The Second-Most Important Thing a Father can Pray

The Second-Most Important Thing a Father can Pray

May I suggest that after our children’s salvation in Jesus Christ, the second-most important prayer we can pray for our children is actually… a prayer for ourselves: “God, please turn my heart toward my children.”

We need to pray this prayer for at least four reasons.

#1. Our identity is one of being ambassadors of Jesus Christ to our children(Deut. 6, Eph. 6:1-4, 2 Cor. 5:20). God’s clearly revealed will is to use us as the primary evangelizers and disciplers of “our” children. To do this well, our hearts need to embrace what is already true about us: that we have been given this calling. God’s callings are His enablings.

#2. We are easily distracted by everything going on around us.Technology has made our attention spans like that of gnats on espresso. Instant gratification is just milliseconds away. Consequently, we’d rather lick the icing than make the cake. Priorities? What are those? Everything seems equal in importance. We complain about the tyranny of the urgent but in our worst moments we use it is a convenient excuse for why we rarely engage our children on a deeper, spiritual level. What do we really value most? Our hearts must change.
#3. We would rather pursue things that bring us glory.Let’s be honest. Discipling children, even with its joys, is still what sometimes feels like an odyssey into the paranormal that does more to humble us than shower us with accolades of success. We find it easier to give our time to pursuits that we find much more affirming, immediately rewarding and fun. Our hearts must change.

#4. God is conforming our children into his image, not our image.Our children were created in God’s image, not our own. Jesus’ death and resurrection ensures the transformation of his children into his image. Yet, how often do we find ourselves trying to conform them to an identity that wehave planned out for them? God has a plan for “our” children that usually looks different than our own. We have to stop the tug-of-war with God. God’s dream needs to become our dream. Our hearts need to change.

Time is short. It seems to go by ever so slowly until you wake up and realize that you’ve been at it ten years and the things you wanted to do “tomorrow” you didn’t do. Regret is hard to live with. I already regret things I should have done but didn’t because in key moments, my heart was somewhere else.

Good fathers are not perfect (as if that were even possible). Instead, good fathers are weak fathers who have hearts that are increasingly mastered not by guilt, fear, or self-righteousness but by the overwhelming, compelling love of Jesus Christ for us—in our weakness.

His love for us becomes compelling when each day we realize ALL that he has done for us in making us new creations and giving us every spiritual blessing. We have been given a new identity that is rocket fuel for us fathers.

What are you praying for as a father? Is it for God to change your heart toward your children? If so, seeing all that God has already given you in Jesus is a powerful tool he will use to answer your prayer.

Take a look at what Jesus has done for you!

Please consider the following two resources. First, my 38 minute webinar, Three Wounds Fathers Face and How Our Identity in Christ Helps us Overcome Them, and then second, our 25 page booklet, Who ARE You? For Men!
Win the War! Overcome Three Wounds Fathers Face

Win the War! Overcome Three Wounds Fathers Face

Hello, my name is Eric… and I’m a father… Fatherhood is war. There are three common wounds that we fathers struggle with in the battles: failure (our poor performance), fear (lack of confidence to lead), and faithlessness (lack of intentionality). Trouble is, each of these wounds can kill our effectiveness. In this replay of my webinar, we will look at how to overcome each of these wounds and win the war.

Click here for the PDF handout.

More Encouraging Resources

Four Ways for Parents to Seize More Moments

Four Ways for Parents to Seize More Moments

A high school graduation. A marriage. Or perhaps more likely the death of a friend or family member. All are occasions to reflect on how wisely we have invested our time in the people most precious to us. As I graduated my first child, Abigail, from high school this year I was slapped across the face once again with the reality that her days left under my roof are likely very few.

Over the last few months, I have waxed misty-eyed nostalgic about my “little girl” as cherished moments fly through my mind to the sappy chorus of Memories sung by Barbara Streisand. Wow. Did I do enough? Did I accomplish everything I should have accomplished? Perhaps I missed too many moments?

Most moments are just that, moments. Often unscripted. Pure. Vapor. In a day of endless distraction with Lilliputian matters that add little positive value to our lives we would do well to more carpe diem, or to “seize more of the day”. Following are four ways to do that:

  1. Ask God to give you a heart for your children. The prophet Malachi wrote that the coming of the Lord would be heralded by the hearts of fathers being turned to their children. Fathers tend to be more easily disposed to work, not relationships. Asking God to give us hearts for our children is a prayer he loves to answer.
  2. Have a weekly planning time where you review what is happening in your family. As part of this time, start a journal where you write a sentence or two about what you notice going on in the life of each child. This forces you to think about each person at least once per week in a way that will alert you if you are in fact needing to make more relational opportunities.
  3. Be intentional about making time with your children. Since we actually do 90% of what we write down in our calendars, schedule a time in your week to spend time with a child.
  4. Ask your spouse to alert you when they observe you “zone out”, miss a que, or make wrong choices. Speaking personally, I can be sitting right next to one of my children and never hear a word they say. Why? I’m thinking about something else. A problem at work. Or begrudging why the Washington Redskins are such a poorly run football franchise. Since we are often blind to some of our interpersonal failures, asking to be informed while sometimes difficult to hear, is really necessary if we are serious about doing better.

