Being a Father in a Child’s World

Being a Father in a Child’s WorldHumans are self-aware. Some people are more or less aware of themselves than others, but it is safe to say that we are conscious of ourselves all the time.

We are aware enough to avoid doing things that might be inappropriate or embarrassing. We are aware enough to know our responsibility at work, or whether people of interest to us are nearby.

Yet for all that self-awareness, and possibly because of it, we often fail to see ourselves as others see us. This is particularly important in our role as a parent.

I was reminded of this in recent years as a Grandad. I was visiting one of my children and the suggestion was made that some of the grandchildren might like to have a sleep-over at Nanna and Grandad’s house. The children showed great enthusiasm for the suggestion. I was a little surprised because I don’t think my home is particularly interesting to young children.

What I had to recognise is that my grandchildren see me through their eyes. They see me as a very significant person in their life, as a grandad. I might see myself as an older man, with greying hair, interested in matters that children wouldn’t even understand. I might see myself as of no interest to young children, but to some young children I hold a special place.

I remembered how much I enjoyed visiting my grandparents and exploring around their home and yard. They might have spent most of their time talking with my parents, but they were still very special people in my world.

King Solomon knew that fathers hold a special place in the lives of their children.

“Children’s children are the crown of old men; and the glory of children are their fathers.” Proverbs 17:6

I recall how proud I was of my dad as a child. Everything my dad did seemed important and seemed to set him above others in my mind.

When I did things I wanted my dad to see me and I valued his appreciation.

How sad that the majority of dads fail to see themselves through their child’s eyes. They might know that their opinion doesn’t count for much, so they don’t see any real need to show their ignorance. But to the child an affirmation from a father is solid gold.

Maybe we should teach dads to say something like, “That looks pretty good to me!” and “I think you are Amazing!” That’s what many a child wants to hear.

Sadly, over time, children can turn to scorning their father. If a dad has made a major investment in his child that child will hold their respect for the father much longer.

It is a sad reality that we instinctively form our impression of God, that great, external authority figure, based on our impressions of our dad. We are likely to expect God to be like our father.

If our father is uncaring or demanding, we might see God that way. If our father is hard to get through to then we may feel God is hard to connect with to. If our father is moody and changeable we find it hard to believe God is not equally as unpredictable.

Now, since God is perfect, no father will adequately represent Him. But we should at least be aware that the tone we set in our home and in relationship with our wife and children sets an unconscious expectation in our children, as to what God is like.

I suggest that dads take time out from time to time, starting right now, to observe their children and consider where they fit in the child’s world. Even if the child is rebellious or difficult, remind yourself that you are the only father your child has and your child has an innate desire to admire and to be in close fellowship with you.

Consider how you can take just a few minutes to connect with your child. Maybe some of the tasks your dump on your wife, such as listening to their schoolwork and reading, or reading them a story, can be picked up by you at times.

Maybe you can just ask them to give you an update on how things are going with them. Don’t turn that into an interrogation, but take genuine interest. Maybe you could also ask them, “Is there some way I can help you, or are you doing fine?”

I know dads who take their older children for coffee from time to time, or even once a week. I know dads who coach their child’s team or take the child off to some activity they can do together. That’s all great.

The important thing to keep in mind is that you are part of your child’s world. Yes, they are in your world, but they too have a world they see through their eyes. You are in that world, and it is wise for you to see how you fit in for them and the good and bad of how your are going.

Watch how you react to your children. They are not as grown up and tough as you are and their tender hearts can be deeply wounded by your insensitivity.

The end result you are aiming for is that your heart is turned to your children and each child’s heart is turned to you. If that doesn’t happen then the situation works out to be like a curse.

“He will turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” Malachi 4:6

May the Lord open your eyes and help you see how you can make the most of Being a Father in Your Child’s World.

How’s Your Reality Check?

We are instructed in scripture to think soberly about ourselves. We are inclined to see things through our own lens and to excuse our wrongs and over value our assets. So it’s always wise to do a Reality Check on who we are and how we are tracking.

