As we celebrate this Christmas season, our family came together and produced a Christmas Video Card.
Merry Christmas everyone!
Recently, God has been dealing with us through meetings at our church, His Word, books, conversations, and even a rented movie. We have become aware that we have been guilty of stealing. “But what, “you might ask, “have you been stealing?” We have been caught red handed taking credit for successes in life that God is ultimately responsible for. Therefore, He deserves the glory, not us.
To illustrate this truth, a few Sundays ago a visiting pastor recommended a book called Fool Moon Rising. It’s a children’s book that encourages humility and warns us about pride. After foolishly bragging much about himself, the moon is convicted when he sees a bright ray, opens his eyes, and realizes where he gets his light from….the sun. We will not share anymore of the story, but you can click the picture above to see a description, read the reviews, and even order it if you would like. It is a beautiful story with great illustrations and a much needed message not only for our kids, but for US as parents.
Praise the Lord our eyes are being opened to the fact that He is the giver of ALL good gifts. If there is anything good in my life, it is ONLY because of HIS grace and mercy. May our boasting be as the Apostle Paul’s:
“But far be it from me to boast
except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,
by which the world has been crucified
to me, and I to the world.”
When I was in grade school, I distinctly remember explaining to my classmates, “My dad is better than your dad!” I would begin with how smart he was, brag about how strong he was and end by saying something like, “I bet my dad can beat your dad up!” They would always retaliate with weak responses such as, “Oh yeah, well my dad can run faster than your dad and he’s an engineer and blah, blah, blah!” At this point in the conversation I would tune them out, knowing without a shadow of a doubt I was right and they were disillusioned. I genuinely felt sorry for the poor lads.
As the years have passed, I am now the dad, and I have become reacquainted with of a simple truth that I learned back then as a child: Although I am weak and prone to failure, my young children think I can do anything. In their eyes, Dad is Superman! This is a powerful truth to humbly grasp, but one that I need to be aware of.
After years of observation, I have come to see there is a small window in life where our children’s hearts are naturally turned toward us, and during this time, they will naturally be more open to our input and instruction. I see this when my daughter picks flowers or draws a picture or learns to hop on one leg and then races to me to see my response. Or when someone is playfully making jokes about me, and I see my son coming to my defense. To use an old cliché, our children think we “hung the moon”, and as God fearing fathers, it’s our goal to point them to the One who really did! What a great honor we have!
So if we are going to capitalize on this God given season, we as fathers must fight to have our hearts turned to our children (Luke 1:17) while their hearts are turned towards us (Proverbs 17:6). For most of us, this does not come naturally. We must be intentional. It’s not something that just happens by chance. We need to rid ourselves of the “kryptonite” that so easily entangles and steals our affections (Hebrews 12:1,2). This will require us to die to self at times and consider our children more important than ourselves (Philippians 2:3,4) but in the end we will have no regrets.
As my children are growing older, they’ve already begun to realize their daddy is really Clark Kent. They understand I sin and that even Superman needs a savior. Ironically this actually excites me because as a father, my true joy in life comes from knowing my children are walking with our Lord (3 John 4) and making much of Him. And this is really super, man! (I know this last line is really lame and cheesy, but it’s late and I can’t think of a better way to end this post!)
If our sons could tell us dads what we really need to hear, it might sound something like this!
If I want to get pumped up as a father or husband, there is a particular passage in Luke that I go to. It’s a description of John the Baptist’s ministry. It reads:
“And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, TO TURN THE HEARTS OF THE FATHERS BACK TO THE CHILDREN, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:16,17)
I love this passage. It’s just not what you would expect John the Baptist to be about. If you’re like me, you’ve always thought of John as kind of a rough guy, who ate bugs and honey and preached to people that they should repent. And it’s true . . . he did these things. But this passage also reveals that John had a targeted audience. An audience of men. God desires to have an obedient people who are ready for Him, and one of the main players in preparing His people are men (fathers in this passage). This is totally mind boggling. John’s ministry could have easily been directed at changing pastors, governors, kings or even mothers. But instead he goes after the men. Why? Because from the beginning, God has set things up where men are to be the leaders. Win the man, and you’ll win the women and children. Why? Because God ordained it to be so. If this truth is embraced, one should expect fruitful consequences to follow. This is God’s will for His people.
But we live in a world where this truth is not celebrated, and this should be expected of the world . . . but not of the Church of Christ.
Men, our wives and children need us. We have been placed in their lives to be a picture of Christ. There is much to be said about this topic, but I don’t know how to say it. Instead, our family made a video that portrays what it looks like when I, as a father and husband refuse to lead my family. Sadly, there are still times when I am too lazy or sluggish to lead as I should. Praise God for His kindness to remind me of His love for me and the grace to repent and change. And above all, I rejoice in His forgiveness through the blood of Jesus. It is only through His forgiveness that I am not overcome by my failures as a man. As I said at the beginning of this post, John’s ministry “pumps me up”. So instead of being chained by my weaknesses, by God’s grace (found in Jesus) I anticipate even greater growth in days, months and years to come.
