more things you will know.  The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” – Dr. Seuss

During a recent sermon, I mentioned a daily Bible reading plan that I have used for almost 15 years.  Some have asked me to share it here.  In addition to my Bible reading plan, I am also sharing some thoughts and ideas about reading other material on a regular basis and in an intentional way.

Reading the Bible Is God Speaking to You

Reading the Bible is a spiritual discipline.  Reading is different from studying.  It is not memorizing or mediating.  While all of those disciplines are of great value, I believe a great place to start my day is just reading the Bible.

The Bible is God’s Word.  It is God speaking.  When we read the words of the Bible, it is God speaking words to us.  That’s pretty awesome!  And, almost 15 years ago, I decided that I would like to hear from God regularly, so I started a plan of reading my Bible regularly.

The system that I developed for me is not complex and it is certainly not novel.  But it works for me for a few reasons:  First, it doesn’t take long to do what I am about to describe (about 20 minutes or so, depending on the particular text).  Second, because I do the same thing every day, I don’t have to think about what to read next (which is often a stumbling block for some people; i.e., “where do I start?”).  Third, the plan I use takes me through the Bible systematically and completely each year, and for many portions of the Bible, several times a year.  I like the discipline of reading the entire Bible, not jus the parts that I “like.”

Here is my daily routine:

  1. Read 2 chapters in the Old Testament (start at the beginning), except don’t read Psalms or Proverbs in this section of the plan. (By doing this each day, you get through the entire Old Testament at least once in a year).
  2. Read 1 Psalm every day.  (By doing this each day, you will read through the book of Psalms more than twice each year).
  3. Read the Proverb chapter that corresponds to the day of the month.  (There are 31 Proverbs so there is one for each day.  By doing this, you will essentially read Proverbs 12 times each year).
  4. Read two chapters in the New Testament each day.  (By doing this, you will read through the New Testament several times each year).

Read Other Good Books, Too

In addition to reading the Bible, it is very important to read a variety of other good books on a regular basis.  I have found that the more intentional I am with my reading of books, the better I become in nearly every other aspect of my life.  As I read, I become a better leader, father, husband and friend.  I am wiser and more patient.  I am much more thoughtful.  I believe it helps me be a better pastor, too.

There are many things to read.  There are more books available to read than any one person could ever accomplish in a lifetime.  So, it is important to be intentional in choosing what to read.  While reading in and of itself has value, there can be no real argument against the proposition that some books are more valuable than others!

Be Intentional in Your Reading Choices

Vary your areas of reading so that you get a broad spectrum of insight and knowledge.  Read books that are related to your profession so you can keep up on trends and new information.  Read books on leadership and history.  Read books that are classics, including Christian classics.  Read books that will inspire you.  Read biographies.  And, it is even good to read a good, fiction novel every now and again (but not exclusively!).

I suggest that you have at least one book that you are reading at any given time.  Some people I know often have several books they are reading at one time.  I usually have a couple going at any given time, with a few “on the shelf” waiting.  For example, right now I am reading “Team of Rivals” (a historical biography of President Lincoln and others) as well as a leadership book by John Maxwell.  Recently I finished a book by Marc Driscoll titled “On Church Leadership” which was very good.

The more you read, the more you will enjoy it.  Try it.  I challenge you to turn off the t.v. for just 30 minutes a day and read instead.  See what changes will happen in your life.

Share Your Best Reading Suggestions

I invite you to share your best reading suggestions in the comment section of the blog.

 

Discipline Makes the Conscious Unconscious

This is the fourth article in my series on spiritual disciplines titled “Why Men Need Discipline.”  Today’s article is called “Discipline Makes the Conscious Unconscious” and continues our discussion of the benefit of engaging in spiritual disciplines routinely, over time, in an ever-increasing measure.

We began this series with my previous articles: “What is Discipline?”, “What is a Spiritual Discipline, Anyway?” and “Men Are Easily Distracted.”

Making Choices …

We control our days more than we realize.  What we decide to do or not to do impacts so many other things every day.  Our choices impact our conversations, they impact our relationships and they guide our behaviors.  Our choices influence our very thoughts.

Even after counseling people in both spiritual and legal situations for over 20 years now, it still amazes me how little people understand the connection between the choices they make and the state of affairs their lives are in.  Too often, people fail to make the connection between how the little choices made (or not made) each day have set the tone for their attitudes and expectations, and, ultimately, their “day.”  Instead, many believe that their life situations are “caused” by some external forces beyond their control and that the chaos of their life is simply something that is “happening to them.”

But the reality is, that what we choose for ourselves makes all the difference.  What we choose to read, what we choose to watch, whom we choose to be around, where we choose to go, and what activity in which we choose to engage is OUR CHOICE.  And when we make poor choices, things don’t go as well for us.