“By the grace given to me I say to each of you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith which God has assigned.” Romans 12:3

Thinking soberly about ourselves is a wise instruction, but the hitch is that we can often be deluded and fail to see our own reality.

I have helped various people suffering from bi-polar disorder, which was once called being Manic-Depressive. One chap, in his manic state, set off to start a business that was obviously doomed from the outset. He later told me that he was euphoric with excitement about how easy it was going to be for him to succeed.

That kind of delusional thinking frustrates our attempts to see clearly what is really going on in and around our lives.

Another chap I think of had extreme persecution notions, confident that everyone around him was determined to make life miserable for him. No amount of reasoning with him changed his mind. No wonder his marriage failed and he found himself friendless.

While most of us are not so extreme in our personal delusions the fact is we are highly likely to be misguided and blinded about things relating to us and our lives.

The instruction is to think soberly, clearly taking stock of ourselves for who we are. In particular we are to be clearly aware of what God has given us, the ‘measure of faith God has assigned’ us. That instruction is linked to not thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought to think. So pride and over-rating ourselves is a potential problem for us all.

I have heard of several reports indicating that people convicted of serious crimes rate themselves much more favourably than the normal community would. We often find in children an overconfidence about what they could do if given opportunity. We all like to be thought of more favourably than we deserve.

What does the evidence say about you? Who are you? What has God placed in you and what are you doing to make good use of it?

Some people carry vain dreams of achieving things, which will never come to pass. They would be much better off to face the truth about themselves. So what is the reality of your life and potential? Are you thinking soberly about the gifts and capacities God has given you?

One of the blessings I have discovered in working in team settings is to recognise there are people with real skills and natural abilities in areas that I struggle. I would love to have those abilities but I don’t. Yet people also tell me they are amazed at what I can do in areas that come naturally to me.

So I have had to give up some hopes and dreams, recognising God has not graced me with the right set of capacities. At the same time I have had to recognise where I am gifted and to employ the capacities God has given me.

Many years ago I was able to make some connections with people wanting to bring foreign students to Australia. I thought of that as an opportunity God was giving to me. I had no idea how to capitalise on the contacts so I went and spoke with an older Christian businessman, hoping he might work with me to get a business up and running.

Instead, the man shut down my hopes. He pointed out to me that I knew nothing about the travel and accommodation industry, or about the risks, insurances, challenges, etc. He pointed out that there are many companies already specialising in those areas who not only knew how to compete with me, but also how to exploit my vulnerabilities if they felt I was a threat to them, or they just wanted to take over my business.

He also pointed out to me that I had a number of natural talents and years of experience in media, communication and ministry. He strongly urged me to drop the idea of building a brand new business and to concentrate on the natural skills and areas of expertise that were already mine.

I didn’t like the conversation, but it pointed out one of my weaknesses. I love ideas and new things, and am not so strong on follow through of previous ideas. I would have rushed at the new business but not have had the stamina to press through the learning curve that was needed.

It was one of the Reality Check moments for me along the way.

So, while there’s many other aspects of this which I could bring up, let me leave it here and simply prompt you with the question, How’s Your Reality Check?

Keep It Fresh

Many years ago I assisted Wayne, a young husband, who was being treated badly by his wife. Wayne felt totally committed to his vow to love his wife and so he continued to forgive her for what she said and did and to keep expecting that the marriage could be restored.

The wife divorced him and threw a party the day the divorce was finalised, yet he continued to be determined to love his wife.

At the time, reflecting on what Wayne was going through, I gained a fresh insight into what commitment can be like. It is easy to volunteer for something on the spur of the moment, or to feel good about something when all is rosy. But when things get tough many people drop out.

A friend told me yesterday of his daughter doing a rather challenging Paramedic course. The course is famous for the high level of people who drop out during the first year. That kind of dropping off is often the case, especially in challenging circumstances.