Each morning I enjoy making a list of things I need and want to accomplish for the day, and it brings me great satisfaction to check things off throughout the day. However, as a wife and mother, I have come to realize that it doesn’t take much in life to scramble my list of things to do and send my ship sailing into waters I had not hoped for. A child wakes up sick. James calls and needs me to run an errand. Unexpected rain keeps us from going outside. Although these are minor inconveniences, I am often tempted to frustration, knowing that I am not going to be able to complete what I had perceived to be most important for the day.
Recently a friend shared with me how she is learning to hold her plans loosely and to trust that the Lord is “establishing” her steps throughout the day, even when unexpected situations arise that seem to derail her from her morning list. This insight has since echoed many times in my heart and mind as I envision myself opening my tight- fisted hands and trusting God to rule my day. After all, He knows what is best for His child, therefore I can rest knowing the Lord is establishing my steps!
When our oldest son Joshua was about 18 months old, Kelli and I were introduced to the teaching of ” first time obedience.” This simply means you train your child to obey your command the first time you give it, not after bribing or reasoning or pleading with them over and over. For example, if you desire for your child to come to you, you simply say in your normal speaking voice, “Come here,” and they should obey. If the child chooses to disobey, you as a parent must chose to be obedient to the Lord by obeying Proverbs 23:13,14. As a young parent, I took this teaching seriously, and there are several reasons I would recommend it to anyone raising young children.
To begin with, it simply makes parenting more enjoyable. Everyone knows how difficult it is to be around disobedient children, especially the parents of the child. Why? Because where there is an unruly child, there you’ll find pride, chaos and disorder. As a result, I have often heard parents shamefully refer to their own children as “little monsters”. It’s as if they’re being held captive, under their own roof by a two or three year old and don’t realize they actually can do something about it! Well parents, if you are reading this post saying, “Yes! That’s me!” I have good news for you . . . BY THE GRACE OF GOD, YOU CAN DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT! And there can be great joy and peace in your home.
Secondly, teaching first time obedience has helped my children learn to obey even when they don’t understand the “how’s and why’s”. Parents, believe it or not, you don’t have to give an explanation to your children for everything you do! (This privilege comes after they learn to obey, not before.) Remember, you are the parent, and they are the child. And contrary to what Bart Simpson teaches, you do know more than they do! For example, a two year old doesn’t need to be asking, “Why?” when you tell her to, “Stand still!” because she is about to run out in front of a speeding car. Teaching first time obedience is actually teaching your child to walk by faith because they are learning to trust and obey you even when they don’t understand everything. (Frequently I am reminded that I am not God and that I make mistakes in parenting and even sin against my children from time to time. This gives me the chance to model before my children humility, repentance and faith in the work of Christ. But it doesn’t hinder me from obeying God and teaching my children to obey.)
Lastly and most importantly, when I teach my children to obey me and Kelli, I am actually teaching them to obey God. The Lord keeps it simple for children when He commands, “Children be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord.”(Col. 3:20) I teach my children that when they obey me and Kelli, they are actually obeying God through us. They need to make the connection that if they are disobeying me, they are disobeying God, but as they obey me, they will be rewarded by God for their obedience.
Now, let’s return to when Joshua was 18 months old.
After first hearing this teaching, I immediately decided to try something that continues to be a blessing to us to this day. I began by giving the command, “Joshua, go get on the couch.” I walked him over to the couch, picked him up gently and sat him down. He smiled and I gave him a big hug and said, “Good!” I then took him off the couch and set him to the side and said the same thing. I also taught him not to get off the couch until I gave him permission to get down. If he obeyed he was rewarded with buckets and buckets of slobbery encouragement. If he disobeyed, I chose to obey Proverbs 15:21. I can’t remember how long it took to train him in this, but it seems like the majority of my work took place in less than 3 evenings. Since then I have trained all my children to do this . . . well . . . actually Joshua helped train Boaz, and Boaz helped with Micah and . . . so on and so on. In other words, I did most of my work with Joshua, and being the good son and brother that he is, he has helped with the rest.
So here’s the benefit. There are times things get crazy in our home. Everyone’s aimlessly yelling and running around, Kelli’s beautiful head is about to pop and I need to quickly re-institute some kind of sanity . . . before we totally lose it! That’s when I say the magic words, “Ok! Everyone on the couch!” And like lightning, they all go running, laughing and smiling the whole way, and jump on the couch! And boom! We have peace and order. ( If you observe the picture above, you’ll notice that Esther is really enjoying herself. It took several “takes” to get this picture the way it is, and believe it or not, she was smiling and having the time of her life on every take! I mention this because I know it might sound like my children are living under some kind of insane military dictator [insane, yes!] but I’m telling you, my family regularly enjoys the fruit that comes from this discipline!)
I hope this post will encourage you as parents to lead your children without fear in a way that brings glory and honor to our Lord Jesus Christ. After all, our power and motivation to live Godly lives is found in Christ’s life, death and resurrection. And as we humbly and passionately obey His commands, glory and honor will be brought to His name (John 15:8-10).