The difference between a chaotic life and a peaceful life is developing habits so that the routine, everyday choices are made effortlessly, almost unconsciously.

Choosing without Thinking

Any great athlete will tell you that the main goal of practicing each day is to create an “unconscious response” to a given game situation.  More accurately, the goal is not just an unconscious response but the CORRECT unconscious response.

We make unconscious decisions all of the time.  If you have been driving a car for any length of time, then you experience unconscious decision-making.  You don’t “think about” moving your foot from the gas pedal to the brake pedal to stop the car, you just do it.  You don’t “think about” smoothly turning the steering wheel in a curve so that the car doesn’t jerk repeatedly, you just do it.  Why?  Because you have trained yourself to “think unconsciously” via days and days of practice and habit-formation.

The same mental capacity to “choose unconsciously” is also available in our spiritual lives.  We can practice spiritual disciplines until they are so habitual that in given situations we simply “respond without thinking.”

The Benefit of Spiritual Discipline

As we “train” in areas of spiritual discipline such as Bible study, scripture memorization, controlling our speech, and removing ourselves from problematic situations and conversations, the wise choices we make start to become part of us — Godly choices become natural for us.

In Psalm 119:11, the Psalmist exclaims to God: “I have hidden your Word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”

What an awesome goal!  The daily spiritual training of Bible study, reading, memorization and meditation eventually leads to God’s Word being “hidden” in us, almost at an unconscious level.  What that means is that when we are confronted with conflict, instead of reacting harshly (our natural selves), we respond with patience and kindness.  It means that when we are tempted, instead of giving in to the temptation to satisfy our flesh (our natural selves), we are actually repulsed by the temptation before us.

What we previously “thought about,” becomes “unconsciously natural” after we have hidden the Word in our hearts.

The Bottom Line

The more we engage in spiritual discipline activities such as study and scripture memorization, the more our decisions, actions and speech become Biblically unconscious.  Our nature actually becomes more “Christ-like.”

What’s Next?

Go back to the article titled “What is a Spiritual Discipline, Anyway?” and pick out three or four spiritual disciplines that you will seek to develop more fully.  Make a commitment to make these disciplines part of your daily routine so that they become habits.  As they do, notice the difference in your life — the difference in your relationships, in your attitude, in your outlook and in your behavior.

 

Men Are Easily Distracted

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This is the third article in my series on spiritual disciplines titled “Why Men Need Discipline.”  Today’s article is called “Men Are Easily Distracted” and begins our discussion of the obstacles men face in engaging in spiritual disciplines routinely, over time, in an ever-increasing measure.

The first article, “What is Discipline?” defined “discipline” as a means of God training us versus God punishing us.  The second article, What is a Spiritual Discipline, Anyway? provided some examples of spiritual disciplines.

Men Need Discipline Because We Are Easily Distracted

Are you still reading this blog?  Great!  You passed the first barrier!

It surprises me that I am such a poor driver.  Fortunately, I haven’t had a serious accident or caused any severe damage to my car or the cars around me.  But, the truth is that while I am driving, especially when there is not a lot of traffic around, I find myself to be easily distracted by what’s around me.

“Look at the deer!”  “Wow, there’s a new Starbucks!”  “I wonder how many of these reflector things are on this road?”  “What time is my meeting this afternoon?”  “Oh yeah, I need to call Bob about the thing.” — Those are the things that often go through my mind while I’m driving.  Yes, I am easily distracted.

Distractions for Men

Men can have a tendency to become distracted by the newest, most exciting thing around them.  We are curious.  We want more.  We like new things.  We want to be successful.  We have a lot on our plates.

So, it is not uncommon for us to allow the new, shiny thing to distract us from our priorities, especially those priorities where we do not have to “officially” give an account to anyone today.

Sports, women, cars, friends, kids, jobs, to-do lists, golf games, elections.  Those are all things that can become the focus of our minds, and our time, and eventually our choices, if we allow them too — IF we are not disciplined.

The Problem with being Distracted

The problem with living a distracted life is that we are “trading” what is currently before us in exchange for what is “most important” to us.  Distraction causes us to short-change our spiritual growth, our families and our churches because instead of spending our time investing in those things which we would declare are most important to us, we “accidentally” spent 40 minutes watching SportsCenter or a couple of days reading through car magazines fantasizing about our next car purchase.

Obviously, the end result in such situations is that those things we declare most important suffer at the hands of the distraction.

The Benefit of Spiritual Discipline

One of the benefits of developing spiritual discipline in our lives is that we become more focused; and, more importantly, we become more focused on the One who matters most, Jesus.

