Legalistic Dad

How do you help a legalistic dad?  You know the kind.  He demands his family do as he wants, the way he wants, on the basis that he has GOD on his side.

I have had to deal with several dads over the years that have dug themselves into a hole but refuse to change because they are the DAD and the Bible tells the kids to obey them.  The children become hurt and rebellious and that only affirms to the dad that he is on the high ground and they are wrong.

Call For Help

I was asked recently by a Christian counsellor for some suggestions to help a legalistic dad face the mess he has created and the pain he and his family are living in.  The dad appeals to the Biblical command that children obey their mother and father as his trump card to justify his stern stand.

As I considered the question, my thoughts about sad situations I have seen over the years led me to a new suggestion to help a legalistic dad.

The problem is getting the dad to listen and to be prepared to review his own actions, when he has a strong sense of being “right” and others being wrong.

Test the Fruit

Jesus told us we can know the truth about people by the “fruit” of their life.  A father’s life is not measured by the legal ground he claims as his authority, but by the fruit of his actions.  “By their fruits you will know them” is a basic litmus test we can apply quite widely.

You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?” Matthew 7:16

“So by their fruits you will know them.” Matthew 7:20

I suggest we can apply this to test those legalistic dads who think they are right and others are wrong.

Fruit in the Family

A child starts out as a blank page.  And children are very resilient and forgiving.  They have the ability to cope with disappointments and the distractions of their parents.  And children learn much of their concept of life by watching their parents at close quarters.

So, at least in general terms, the way the kids turn out can be regarded as the “fruit” of the family.  If a family produces selfish, proud, loud, disobedient kids, you know that the home has some serious problems.  If a home produces quiet, obedient, loving, thoughtful children, the quality of the home is attested to by those kids.

So let’s use that fruit factor as a searchlight on the legalistic dad.

Stubborn Kid from a Stubborn Dad

When a legalistic dad digs in his toes and will not budge from his conflict with a child, and the child digs in his or her toes and will not budge either, we can see that the child is the “fruit” of the father.  The stubborn father has produced that stubborn child.

So, if the dad thinks he has the ‘moral high ground’, standing in the place of being right while the kids are wrong, he had better re-think things.  The “fruit” of what he has produced is a public testimony to his failure.  Instead of standing on moral high ground, he is standing in the place he accuses his kids of standing on.

Humility in the Home

If the dad is looking for a spirit of humility in his children, then we need to see that same fruit in him.  If he doggedly defends his opinions and the rightness of who and what he is he can only expect his children to be as stubborn in their stand for their own rightness too.

First let’s see the dad humble himself before God and admit that he needs God’s wisdom.  Let’s hear the dad admit that he has failed in his role as dad.  When we see that kind of humility we know there is hope for the family.
If dad defies the evidence then he has invalidated his stand before God.  God gives grace to the humble, not to the defiant and arrogantly proud.

Heart Issues

Another important truth for a legalistic dad is that the issue is not rebellious kids, but the condition of the dad’s heart.  Yes, rebellion in the family is wrong and the rebellious children need to have that resolved.  But the dad is the head of the home and it is vital to get him sorted out as a key to healing the whole family.  And getting dad sorted out means dealing with dad’s heart.

The Bible points out that the real “issues” of our life are not the things that come against us but the things that come “out of us”.

“Keep your heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” Proverbs 4:23

When we seek to heal a home, the real “issues” are not the rebellion of a son or daughter, but those things that come out of the heart of the dad and mum.  In the case of a legalistic dad in conflict with his children, it is what is coming out of the heart of that dad.

Out of the Heart

Listen to what Jesus said about the significance of what comes out of us.

“And he said, That which comes out of the man defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.” Mark 7:20-23

The issue that is defiling the father and likely bringing real problems into the home is whatever is coming OUT of the father’s heart.

And we know what is coming out of the heart by what people say.

“A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings out that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings out that which is evil: for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” Luke 6:45

Legalistic Speak

A legalistic dad will speak judgment of his children, rejection, condemnation, fault finding, pride in his own standards, negativity, contention, and so on.  And those words of his mouth reveal that he is not standing on moral high ground, but is polluted.

A heart that produces evil speaking reveals an “evil heart”.  The legalistic dad has deep troubles in his heart that lead him to produce toxic speech and bad fruit.

The more a legalistic dad is challenged about his stand the more virulent he may become in attacking others, asserting that he is right, feeling rejected and intimidated and so on.

All of this reveals that the dad is not walking and living in God’s grace.

