Practical Proverbial, from 1 Thessalonians, 1 March 2018

And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe1 Thessalonians 2:13 (NIV).

If a Dad’s number one job is to introduce his kids to Jesus, here’s the biggest reason why.  God’s word, through the Spirit of Jesus, works in us every day.   God’s word is at work in those who believe in Him, reshaping thinking and remolding hearts.   God’s word is at work, too, in the lives of those who reject Him, because He still provides everything even for them.   Indeed, God’s very nature is revealed in nature itself, the world He created for His glory and our livelihood.

To recognize God’s provision, dads are also responsible for teaching their kids how to be thankful.   The apostle Paul began many of his writings by expressing thankfulness for the recipients of his letters.   It’s something he learned was part of following Jesus because one can’t follow the Savior of love without being thankful for His love.   Being thankful is central to living out one’s Christ-walk.

We fathers are responsible for teaching our kids many important lessons.   An introduction to Christ, how to be independent, how to think for yourself, how to persevere, the character in a man of integrity; how to fish, how to selectively hear during your favorite TV show, how to say “back in the day” like you know what you’re talking about:   these are all supposed to be “important” things.

But all kidding aside, the most important thing we can teach our kids, next to introducing them to Jesus, is to be thankful like Him.   Jesus continually gave thanks for His friends, for food, for everything.  Paul later modeled that for the churches he mentored as he worked to live out Christ’s calling.

You know we should do the same.   You and I both know people who seem ungrateful, who walk around with a little black rain cloud hovering over their heads, who seem to want happiness but fail to realize that the only real happiness in the world is found on a walk with Christ.  Those people matter; they’re our family and friends.   The first, best thing we can and must do for them is be thankful.   We should be thankful for them, thankful for our lives, thankful for every breath God gives us.   If we emulate this Christ-like thankfulness, there’s a better than average chance it’ll rub off.

It starts with you and me.   Today, every chance we can, let’s remember to thank God for everything we can think of.   Thank other people for even the smallest of things.   Before you know it, things inside of you will start to change.

For further reading: Psalm 8:3-4, Romans 1:8, Hebrews 4:12, 1 Thessalonians 2:14.

Lord, thank You for providing, for all You do.   Help me to model this for others.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Thessalonians, 27 February 2018

For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.  1 Thessalonians 2:111-12 (NIV).

Dad’s love unconditionally and hold you accountable.   Dads love their kids, or at least they should, and they impart of themselves into their kids by encouraging, comforting, and urging them to live lives worthy of God.   That means teaching them how to make their ways in the world, how to do what they love to do, how to be strong, how to get along with others.   Dads are supposed to also teach their kids about Jesus, imparting to them lessons that the Maker wants him to tell them so they can come to know the Maker as well.

At least that’s what we’re supposed to do.  News flash:  we dads don’t always do a great job at it.

Take me.  but I do wish I had done better for my own kids.   I wish I had not obsessed so much about grades, making their beds, the music they listened to or the movies they watched; you know, things that don’t really matter that much.   Sure, it’s important to work hard to get good grades, and it’s important to garner the self-discipline you get from making your bed.   Those things are important, but compared to Jesus they don’t matter very much.  More than anything else, I wish I had done more to live out my life for Jesus and be a better example of Him to the three people who watched me most.   As a young dad, I did a poor job at this.

None of us are blameless; I’m not blameless.   I let my job, my selfish desires, and my own obsessions get in the way of being a better dad.   But if the best thing we can say is “I did my best” then that applies to me too.   My dad did his best with me, and I can say I did my best with my own kids.

News flash again:   it’s not about me.   That’s the first lesson we dads should teach our kids.

I’m betting that’s how Paul and his companions dealt with the Thessalonians.  It’s a good bet to assume they worked to be selfless, to be caring and patient and loving with these new friends.   Unless they were those things, it would be difficult at best to encourage, comfort, and urge the Thessalonians to live Godly lives.   Only someone who’s living selflessly and teaching selflessly can really impart those Christ-like qualities to the people they love.

In other words, Paul and his friends acted like dads.   Like the men Jesus wanted them to be.

For further reading: 1 Thessalonians 2:13.

Lord Jesus, thank You for being my Maker, my friend, my Savior, but my brother.  Thank You for letting me be a dad.   Always help me to do my best for You and others.

Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 21 September 2017

Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness.  Hebrews 12, verses 9-10.

