The Children’s Bread

Citizens of any nation have a special status, based on their inherited right, or chosen right for those who take on citizenship. Jesus Christ celebrated that special status, so it is enshrined in political reality. Sadly we are seeing an erosion of this special status, so it is timely to investigate our God-endorsed rights.

Children

Jesus Christ spoke of the natural national citizens as “children”.

On one occasion Peter made a mistake in his encounter with the administrators of his day. Peter was approached and asked if his master paid tribute money. Peter unwisely said that he did. Jesus then challenged Peter about Peter’s thinking on this matter.

“When they came to Capernaum those that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Does not your master pay tribute? He said, Yes. And when he came into the house Jesus detained him, saying, What do you think, Simon? Who do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute from? Is it from their own children, or from strangers? Peter said to him, From strangers. Jesus said to him, Then the children are free. However, so we don’t offend them, go to the sea and cast an hook, and take up the first fish that comes up; and when you open his mouth, you will find a piece of money: take that, and give to them for me and you.” Matthew 17:24-27

Why Children

Every citizen is a ‘child’ of the cultural family to which he or she belongs. That is significant and I will probably discuss that point in more depth at some other time.

Suffice it to say right now that what starts as a ‘family’ really should stay as a family. However, what tends to happen is that our leaders stop being ‘fathers’ to us and become greedy brothers and sisters who sell out the ‘family’ for personal status and reward.

Good government does not penalise its own family, but rewards it. Good government creates a wonderful environment for its own children. Good government then taxes the foreigners (“strangers” in the words of Jesus) for using the resources that really belong to the children.

Oh that it were so in our nations today!

In many western nations today the foreign entities can operate within the country with great tax advantages and privileges, while the children are heavily taxed to pay for the borrowings of their leaders (their ‘fathers’?) who have placed them in an unhappy place of national penalty.

Hmmmm…..

The Children’s Bread is for the Children

Jesus spoke of ‘children’ in a political sense on another occasion. He spoke to a foreigner who was seeking His power for a family need. In that conversation with the Syrophenician woman Jesus affirmed His personal calling to the nation of Israel. His power, miracles and grace were intended for the nation of Israel.

Israel was by that time a nation that had existed for more than a millennium. It is easy to forget, after such a long time, that the nation is really a ‘family’. The original children of Israel were the literal children of a man named Israel. As the families grew over successive generations the ‘children’ grew in number to be a national entity in their own right. But they were still ‘children’ of Israel.

In political terms this foreigner was not a member of the family of Israel. Rather than being a child in the family she was something else, like a family pet. Jesus pointed this out by saying that it was not right for Him to take what belonged to the children and to give it to the dog.

While Jesus’ comments sound offensive to our ears it is important to note two things. The woman was not upset. She recognised that His statement was true. She was outside the Kingdom and had no right to the things she requested. She was not a child of Abraham or a descendent of Jacob (Israel). Jesus’ words were not an insult, but a statement of truth acknowledged by the woman herself.

Further to that, Jesus was happy to hear her appeal and expression of faith and to grant her what she asked.

She said (in essence), “It is true that I am a dog, but even the dogs get to eat the crumbs which are dropped by the children. Since not all of your blessings will be enjoyed by the children you can spare one of the crumbs for me.”

“a certain woman, whose young daughter had an unclean spirit, heard of him, and came and fell at his feet: The woman was a Greek, a Syrophenician by nation; and she begged him that he would cast the devil out of her daughter. But Jesus said to her, Let the children first be filled: for it is not right to take the children’s bread, and cast it to the dogs. And she answered and said to him, Yes, Lord: yet the dogs under the table eat of the children’s crumbs. And he said to her, For this saying go your way; the devil is gone out of your daughter. And when she came to her house, she found the devil gone out, and her daughter laid upon the bed.” Matthew 7:25-30

Your Bread

We have seen that Jesus used the notion of ‘children’ to speak of both political realities (paying tribute) and spiritual realities (claiming the blessings belonging to God’s people).

You too are a child and have your own bread. So, what is your bread? What is it to which you have political and spiritual right?

As a citizen of your nation and culture you are entitled to the freedoms and protections afforded to you. You should not be abused by the fathers of your culture and nation. They should be providing you the special blessings which you are entitled to as a member of the family.