Fruit and Heart

The dual matters of the “fruit” of the dad’s fathering in the home and the “issues” in the dad’s heart expressed in his legalistic stance and speech, show that the dad needs help.  The home is what it is because the dad has internal issues that need to be resolved.  He will never be able to lead his family into joy and wholeness while he is beset with personal problems that have produced bad fruit in the home and which reveal bad issues pouring out of his heart.

Legalism as a Cover

If a dad has produced bad fruit in his home and his heart pumps out evil things he has issues.  And legalism may just be a way to cope with life and excuse his situation.  Legalism may be a cover.  By being legalistic he can point at others, rather than get free on the inside himself.

Just about anything could cause a person to become legalistic, but since legalism prompts a person to reject others it is reasonable to assume that rejection has a part to play in the legalistic dad’s heart.

Certainly there is a lack of the grace of God.  And the writer of Hebrews warns that failing to receive and give out God’s grace leads us to having a root of bitterness which causes us to defile others.

“Be diligently attentive lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled” Hebrews 12:15

Legalism and the attendant accusation and rejection certainly defile and offend people so an important need in the life of a legalistic dad is to experience the grace of God and to give God’s grace to others.

Give Grace to Dad

If you suffer under a legalistic dad you will find it easy to become hurt, offended, resentful, judgmental, angry and so on.  And by so doing you will be tempted to let a root of bitterness spring up in your life.  If that happens then the problem has been passed down to a new generation, instead of being dealt with and rooted out of the family.

So if you have a legalistic dad press in to God for sufficient grace so you can give grace to your dad, even though he does not deserve it.  If you can give grace to those who have no grace, you will not come under the power of their failures and weakness but have triumphed into liberty for yourself and your children.

If your dad is legalistic and refuses to see that there is anything wrong in his life, you are in a very vulnerable place.  Determine with God’s help to give abundant grace to that graceless dad.

Why I Expect God to Bless Me

Why should God bless you or me?  We look to God for His blessings and when we do others may question our right to do so.

That’s why I like to remind myself from time to time of where I stand before God and on what basis I look to Him for His blessing in my life.

You may find the following summary of those thoughts helpful as you struggle with your own worthiness to receive from God throughout your Christian life.

Totally Unqualified for Blessings

I do not deserve any blessing or favours from God.

My lack of discipline, selfishness, fleshly weaknesses, compromise, lack of spiritual commitment and so much more completely disqualify me for any blessings from God.

I have not fasted enough, prayed enough, given enough, sacrificed enough, died to self enough, served God enough, or done anything else enough to gain one iota of favour or blessing from God.

I am unqualified for on-going grace from God.

Saving Grace

I am as unqualified for on-going grace from God as I was to receive the sacrificial grace of Jesus Christ that brought me salvation, forgiveness of my sins, adoption into God’s family as a Son of God, the baptism in the Holy Spirit, grace to be useful in God’s kingdom, victory over Satan and eternal spiritual blessings.

Yet despite my total lack of any qualification for that grace, as a sinner with nothing to recommend me for the total abolition of my sin and the complete cleansing and newness that Christ gives, my hopelessness did not prohibit me from receiving that wonderful grace.

And so too in this situation, my uselessness, weakness, fleshly compromise, lack of discipline, etc, fail to disqualify me for the amazing and abundant blessings of God’s grace through Jesus Christ.

I Ask for Miracles

So I ask for miracles and I expect miraculous blessings others would not dare ask for.  I do so, not on the basis of any capacity I have to deserve them or qualify for them, but on the basis of God’s desire to give them to me and His provision of them through the sacrifice of Christ.

When I reach out for them, on the basis of faith alone, I touch the very heart of God’s plan for my salvation, that I would receive all He has provided for me through faith in Christ.

Be a Blessing

Following up on my recent post about “Finding Fault” I sense that I need to further exhort you to “Be a Blessing”.

You would think that being a blessing is a natural thing for people to do. It is a joy to bless others. It is more blessed to give than to receive. When you bless others they love and appreciate you in return. You can even become famous by blessing people.

Yet, sadly, many people find it hard to be a blessing, even to their family and children.

Stern Exhortation

So this is a direct word to your heart. I am giving you a stern exhortation to BE A BLESSING!

Stop being stingy in your spirit and negative in your outlook. Stop spoiling other people’s happiness, raining on their parade, stealing their joy, finding fault and being negative about things.

Being a blessing is not just a nice thing to do it is God’s purpose in the earth in this generation.