Jesus talked about that, too, in His parable of the Seed in different Soils. The seed that fell in the rocky ground could not find deep root and so the plant shrivelled when the sun was hot. Jesus explained that people without depth will get excited at first, but will fail when they face difficulties.

“Seed among the rocks are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But they have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away.” Luke 8:13

People who can stick with their word and their commitments in the face of challenges are rare and honourable. This is the way we are meant to be in all aspects of our life.

If you are a shallow, irresponsible person, who can’t be relied on, then there is a lot of work needed in your inner life. You may need God to plough the soil of your heart and dig out the rocks of selfishness, independence, weakness, fear, pride and the like, that keep you from being a fully reliable person.

Wonderfully, God is on your side, even if you are a very weak person. He is able to uphold you and He is willing to carry you through, as you call on Him. God will also take out the stony heart within you and replace it with a tender, soft heart.

“I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26

What I saw happening in Wayne’s life, that was so wonderful, despite how hard it was for him, was that he kept his commitment to his wife fresh. By ‘fresh’ I mean that he didn’t just hold onto his old commitment to her, but re-made that commitment regularly.

Let me explain it this way. A man finds a wife and commits to love her. He says to her, “I love you.” Then he finds out she is a much more difficult person to live with than he thought. So he stops and re-thinks his commitment. He said “I love you”, thinking she was one kind of person, but now he finds out she is different. So he re-calibrates and decides to make a Fresh commitment, and he says to her, “I love you.”

The second “I love you” is not a repeat of the first, even though the words sound the same, because in heart he is making that commitment to a wife who is difficult, instead of to the dream wife he imagined her to be.

Then she lies to him, betrays him, mocks him, humiliates him and scorns him. Again he has to re-think his commitment to loving her, now that he knows how unpleasant she can be. Drawing a deep breath, and making inner resolve to love his wife, despite how horribly she treats him, he says, “I love you”. Again this sounds like a repeat of past words, but internally these are completely fresh words, reflecting a completely fresh commitment to his wife. This time he is saying, “I love you, despite how horribly you treat me.”

The wife then goes and has an affair, hoping to drive away her husband. This hurts the man deeply so he has to once again re-think his commitment to her. He deals with his internal hurt and shame and decides that despite her actions he is still committed to loving her. So, once again, he says, “I love you.” But this time, the words speak of a brand new fresh and even deeper commitment on his part.

The wife might rebuff him and say, “Stop saying the same old thing over and over again.”

But he could reply, “I’m not saying the same thing. Every time I say ‘I love you’ it is a fresh commitment, a freshly deeper declaration of my will to continue to love you despite how severely you oppose me.”

Years ago I wrote that thought as a poem titled ‘A Fresh I Love You’.

But today I want to take that principle, the idea of keeping things ‘fresh’ as we face new depths of challenge and growth, and encourage you to apply it widely in your life.

Do you love your spouse, your children and your extended family? Have they hurt and disappointed you? Can you recognise the challenges that now exist in your relationships and make the choice to love them afresh, loving them and forgiving them and wanting the best for them, despite how they disappoint, hurt and offend you?

How would it be if today you were to refresh all your relationships, recalibrating them, getting back to manufacturer’s settings, applying God’s grace, wiping away all the negatives, because you made a fresh commitment to them?

What about your walk with God?

Have you gone cold on your walk with Him? Have you become offended because God asked hard things of you or didn’t rescue you in some situation where you felt He should?

Have you withheld praise and adoration, and gotten on with the other things of your life? Have you gone cold on prayer and reading God’s Word? Have you given up going to church and connecting with God’s people?

It’s time to make things ‘Fresh’ again. It’s time to dig deep and realise that you can remain faithful and recommit to your past commitments, and find grace to overcome those disappointments, hurts and frustrations. You can put aside your selfishness and love and bless people, and love and serve God, with all the joy and excitement you’ve ever known, by making fresh commitment from deep within.

So, my friends, today and every day from now on, I call on you to Keep it Fresh!