When we are on our death bed we will not wish that we had spent more time at the office. There is a lot of wisdom in this statement but it is still moralism. In fact, my four suggestions by themselves are moralism. They still don’t provide a motivation to want to set aside the facebook timeline or a game of golf and seize the moments with our kids. We are often motivated to do right things for the wrong reasons. This is convicting as a parent. It is much easier to do what we want to do.

I am reminded that the backdrop for Deuteronomy 6:4-9 is Deuteronomy 5:6, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” Before we were parents, we were slaves. But God has redeemed us from that slavery by the blood of his own dear Son. Jesus has bought for us redemption which includes a new identity that is not dependent upon our performance as parents. It also means that our parenting has an eternal and God-glorifying mission to it. Remembering these things and more motivates us differently. It is the only power great enough to compel us to be more intentional when it is hard—and it is often harder than it is easier. Imagine actually wanting to seize moments?!

Freedom for Frustrated Fathers

Freedom for Frustrated Fathers

Maybe it’s a Saturday. You are busy doing any number of things all at once: entering receipts into Quicken, squeezing in a three and a half minute conversation with your wife, or trying to fix the leaky faucet in the kitchen… and then it happens. Like a bolt of lightning screeching from a cumulonimbus cloud, one of your kids rushes in, “Dad! Will you please do something about (insert sibling’s name)?! I am SO SICK AND TIRED of how he doesn’t listen to me!”

It is in those encounters that as fathers we might close our eyes and ask, “WHY is this happening to me—again?!” At worst, we might think, “Why did I ever think it was a good idea to have children?!”

Those are revealing moments. Thankfully, our righteousness is not in our performance as fathers, but irrevocably in Jesus Christ. We can confess such thoughts and our angry, frustrated, or disinterested responses as sin and be forgiven. But wouldn’t it be better to simply have a good response in the first place? Wouldn’t it be better to quit viewing such events as pesky distractions and instead embrace them with a completely different perspective?

Consider the following quote: These guys who fear becoming fathers don’t understand that fathering is not something perfect men do, but something that perfects the man. The end product of childrearing is not the child but the parent.

I do not endorse that statement as a philosophy for parenting. But there is a powerful string of truth in it that is insightful and even biblical. Romans 8:28-29 talks about how God uses “all things” in our lives to conform us to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. For fathers, this includes those situations where we struggle with our kids’ behavior. We should ask God to show us how he is using these situations to reveal how—we—need to change!

I confess that I am often wrapped up in my own issues to the extent that I sometimes don’t see that there are other people—even my own kids who are standing right in front of me—who need/want my help. In fact, I often see those moments as the burdensome requirements of parenting rather than providentially orchestrated opportunities for greater redemption in my own life.

If God is trying to show us something about ourselves, and we refuse to listen, we are kicking against the goads. Often, he uses our spouses and children as his sanctifying tool. We can conquer these tests by asking God, “Ok. What are you teaching ME here?” When we know we’re struggling with our own attitude, asking this question helps position us not only to minister to our children, but to do so in a way that allows us to see God’s redemptive intention for us as well.

When the lightning strikes and we remember that God intends to refine us, too, it humbles and comforts us and then compels us to minister in a truly redemptive way. This provides an entirely different perspective on the otherwise frustrating situations we often encounter with our kids.

 

Five Reasons NOT to Give up on Reading God’s Word as a Family

Five Reasons NOT to Give up on Reading God’s Word as a Family

Family DevotionsWhat are you doing to equip your wife and children to stand firm in their faith?

Do not underestimate the power of regular time in God’s word as a family. I write because I am particularly burdened that God’s Word is easily set aside in our homes.

Yes. Life is busy—almost—to the point of being out of control.  Yes. “Thanks” to I-phones and social media, attention spans are like that of gnats on espresso. It is getting harder to hold the attention of our children long enough to make it through even a light discussion on a few Bible verses. You might rationalize that you are doing a poor job. Perhaps for these and other reasons it is easy to let go of this powerful means of grace: the proclamation of God’s Word in our homes.