The other day I mentioned my parents, stating that they weren’t physical disciplinarians.   After my sister and I entered elementary school, I don’t remember Mom or Dad ever spanking us.   Especially Dad.   Spanking and physical discipline just wasn’t part of him.  Yet for years I thought my father was a weak man.   It was only after I grew up that I realized how wrong I was, that he was actually a good and fundamentally decent man who stood fast on principles.   Dad ‘shook off’ a lot because, if it didn’t interfere with his principles, then it didn’t matter so much.  But he rarely gave an inch when his principles were called into question.

One of those principles was that a person, especially a man, should always do their best.   I never really knew the side of my father who worked in an office.   Dad was an ammunition inspector for the Army, and I don’t recall ever seeing him in the office (because he worked on Army bases where we usually didn’t go).   But I have a box full of awards from his 30 years of work testifying that he had always done a great job.   I do remember Dad working around the house, doing all kinds of home improvements.   He self-taught those things; nobody taught him how fix electrical wiring, hang drywall, or make home repairs.   When I was growing up, except for a two year period where we lived in a house that needed no work, I don’t think I could have named a weekend when my dad didn’t work hard at something.

He always did his best.

Since I got out of the Air Force 21 years ago I have worked for eight different companies (nine if you count my own in that I’m currently an independent consultant).   I can honestly say that, for most of those jobs, I did my best.   A few times I didn’t, and one time I didn’t cost me a job last year.   I felt betrayed by those people; maybe some day I’ll share the rest of the story.   But the long and short of it was that they abandoned me so I abandoned them and it showed in my work.   These days, I love what I’m doing.   I enjoy the work, I really enjoy the team I’m working with and the ones I’m leading, and I am energized at the challenge of the task.   It’s a pleasure to do my best.   When you think about it, I wouldn’t be where I am in this job if “those people” last year hadn’t launched me along the trajectory I’m traveling today.   That’s something to be thankful for.  See what happens when you do your best?

Have you considered that God is doing His best as well?   Moreover, He’s doing it for you, on your behalf, for your good.    God made you legitimate.  He bought you back from the consequences of your sins and set you on a better path.  He gave His Son for you.  He gives you food, air, water, shelter, other people, and love and you don’t have to do anything to deserve them.   You and I are on God’s mind 24/7 even when He isn’t on ours.   Have we really considered that God does His best for us every day, even when we refuse to notice?

It seems so easy to question God when things aren’t going well for us.   It seems so easy to curse His name when we’re up against the wall, or when we don’t get what we want.   Yet have you considered that these are times when God allows (or brings) adversity into our lives to refine us for better things?   I know this is true in my own life, and it hurts when it happens.   But things always turn out for the best eventually.  God gives us only what we can handle and asks us to handle the negative things only so that it will lead us back to Him somehow.   Through them all, He still provides those things mentioned above whether we are in want or in plenty.

God’s a father like me, like my dad.   He gives us His best in all things.   It’s a trustworthy, true thing to believe, to make the bedrock of your life.  Today would be a good day to make sure we do the same for others because of Him.

For further reading:  Numbers 16:22, Revelation 22:6, Isaiah 38:16, 2 Peter 1:4.

Lord, thank You for doing Your best for me.   Your best is simply You because nothing is better than You.

 

Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 19 September 2017

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?  Hebrews 12, verse 7.

When we think of parental discipline, we tend to think of punishment, that discipline is strict or harsh or carries negative connotations.   That’s all sometimes true, but it’s also only half the picture and I think it misses the kind of discipline God is advising us to share with others.  My parents weren’t harsh.   They weren’t physical disciplinarians (though we got occasional spankings) but they could sometimes be cold.   Mom and Dad had my sister and I when they were older, in their thirties (a rarity in the 1960s), and I don’t think they had it in them to be physically harsh or abusive.   They had struggled to build a family and didn’t want to be physical.  Yet they could sometimes be distant, disconnected, even mean.   They yelled and argued from time to time; what couple doesn’t.   But that was the extent of their ‘violence.’

I wish, now, that they had felt closer to God, seeing Him as a providing Father.   I wish they had been more active in ‘discipling’ us.   God, our Father, is, and in being our disciplinarian, He plays many roles.

Mentor – I believe God schools us as parents.   He wants us to be, first and foremost, mentors to our kids.  Life is the most precious gift He gives, and He gives it to we the people as parents.   We get to create these little beings like ourselves, then raise them and teach them how to live in this world.   God wants us to mentor them so they will know Him, then know the ways of the world.   By focusing kids’ view of the world through God, we teach them that He is supreme over all.   That He is the provider, giver, and lover of all.   That He is all through the world yet close inside their hearts.   The best teachers for that lesson are Mom and Dad.   They can most effectively teach it by modeling that relationship, by inspiring their kids through active examples.