Do Unto Others

Christians have a wonderful ‘Golden Rule’ that prompts us to fulfil the second greatest commandment. Jesus said the second greatest commandment is to Love Our Neighbour as Ourself.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as you love yourself.” Matthew 22:37-39

Jesus also gave us what we call the Golden Rule, when He instructed His disciples to do to others what we would wish others to do to us.

“Whatever you wish that men would do to you, you do even the same to them: for this is the law and the prophets.” Matthew 7:12

Human nature has an opposite form of the ‘Do Unto Others’ rule. Instead of calling us to do to others what we want them to do to us, our human nature would rather repay others for the hurtful things we feel they have done to us.

Vengeance runs deep in the veins of human nature. It is an instinct often seen in young children, so it’s hardly a learned process, but more an expression of the fallen human nature.

We react to others with a retort, vengeance, spite, retaliation, rejoicing in their ills and so on. This is the opposite of treating people the way we would wish to be treated. The selfish ‘Do Unto Others’ is the spiteful ‘I will make you suffer because of what you did to me.’

Think of the things you may have heard people say when they have been upset.

“If that’s the way you feel about it you can forget about getting any support from me!”

“How dare you say that!”

“I’ll show you.”

What is interesting in this rather natural vengeance reaction is that people often to do others the very thing they would accuse the other of doing to them. If someone is angry to them, they will be angry back. If someone shows lack of care toward them they show lack of care in return.

Yet, even though they have done the same thing they didn’t want done to them they will blame the other for what they did, on the basis “You did it first!”

This is hypocrisy, yet we excuse it when we are driven by our own self interest.

So we end up with silly situations like these:

“My spouse treats me poorly so I just ignore him (or her) and make them suffer!”

“My children don’t respect me or appreciate me so I don’t do anything for them any more.”

“My work associates try to get one up on me, so I am delighted when I can get one up on them.”

“She never was a very good wife so she deserves what she got!”

We are really poor at suffering wrong and blessing those who offend us, or are our enemies. Yet that is what Christ asks us to do.

“To those of you who will listen I say, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Luke 6:27,28

We are also told that it is not our place to punish people for the evil they do, even if they do it to us. Vengeance belongs to God not to us. We are not given the authority to take revenge, act in spite or pay people back for what they have done.

“Vengeance is mine, and recompense, for the time when their foot will slip; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and their doom comes swiftly.” Deuteronomy 32:35

“Do not avenge yourselves, beloved, but leave room for God’s wrath. For it is written: Vengeance is Mine; I will repay, says the Lord.” Romans 12:19

When you ‘Do Unto Others’ is it doing to others what you want them to do to you, or is it the doing of retaliation and spite? Do you bless or are you into ‘payback’?

As someone who belongs to Christ your heart is not to be one of spite and retaliation.

To those of you who have a heart of spite toward your spouse, family members or others, I challenge you to check your heart. You are acting like an unregenerate heathen, and not like Christ, who brings grace, and you are not following the instruction of Christ, and you are taking on yourself a privilege that belongs to God. Instead you are to love those you currently feel bad feelings toward.

“Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against any of your people, but love your neighbour as yourself. I am the LORD.” Leviticus 19:18

Friends, it’s time to stop and take account of how you Do Unto Others.

Power and Praise

Let me suggest to you that there are two key characteristics of the Christian life that should stand out for any who care to see it, Power and Praise.

I recall this pair being celebrated in a chorus by Dave Richards, popular since 1977.

“For I’m building a people of power And I’m making a people of praise

That will move through this land by My Spirit And will glorify My precious Name.”

Richards saw Power and Praise as two significant characteristics of Christian life.

Christian life is a life of Power. Through Christ we have power over Sin and the Devil and power to change our personal life and transform all the things that we are engaged in.

The Apostle Paul, among so many others, is a prime example of how a life can be radically changed by an encounter with Christ. He was killing Christians until he saw a vision of Christ and was called to serve the one he persecuted.

Christians have power through Christ in them and through the ministry of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Christians employ the power of prayer and use their authority to resist the devil, making him flee.