As we engage in the discipline of finding a quiet place and time to read and pray for example, we are choosing to not allow the world to distract us.  The reason I’m so easily distracted while I’m driving … is because I’m driving.  New things are all around me literally every second.  But when I choose to be in a quiet place – no t.v., no radio, no phone, no kids running around, my mind is able to give God and His Word the attention they deserve.

As we engage daily in the disciplines of prayer, study and Bible reading, we hear God’s voice more clearly.  He starts our days off in the right direction with reminders of what He wants for us and for those around us.  He reminds of us our responsibilities so that when the moment of distraction presents itself, we are prepared to say “no” to it.

As we engage in the discipline of offering ourselves to God as a living sacrifice, i.e., worshipping God with ALL of our lives (see Romans 12:1-2), we begin to see changes in every other area of our lives.  We become more productive at work.  We are better husbands and better fathers.  We speak differently to our family and those at work.  We are less stressed.  We spend our money differently.  We approach problems in a new way.  Everything begins to change.

The Bottom Line

We are not changed into perfect men overnight when we become Christians.  Instead, God uses a training process to transform us into the people He desires.  The first step in this process is removing distractions from our lives and developing routines focused on improving those things which we have consciously CHOSEN as most important.

What’s Next?

To get started with this process answer these questions honestly:

What is most important in my life?

How am I currently spending my time each day?

Where and what are the things that “distract” me?

What steps can I take tomorrow to eliminate the distractions so that I can begin to focus on the things I have identified as most important?

In my next article, I will address another reason why men need discipline:  because we think we know more than we really know.

What is a Spiritual Discipline, Anyway?

This is the second article in my series on spiritual disciplines titled “Why Men Need  Discipline.”  You can see the first article here: What is Discipline?” 

In today’s post, What is a Spiritual Discipline, Anyway?, we will discuss various forms of spiritual disciplines.

Spiritual Disciplines: A Definition

A spiritual discipline is something we either do or refrain from doing, repeatedly over time, so as to become trained in the habits of seeing God, hearing God, obeying God and doing God’s will.

As we engage in spiritual disciplines regularly, over time God uses them to change our hearts and our minds.  We become transformed into someone who more closely reflects Jesus Christ in our mood, our speech, our attitudes, and our decisions.  We become less focused on ourselves and on the things of the world, and more focused on God and His desires for our lives.

Some Examples of Spiritual Disciplines

A few examples of spiritual disciplines include:

Prayer – communication with God.  Allowing Him to speak to us and our bringing to Him praises, thankfulness, confession, adoration, worries, fears, troubles, anxieties and much more.  We also should pray for others and for the church.

Bible reading – just reading the Bible with no purpose other than to hear from God.  The Bible is God speaking to us.

Bible study – going deeper into the meaning of God’s Word.  Study is different from just reading.  I read the newspaper but I don’t study it.  When we study God’s Word, alone or in a group, we should use a variety of means to get the most out of what the Word has for us to learn.

Worship – this is not just an event on the weekend, but a way of living.  At times, we worship together corporately, but most of our worship should be in the form of our daily lives as we give up what may be important to us in exchange for what is most important to God.

Christian Fellowship – spending time with other Christians.  Doing life together.

Giving – returning a portion of what we have been given to God by making regular offerings to our churches, to missionaries and to others in need.

Service – putting our gifts, talents and passions to work in practical ways to help the church with its mission and to help our communities, particularly those who have need.

Meditation and silence – getting away from the busyness and hustle of the daily grind, freeing our minds to think about what God is saying to us.  Being in silence allows that to happen more freely.

Rest and Sleep – getting enough rest and sleep so that we are not physically exhausted.  This allows us to be our best for Him, for our families, and for all of the work that God has for us to do.

Health – taking care of our bodies so that we can be most useful to God and others and also so we will be good examples of discipline to others.

Evangelism – inviting people to learn about Jesus.  Inviting people to church and to our homes and other small group events.

Reactions – learning to react in Godly ways to all situations.  Controlling our tempers.  Not allowing fear to dominate our lives.  Staying confident and positive, even in times of great distress.

Choices – learning to make wise choices that are based on scripture and not on selfish desires.  Choosing rightly regarding who we spend time with, what we spend money on, where we go and don’t go, etc.

Again, these are just some of the things that could be considered “spiritual disciplines,” but it’s a good list to use to start!

The Bottom Line is Relationship Building

The bottom line is still relationship building!  God uses our effort in becoming disciplined in areas that matter, allowing Him to train us to be righteous, in order to draw us closer to Him and to increase our desire to connect with others more closely and in more holy ways.

What’s Next …

Some reasons why men specifically need to develop spiritual discipline is the topic of my next post. . . .