Show and tell – God gives us a world to live in so that we can teach our kids how to do the same.   Sometimes that involves teaching tough lessons; sometimes it involves standing by while we watch those kids learn those tough lessons on their own.  Yet we equip them to persevere and succeed if we mentor them in the ways of the Lord, then show them how to apply that teaching in all they do.  It’s like a game of show and tell, where you bring something and show it off to your class.   In parenting, our class is our kids, and they’re interested, engaged, ready to learn.   How about we teach them about their Savior?

Listening – One of the first times I remember really connecting with my father was the night my girlfriend (my fiancée actually) and I had a huge fight.  I stayed up all night, so upset that I couldn’t sleep.   Dad woke up and asked me what was wrong.   He then spent the rest of the night listening to me talk through the relationship from start until it’s (soon to be) finish.   I believe God put it on his heart to listen to me that night, so that when he finally did open up and share some of his own story I would be ready to receive it and understand.

Leading – Finally, we must lead.  This isn’t an option:   it’s a requirement.  You may not be comfortable ‘leading from the front’ but if you’re going to be a parent (and especially if you’re going to live as a God-fearing and God-following one) then you must lead.   You don’t have to be General Patton; you aren’t Billy Graham.  God didn’t make you to be either of them (unless He did).  Instead, He made you to be you, with your own memories, experiences, and abilities.   When you’re a parent, it’s your duty – and your privilege – to lead your kids and grandkids to the Lord.   You get to serve as the go-between, facilitating the relationship they can have with their Creator.   You do that by leading, by being yourself and using your talents to inspire others.

Sometimes doing all this involves tough love.   Today’s verse reminds us of that.   Sometimes that’s even the approach God takes with us.   God doesn’t bring sin into our lives but He can and does allow, even move, sin’s consequences to affect us.   That feels harsh when it happens, but He does it to build us up.  After all, the Proverb reminds us that ‘iron sharpens iron.’  Yet even in those times of adversity, God’s providing love is still with us.   If you’re a parent, you can understand that.   You love your kids even when you discipline them because, after all, they’re disciples and you want them to grow strong.   Now go out and prove it.

For further reading:  Deuteronomy 8:5, 2 Samuel 7:14, Proverbs 13:24, Proverbs 27:17.

My Lord, I praise You for the tough love You show, for discipline in my life, and for building me up through all of it.

Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 18 September 2017

And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”  Hebrews 12, verses 5-6.

If you’ve read this blog for awhile, you know I have three kids (and three grandkids).   The most important task I have on this planet is to “go and make disciples.”   I do that by using the talents God has given me to shine in front of others.   All that starts with my kids.  When I was a young man, I wasn’t interested in being a parent.   I wanted to see the world, do great things, be ‘somebody.’  Long before my kids were born, I thought I was destined for greatness, to be famous, to do big things in a big world.   As a dad (and now a grand-dad), I’ve done all that.  Looking at life from the other side of the parental glass, God guided me to see the world with my kids, to do great things with them.   I’m somebody in their eyes.   They think I’m great, I’m the world famous Dad Bod from Paris, and I’ve lived large because of them.

Nowadays, I see that the most important task I’ve been given on this planet starts with sharing Jesus with my kids and grandkids.   I didn’t always see things this way; it’s been a long time coming.   Along the way, I’ve made serious mistakes, I’ve been a hypocrite, I have failed over and over.   Yet I’ve also usually done my best, and I realize now that the good things and bad alike are gifts from God.   I give them to my kids as gifts by sharing how I behave, what I believe, what I do with them in the perspective of trying to live out the words in my Bible and the things I share here.

Here in America, we idealize our kids.   We put them on pedestals, spending exorbitant amounts of money spoiling them.   Nothing is too good for our kids; nothing they want is out of reach no matter what it costs us.  Have you realized yet that we have it backwards?   Our kids (usually) don’t want lavish spending.   Our kids want we parents to lavish love on them.   We don’t do that by buying them things.   We do it by first sharing the lavish love of Jesus.

And it aint always easy.   Sometimes I still rebuke my grown-up kids.   Sometimes I say things they don’t want to hear, but I rarely do so off the cuff.  When I speak up it’s because there’s something I want them to know, even if it’s just “I love you.”   We have to remember that the core of “discipline” involves a disciple and discipling.  More than any other role in this world, I want my kids to be disciples of Jesus.  I’d my honor to parent them along that disciple’s path.