As a child of God you are entitled to an amazing range of spiritual and practical blessings reserved for the ‘children’. In fact, you have the right to walk and live in a state that is described as ‘glorious liberty’ (wonderful freedom), as God’s child.

“Creation itself will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” Romans 8:21

I encourage you to enjoy the bread that is yours, both politically and spiritually. You are fully entitled to those blessings and it is your responsibility to protect and preserve them so that your own children can enjoy them as well.

Baby in the Womb

A lovely young couple are currently expecting their first child. I recently felt to encourage the young dad to speak to his unborn baby. I asked if he spoke to the baby in the womb. He replied that his wife spoke to the baby at times, but he didn’t do it.

That prompted me to reflect on how we respond to the baby in the womb, especially the first one coming along.

New Relationship

Each new baby opens up for us a new relationship. With the first child we open up a whole new level of relationship. And like all new things we often face them with no real preparation. Often we don’t know that we have left things undone until many years later.

I have seven children and I have a unique relationship with each one of them. I can’t say that I have built the most exemplary relationships with them. In fact, at first, I assumed that relationship would just happen automatically. As a consequence the relationships are not as sweet or deep as they could have been.

Learning to Relate

I stumbled into relationship with my children. Because I didn’t have a concept of building relationship I ended up having to maintain relationship as a reaction to what went wrong, rather than as one building correctly from day one. My relationships grew out of the upsets, the good times and the bad times along the way. I thought that was the normal way to build relationships.

Many people do not have strong relationship skills. We usually have weaknesses in our ability, based on our own past failed relationships.

It is important to learn to relate to the child, as a conscious skill development. The new relationship is very important and needs to be pursued with intention. For those who are about to enter into relationship with a child about to be born it is important to promote the relationship rather than to just let it happen.

How to Build Relationship

Here are some suggestions for getting started on a good relationship, even whieh the baby is in the womb.

Value the relationship. Good relationships with children are incredibly valuable. Just ask anyone who lives with a broken or poor relationship with their child. Don’t take it for granted. Don’t be too casual about it. Be determined to build relationship and to so connect with your child that you are closely bonded for the rest of your lives.

Speak to your baby. There are lovely testimonies of people who have been strongly influenced by what they heard before they were born. One testimony speaks of a newborn baby in distress who settled immediately on hearing their father’s voice in the hospital ward. The baby had heard the father read the Bible to it each day as it formed in the womb. That baby knew its father’s voice from the womb and felt security from it once it was born.

Speak comfortably to your child. Over the years and from an early start, tell your child how valuable and special they are in your life. Speak of your love for them and your commitment to them. You are your child’s champion and hero, so speak into that role and encourage your child to walk in confidence because of your commitment and support.

Cast Godly vision for your child. Speak often to your child about your vision of their on-going place in your life and your on-going place in their life. Talk to them about how you are going to introduce them to God and often take them into God’s presence with you. Talk about how you are going to help them find God’s wisdom in the many challenges they will face through their childhood and youth. Speak about the times you will hug them and comfort them in the future and wipe away their tears.

If you have a daughter you can cast the vision of walking her down the aisle on her wedding day, to marry a young man who you have tested out to be suited for her. If you have a son you can cast the vision of them walking into their own areas of responsibility with the skills which you have taught them over the years and with your active support.

Love Your Child

The new relationship you will enjoy with the baby about to be born will be a relationship of love. You will have a new person to love for the rest of your life.

If you are casual about the relationship then it may never become a healthy and happy relationship. A love relationship requires that you love the child and encourage them to love you in return.

Don’t see this child as just a ‘baby’ or ‘another mouth to feed’. This child is potentially the most special person in your life. While the marriage union is always to be held above relationship with the child, yet the bond and delight that can come from the child can be incredibly enriching to your life.

Alternatively you can raise a child who despises you, cannot relate to you and who brings great pain and trouble into your life.

Get Started Now

Don’t wait until your child is old enough to help you in the kitchen or workshop. Don’t wait until they are adult. Don’t wait until they have gotten past their childish ways.

Get started now. Start building close and intimate bonds with your child from the moment they are conceived. Build it for life, not for a temporary moment.

If you are a new parent please take it from me as an older dad, that you need to take the relationship seriously, not for granted.

You have no guarantee of the child’s affection for you. If you send them to pre-school and school they will be sorely tempted to bond with their peers and not with you. When you let them down, or they feel like you have – even if you haven’t – they will pull back from you.