Here are five reasons to strive to continue gathering the family around God’s Word.

  1. God’s Word is our only source of Truth. Social order continues to disintegrate as man hedonistically and foolishly seeks truth everywhere but the one place it can be found: God. Let us agree with John in his gospel in 17:17: “Your word is truth” and seek truth there.
  2. Because God’s Word is truth, it speaks authoritatively in our lives. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” This is a timeless promise that should joyfully compel us to seek what God has said about how we should think, speak and make decisions each day for his glory.
  1. God’s word makes our way clear in this world of darkness. The spiritually blind stumble over themselves in their darkness. Psalm 119:105 reminds us that “Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
  2. God’s Word is powerful. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Scripture really is, God’s Word. Because it is powerful, we can be assured that it will accomplish God’s purpose (also see Isa. 55:11).
  3. Because God’s Word is all of these things (and much, much more) we can have peace; assurance; and confidence when everyone else is crippled with anxiety, fear, and depression.

As a husband and father, I know that my performance is not nearly enough to ensure that my wife and children walk with Jesus. It brings me real peace and joy to know that although I am deeply flawed as a messenger of God’s truth, God’s truth is inherently powerful. This is highly motivating to me as I seek to read, discuss, and apply God’s Word with my family.

Paul tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:3, “In the end times people will not be able to endure sound doctrine.” Let us hold fast the word of God in our families so that we will stand strong… not only for our families, but just as importantly, so that we can offer the Truth to those still walking in darkness that they might know the know the hope that is within us.

Men's Seminar

In this mini-seminar, we will deal with the most important obstacle to leadership in the home: our own hearts; our own lack of “want to”.
Will You Say “N0” This Year?

Will You Say “N0” This Year?

Have you make any New Year’s resolutions this year?

If you have not yet carved out some time to quiet yourself and think about some basic goals, especially spiritual goals for yourself, and your family, I exhort you to do so. It really does help recalibrate our lives around what is most important: our walk with Jesus Christ.

Toward that end, may I suggest one resolution that will make a huge difference in reaching this most important goal? Learn to say, “NO!”

Our own growth and our participation in the growth of others in Christ requires good old focus and intentionality which means saying NO to usually very good things such as:

-athletics (that keep families constantly in the car and out of the house multiple nights per week)

-personal hobbies

-church activities

-parties and gatherings

(NOTE that I am not saying these are bad things and I am not saying that everyone must say no to these specific and/or all other activities. The point is, are we willing to say NO if that’s what’s required to achieve the better goal of knowing Jesus more deeply as individuals and families?)

WE SAY NO SO THAT we can say YES to more important pursuits such as:

-Getting to know Jesus better through Bible reading, meditation and prayer as individuals and as a family.

-Making it a regular part of our a schedule to sit down with our spouse, and/or child(ren) to talk deeply about what is going on in each other’s lives and deal with the idolatry that often runs–and ruins–our lives and relationships.

Who on their death-bed ever wishes they had spent more time at the office, the gym or on their favorite electronic device? Life quickly passes and as we age, we realize how much time we’ve wasted on good things that really added no long term value in our lives and the lives of others.

Two important points before I close:

First, how we say NO is important. It must be done in a loving and gentle way that shows empathy and understanding. But this is even more true for how we accept being told NO! We must be understanding and accept someone’s decision to say NO without bitterness, judgment, or sending subtle messages meant to convey disapproval (things which we’ve all done at one time or another). I have been encouraged when people have responded to my saying NO with an affirmation of the friendship and/or acknowledgement of the import of other commitments that led to the NO.

Second, why is all of this so hard? One central reason is that we idolize other people’s approval. We don’t want to be the wet blanket. We don’t want people to wrongly conclude that our saying NO means that we don’t like them or that we don’t see them as important. We crave the approval we get when we say YES.

But the approval idol is at work both ways. For the person who has to hear NO, it can mean battling the feeling that you are not approved because they said NO.

Thankfully, the gospel addresses the approval problem at both ends and frees us to make wise and sometimes hard decisions. We already have all the approval we need from the One whose opinion matters most, God. “We are not our own. We are bought with a price.” (1 Cor. 16:20) God the Father bought us with the precious blood of His Son, Jesus Christ so that we might serve Him not our own expectations or those of others.

Living for him means saying YES to Him. It means joyful obedience. But in order to say YES to Him, we must become better at saying NO to other things. Let us be emboldened to say, “NO”, knowing that we are gaining something that is much more satisfying and fulfilling in return: an eternal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ that unites the church and the home in love.