Larry Elder is one of the people I follow on Twitter.   He often quotes that the single biggest problem in the ‘black community’ today is the absence of fathers.  Statistically and realistically, kids do better and have a better shot at a happy, successful life if both a mom and a dad are present in a committed relationship.   I believe that’s true in every situation, not just in the black homes of America.   No I’m not disparaging single parent homes, especially single mom homes.   I’m simply sharing a factual statistic with which I agree.   After all, it’s the model Jesus instituted and the one He modeled in His own life.

We don’t know what happened to Joseph after Jesus became an adolescent.   Sometime after the incident where Jesus was left at the Temple, Joseph disappeared.   He probably died; he’s absent from the rest of the Gospels and Jesus doesn’t say.   Some folks would think this means Jesus was raised in a house where there had been a deadbeat dad.  Some infer a message of “see, dad’s don’t matter.”   Both of those interpretations are greatly lacking in both insight and common sense.   A better way to look at it is that Joseph’s role was complete.   His mission was complete (and successful) and his purpose fulfilled.  http://www.allaboutjesuschrist.org/joseph-the-father-of-jesus-faq.htm says that “Perhaps the cause or timing of his death is not nearly as important as the strength of character he displayed.”   I like that interpretation, because it jives with the entirety of his adopted son’s life.  Joseph trained Jesus in the worldly skills of carpentry and working with people.   He stood by Him even before He was born by refusing to deny Mary as his wife.   He took Jesus to the synagogue, and he imparted on Jesus patterns of behavior that were displayed all through the adult ministry we know about.   Joseph raised other sons and daughters with Mary, and he taught Jesus how to be a big brother, how to be both family and friend.  Have you ever considered that Jesus did some of the wonderful things He did not just because He was God, but because He was God who also learned at the feet of a good step-father?

Someday I’d like to ask Joseph how he handled things as a father.   Dad to dad I’d like to ask him a few questions.   I’m betting that, in the conversation, Joseph might just say it was the most important task of his life:   discipling the Man who he would follow as the Savior of his life.

For further reading:  Psalm 94:12, Psalm 119:75, Revelation 3:19, Proverbs 3:11-12.

Lord, help me as a parent to live out a good example for my kids and all the folks around me.

 

Daily Proverbial, from James, 25 November 2013

 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. James 3, verse 17.

The sermon topic on Sunday was John 3:16:   For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son that whoever believes in him shall have eternal life.   It was the first time in my life that someone had broken down that verse (which really explains the entire Bible) into understandable chunks that each reveal the splendor and forever love of God.   Later, when I read today’s verse I realized something.  Stop me if I’m wrong, but couldn’t this verse from James 3 also work just fine as the one after John 3:16?  God created us to share heaven, to be part of it now and forever.  He did it selflessly, fully, and eternally because He is all pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive and full of mercy.   Is it just me or do the two verses go together?

Later (again) I also thought a lot about the verse while writing this because yesterday was my Dad’s birthday.   It has taken me years to be able to say that I miss him even though he died in 1997.   Now that he’s gone, I can say that he was a good man who tried his best to be a good father, a hard worker, and a decent man.  When he was here, Dad was peace-loving, considerate, submissive, merciful, bearing good fruit, impartial and sincere.   He was a good man while still being just a man.   His flaws were my flaws and the flaws in my life are ones he would have understood.   Yet he lives today because God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son so that men who believed in him would have eternal life. 

Dad was an intellectual.   He revered the human intellect, learning, and the process of learning.   More than that, I think he enjoyed being part of things where people became better than they were.   Dad liked to learn, teach, and do, and he liked combining those things in his work and his rest.  I think it’s why he had the career he did, teaching people how to properly safely use guns and ammunition.  Toward the end of his life, when the career was done, he couldn’t do many of the things he had always planned to do; cancer prevented it.   Yet he still found time to contemplate wisdom, to put first things first and consider where he was headed.   He told me that he didn’t want to die, but that he understood it and wasn’t afraid of it and that he knew heaven would be a good place.  He knew it because Jesus’ wisdom is all pure, and given so that we might have eternal life.   Happy birthday Dad.

Wise Jesus who gave all, thank You for Your eternal love.

 

Do you know someone wise?

Read the two verses again.   What are they telling you?

How would you describe wisdom from heaven?