Make a priority of building special relationship, right from the start. Get connected with that baby in the womb.

Of Fathers and Sons

We live in a Fatherless World, as I explained in a recent post. So, how do fathers and sons work together to create this fatherless situation? That’s the question I want to explain in this update posting.

Fatherless-ness Defined

Fatherless-ness is the condition of being without the true fathering which God intended. Fathering is a divine calling and privilege. Yet in today’s world men think they can make of it what they want. So they become the kind of fathers that they choose to become, without regard for their divine calling. Most people today have lost sight of the foundations for their lives, so they follow the crowd. If other fathers do things a certain way then that social norm becomes the reference point for most fathers. Then, in the absence of truth to guide fathers to their real calling, they function as something less than a father. That creates a situation of fatherless-ness.

When a child is raised without the high level of spiritual responsibility and guidance that a real father is meant to bring to the child, then the child is fatherless, even if that child has a very present, very pleasant dad in their life.

Dad doesn’t create fathering. God created fathering and calls men to fulfil that mandate. Sadly, most men are either ignorant or irresponsible. They go about providing what they choose to provide in their role as dads. So their children are fatherless.

How Dads Create Fatherless-ness

When a dad is absent the child clearly is fatherless. With immorality rampant many children are born without fathers and not able to determine who their real father is. I spoke recently with a woman who was told by her mum that her dad would have been one of two men who the mum was not married to. Without DNA testing the daughter cannot be certain which of the men is her real dad. But she is at least lucky enough to narrow it down to two.

So the absentee father is one cause of fatherless-ness, but it is not the greatest cause of this problem from the dad’s side of the equation.

The more insidious fatherless-ness occurs when there is the appearance of a father, but the absence or true fathering, as I described earlier. When ever a man fails to be the man that God has called him to be or the father that God has called him to be, then he creates fatherless-ness.

I once worked with a family where the father had virtually no manhood. He acted much like his own children, but he had less intelligence than they did. He held down a menial job and left the running of the home to his wife and her father, who provided the mature male role in the home. The man’s children mocked him openly. He was a joke to them, and yet he thought such a situation was normal and reasonable. Such a man creates fatherless-ness, because he is not functioning as a father in that home.

When a dad lives for himself and raises his children as it suits him, he makes his children fatherless. When a dad ignores God’s authority over him and through him to his children, he makes his children fatherless. When a man abdicates from his manhood and leaves the home to his wife to run, he makes his children fatherless.

Dads create fatherless culture by their failure to be the fathers God created them to be in their child’s life.

How Children Create Fatherless-ness

Children also create fatherless-ness. They do it by rejecting their fathers. When children rebel against the instructions of their father, they make themselves ‘fatherless’. Just as refusing to drive a car, even when you have one in the garage, makes you effectively ‘car-less’, so refusing to honour your father, even though you have one in your home, makes you effectively ‘father-less’.

Children choose to become fatherless when they find that their dad frustrates their will. When the child decides to go against the father’s instructions or pull against his limitations, the child removes their self from being ‘fathered’. So the child becomes fatherless.

When children spend much of their life under the influence of their peers (as is the almost universal experience of western children) it is to be expected that the children will value the peer culture above their parent’s values. The child will be sorely tempted to side with the peers rather than the parents when these cultures conflict. When the child chooses to side with the peers that child replaces the father with the peer culture. The child is then fatherless.

Since the child will likely be determining his or her values from social norms, rather than from Biblical truth or some other external and unchanging reference point, the child will be encouraged to think that their fight for independence from parental control is normal and reasonable. They will have no idea that they have permanently damaged themselves and contributed to the fatherless world in which they live.

God the Father

Among the various responses that can be suggested in this fatherless world, the most powerful one is to firmly set God as Father in our lives. God is a father, as Jesus pointed out when He taught us to pray, “Our Father in Heaven…” That truth was already given in the Old Testament Scriptures.

“But now, O LORD, You are our father; we are the clay, and you our potter; and we all are the work of your hand.” Isaiah 64:8

“For whom the LORD loves he corrects; even as a father the son in whom he delights.” Proverbs 3:12

“Like as a father pities his children, so the LORD pities them that fear him.” Psalm 103:13

God is not only a father, He is the most perfect and complete, fully functioning father that could ever be imagined. Having God as our father brings into our lives all that our natural fathers were incapable of binging to us. So it is more than a nice idea to have God as our Father. It is an extremely powerful reality that will impact who we are more than just about anything else we could do.