Ordinary people, without Christ, have to fend for themselves in dealing with fears, failures, weaknesses, problems, habits, broken relationships, slavery to sin, demonic attack, and many other things that oppress us in life. They don’t have access to the comfort of the Holy Spirit or the wisdom that comes from God’s Word. 

In short, they are powerless in so many situations where the Christian has power to take action, pray, find wisdom, employ spiritual power tools (binding and loosing, resisting the devil), be built up by the word of God and the presence of the Holy Spirit, employ the fruit of the Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit, and so on.

Christians have opportunity to stand out in this world as amazingly resilient, peaceful, wise, free, joyful, loving, effective, enduring, gracious, patient, faithful, consistent and victorious.

That’s because a key characteristic of Christianity is Power. Christians are the most powerful people on the planet, not in their own strength, but through Christ, God the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Christians are also a people of Praise. Christians experience the most amazing gifts of grace into their lives and so at their deepest level they are joyfully thankful and released to praise God.

We see in scripture that when people encountered God in a wonderful way they seemed to spontaneously praise God.

Peter and John met a lame man sitting at one of the entrances to the Temple. Peter healed the man, who walked and jumped up and down, and he praised God.

“And leaping up, he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.” Acts 3:8

On the Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was poured out on a huge gathering of the disciples, they spontaneously praised God, using languages they had never learned.

“Cretes and Arabians, we hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.” Acts 2:11

The Apostle John was caught up to heaven and saw several groups of people who were there, and he recorded their praising of God.

“Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” Revelation 4:11

“In a loud voice they said: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and blessing!” Revelation 5:12

“After this I heard a sound like the roar of a great multitude in heaven, shouting: Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God!” Revelation 19:1

The Apostle Peter declared that we are created to praise God.

“You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, to declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” 1Peter 2:9

So, you see, Christians are a people of praise. And we are a people of power.

Christians who are strong in faith and enjoying an active Christian life tend to display both these qualities of Power and Praise. In fact, they tend to go hand in hand. When we experience the power of God we are more likely to express our praises to God.

Sadly there are Christians who don’t seem to evidence either power or praise. Maybe they are so defeated and crushed and have not had their faith encouraged to receive more of what God has for them.

Maybe they are too focused on this world and their troubles to be able to appreciate the spiritual power available to them and the work God is working in them.

How would you rate yourself on the Power and Praise scale? How many times each month do you sense the power of God in your life? How often do you employ the many power tools of your faith to see blessing for yourself and others? How confident do you feel about relying on the power of God in your life and circumstances?

If you commit your problems to God and then rest, with peace and confidence, assured that everything will work out for your good, then you are enjoying the power of God in your life. If you worry over everything and fret, unsure that God can and will help you, then you are living far away from the power that is available to you through Christ.

And what about Praise? Do you frequently praise God each day? Is the spontaneous word of your mouth a word of faith and praise, with thanksgiving to God? Or do you express your fears and anxieties?

Here’s a suggestion to help you tap into the power of God and to release praise to Him.

Do what King David did. David praised God and encouraged himself in God, when he was afraid and anxious.

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise. In God I trust. I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” Psalm 56:3,4

King David lived as a man of praise to God, expressing his faith, seemingly deliberately, even when he didn’t feel like it.

“Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted in me? Hope in God: for I will yet praise him for the help of his countenance.” Psalm 42:5

David used praise as a way of expressing his faith and pressing through for the blessings of God. So, Christian, since you are created to show God’s praises, I urge you to deliberately begin praising God, thanking Him for anything you can think of, and calling on Him for His power and grace to be shown in your life.

“In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1Thessalonians 5:18

Another way to say it is to ‘Count Your Blessings’, or ‘Be Thankful’, or ‘Rejoice in the Lord Always’.

You have an amazing heritage by being God’s Child through your faith in Christ. You have been Born Again and adopted into God’s family, where God is your loving Heavenly Father. Press in for all that God has for you, through His power at work in your life.

Do not settle for less. Remember, you have been called by God to become a person of Power and Praise