I encourage you to overturn fatherless-ness in your life, but entering into intimate relationship with God as your Heavenly Father.

The Fatherless World

Australians celebrated Father’s Day earlier this month and so the subject of Fathers and Fatherless-ness came to my attention. Here are some of the thoughts I shared in recent weeks on the subject.

Fatherless-ness

The absence of true ‘fathering’ has been so endemic in western culture that most people take for granted a condition which is really a state of ‘father-less-ness’. Even in homes where the dad is present the condition of fatherless-ness can still exist. Not to mention the increasing number of homes where dad is not there, or the dad who is there is not the biological dad to the children.

There are many ramifications of fatherless-ness, impacting deep into the soul and psyche of a child, be that child male or female. Dads provide a level of input and nurture in a child’s life that is hard to quantify, but which is definitely real in human experience.

Two Contributors to the Problem

Fatherless-ness is promoted by the actions of both fathers and children. It is wrong to lay all the blame at the feet of the fathers, just as it is also wrong to lay all the blame at the feet of the children. Both fathers and their children co-operate to frustrate the father’s role in our culture.

Mostly people do themselves and their families harm in ignorance. Most people are lulled into a value system that is dictated by cultural and social norms. Therefore it is easy for them to simply do what others around them are doing. This ignorance and lack of clear guidance is itself an evidence of the ‘fatherless-ness’.

What is ‘fatherless-ness’?

Fatherless-ness, by my own definition (sorry for those who have an alternative take on the subject), is the state of being effectively lacking the key contributions which a godly father, under divine authority, is meant to bring into the life of his children.

There may be a dad in the picture, and that dad may appear to be everything a dad should be. He might play sport with his children and help them with their homework. He may be his children’s best friend and may spend much time with them. But if that dad does not function in the life of the child as God wants him to then that man’s children are ‘fatherless’.

So, What is a Father?

Fatherless-ness needs to be clarified by an understanding of what a true father is. Once again I am going to rely on my own definitions here. A true father, as I understand it from the Bible, is the source of divine authority in the child’s life. The father is the ‘source’ and the ‘guide’, protector and provider for his children.

A father who does not connect his children with divine authority, expressed through the father in the father’s fear of God, is a man who is failing in his calling and who is leaving a deficit in the life of his children.

Fatherhood is a high and holy calling. It is a divine privilege and holy mission. It is a divinely sanctioned appointment, where a man becomes God’s ambassador in the life of his children. That man must also be God’s ambassador in the life of his wife, such that the wife supports him in his ministry into the whole family.

Anything less than that is a compromise of true fathering. When a father fails to be a true father, he leaves his children with some level of ‘fatherless-ness’. If a child is given ‘less’ fathering than God intends for that child, then the child experiences fatherless-ness.

Not Enough Fathers

The Apostle Paul noted that there are plenty of instructors but not many fathers (1Corinthians 4:15). You will find many people willing to give you their opinion and to enlist you into their cause, but you will not find many people who are willing to function as a father in your life.

Fathering, as we saw earlier, is a high and holy calling. It involves levels of sacrifice and dedication to the good of the child. Not many people in our culture are willing to be self-less. They are much more keen to look out for what makes them happy and for the easiest path they can take.

Consequently we have a fatherless world. Whole communities are at the mercy of those who wish to exploit them. Cultural standards and community wealth have been abducted by people who wish to exploit and manipulate. There have been no ‘fathers’ willing to fight for the rights and heritage of their children.

The Sell-Out

Consider what happens in the endless cycle of elections which western democracies are subjected to. Prospective leaders make promises, luring the voters to hand over their lives to political processes. To win the votes the contenders mount a suite of promises, lures and special offers, which they will give to the voters if they sell themselves to that party or candidate.

This is in effect a sell-out of the personal rights and the community assets. Progressively, through succeeding generations, we have sold out our community standards, community assets, community harmony, community security and so on. And what did we get in return? All we received were temporary benefits, or, worse still, broken promises.

Real Fathers Don’t Sell-Out

True fathers are not bought with cheap political promises. Real fathers don’t sell out their children’s inheritance. So how did we get sold out so cheaply?

There is an absence of true fathers! Our cultural and community state is the clearest indication that we live in a ‘fatherless’ world. There are no fathers protecting, reclaiming and providing the community wealth that previously existed. We are all living in the scraps of a former culture where fathers existed and where fathers built a heritage for their children’s children.

But, through successive generations of men who are not true fathers, and children who wish to rebel against their fathers, we have been delivered the remnant of a former kingdom. Some people still believe we possess what now only exists in memory. But we have been stripped of our inheritance.

The Clarion Call

The time has long come where a clarion call is going out to the men of our culture to become real men and true fathers. It is the destiny of today’s generation of men to deliver us from a Fatherless World.

Broken Home is a House Divided

When a parent leaves the marriage the home is broken. At the same time the house is divided. I never realised that until a discussion I had recently with a woman who knew this all too well from personal experience.

The Single Mum

A single mother who had raised her children without the husband’s input for many years recently told me about a conversation she had with one of her children. She had faithfully brought her children up to a set of values which she believed were right. She taught her children to love their daddy but not to follow his inappropriate behaviours. In her mind she had brought them up the “right way”.

Because of her diligent instruction to her children and their choices to follow her wisdom she felt confident that she had protected her children from the wrong influence of her husband’s values. A comment from one of her children showed her otherwise.

A House Divided

As this single mum raised her children in a happy family unit for many years she came to see that the family was united. She also saw that she had given her children clear guidance, leading them to her set of values as the right way for their lives.

In discussion with one of her children she remarked about what she had sought to achieve and she was surprised by the child’s response.

Her child pointed out to her that all their lives the children felt that there were two choices before them, not one. While the mother felt she had created a house in which there was only one value being upheld, the children grew up with a different reality. For them the house was divided.

Two Paths To Choose

Each of the children well knew the values taught them by their mum. They enjoyed their upbringing and the home she had made safe and productive for them. But they were also painfully aware of their dad’s choices and values.

Even though those values were not a part of their family home with their mum, those values were none-the-less part of their life.

Mum had clearly made her choice. She stuck by her values and her commitments and invested all her energies into making up for the father’s abandonment of the children and the marriage. She had successfully excluded the dad’s values from the day to day life within the home. But those values still resonated in the children’s hearts.

Each child knew that they had two heritages to draw from. They had their mother’s values inculcated within them. But they also had direct lineage to a dad who lived by other values. Each child, therefore, lived with the reality that they had two paths to choose between.

Parents Can’t Make the Choice

Sadly, each individual must make their own choices. Parents can’t make the choices for their children. Parents can guide, instruct and inspire their children, but each child must take personal responsibility for what they do in response to the guidance and input given.

This godly mum had done all in her power to give her children the best possible preparation for right choices. But she could not exclude the influence of wrong choices from those children, since they had a direct link to other values.

Unseen Division

The mum realised that, while she was not living with a divided home or a divided heart, her children had to struggle with an unseen division. They were the product of both the mum and the dad and had direct lineage to both the paths being modelled for them. The mum did not live with division, but her children did.

While the mum took it for granted that the children would make the right choices, by virtue of their upbringing, she did not account for the personal reality of division which each child struggled with. While the domestic home was united as mother and children, the reality of a house divided could not be removed.

The Two Parent Home

The two parent home has an incredible advantage over the single mum or single dad home. Where one of the parents has chosen to abandon the home, for whatever reason, the home is divided. But where both husband and wife live together and cooperate together there is a quality of unity that is invaluable.

Children growing in a two parent home still have to make their own choices. But they do not grow up with the ever present reality of division and alternative paths to choose from. Godly parents in a strong, healthy family are able to build levels of security and maturity into their children, without the presence of a divided heart from a divided home.

All Is Not Lost

Our natural upbringing does not make us. We make choices and set the course for our life, despite the other influences that impact us. So, all is not lost in a broken home or divided home context.

God gives us a new heart when we give ourselves to Him. Even our divided heart can be transformed and healed by our relationship with the Living God.

However it is wise to be aware of what you are dealing with and to give your children the best help you can to succeed in life. That, of course, is more than a stable home with a strong marriage. The best you can give them is an intimate, faith-filled relationship with God as their Father, through faith in Jesus Christ as their Saviour and Lord.