Be Like Dad

Your Heavenly Father is a God of abundant grace. God pours abundant blessings on people who don’t deserve it. He brings rain and sunshine on everyone, good and bad. He allows us to enjoy life, from a good night’s sleep to the laughter of our children. We have flavours, colours, breezes, smiles, friends, views, sounds, and so much more to enjoy on a daily basis. Even the evil people are not denied these myriad blessings.

“But I say to you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” Matthew 5:44,45

Calling for This Generation

I sense that God intends to open up fountains of blessing on the earth. He intends to open up millions of them. He intends that His people would each become a light in a darkened world, pouring grace into the lives of hurting, lonely, unloved people.

I sense that being a blessing is not just a nice idea or the right thing for Christians to do. Instead it is a peculiar calling on this generation of Christians. I believe God is calling men and women, youth and children today to become open wells of grace and favour into other people’s lives.

Please take this seriously. God is calling YOU to be a blessing. You are to become famous for your ability to fill others with joy, encouragement, faith, confidence, love, grace and blessing.

Commanded to Bless

You are commanded to bless others. You are even commanded to bless those who hate you and curse you. Imagine that. Your spiritual DNA is so full of blessing that even those who curse you receive a blessing in return.

“Bless those who persecute you: bless, and curse not.” Romans 12:14

This is particularly relevant to those I addressed in my ‘Finding Fault’ post, who use their poison pen to tear down and demean things, rather than to bless. You are commanded to be a blessing, not to be a destroyer and one who sows discord, separating people from things or others they would otherwise find blessing through.

Reversing Evil

A wonderful aspect of being a blessing is your ability to reverse evil. Rather than becoming bogged down in the mire of other people’s limitations, evil heart, negative behaviour and so on, you can actually overcome all of that evil, by simply blessing those who don’t deserve it.

The Apostle Paul, as he followed on from the instructions given in Romans 12:14 (quoted above) went on to elaborate and to point out that blessing those who curse us causes the good in us to overcome the evil in them.

“Therefore if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he thirsts, give him drink: for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:20,21

I Bless You

I bless you in the name of the Lord. I release God’s grace onto you and your family, your life and your destiny. Be filled with the fullness of God. Walk and live in the favour of God. Be brought under the mighty hand of God. I pray that the devil’s hold on your life be broken and that all that holds you back be cut off your life, so you can catapult forward into the things God has for you.

I release you to be a blessing, to bring favour, peace, joy and love to those who are desperate for it, but don’t know where to find it. I bless you with protection from moral harm and from the enemy’s destructions. No weapon formed against you will prosper. The Angel of the Lord encamps around you and delivers you.

Be blessed in Spirit, in Soul and in Body. Be blessed in your family, your provisions, your heart and mind. Sleep sweetly, speak powerfully, live joyfully, thrive in strength, reap the harvest of the earth and use it as a blessing for others.

Now, go and be a blessing!

He Deserves It

Have you ever been glad when someone got what was coming to them? It’s a common feeling of delight and it’s a common wish in the hearts of annoyed people. “I hope he gets what’s coming to him!”

And when terrible things happen to annoying people you are likely to hear a “Serves him right!” from those who are happy to see it.

The Truck

When a truck driver moved into a neighbourhood and parked his huge rig on the street there were many who became incensed. Their complaints to the police and parking authorities proved futile. The man was within his rights. But that didn’t make it easier for those who resented seeing his ugly truck parked in front of their house.


The truck was the owner’s pride and joy. It was washed lovingly and had been decorated beautifully. So, one day when a speeding car rammed into the truck the neighbours took great delight in seeing the truck so defaced.


We even have a word for people getting knocked down and put in their place. We call it their “comeuppance”. “Just wait til he gets his comeuppance!”

There is something in the human psyche that longs for justice, where those who annoy others are made to suffer in some way. That suffering is there comeuppance. Other words for it are “just deserts” and “what’s coming to him”.

So this is no foreign concept. We have several well-worn expressions at our disposal to describe the very thing I am talking about. It is a familiar thing, addressing familiar feelings of vengeance and justice meted out to those who deserve it.

Do You Believe in Justice?

This very impulse has some sinister implications. But before I get to that, let me prompt you to think about your personal sense of justice. Do you believe in justice?

Do you find that the idea of people getting away with evil feels wrong or sits poorly in your mind? Do you feel gratified when evil people get their just deserts? Do you wish for people to get their comeuppance?

The Demands of Justice

The person who annoys his neighbours should suffer some negative consequence that appeases the neighbourhood. The man who borrows things and never returns them deserves to have something negative happen to balance things out.

The crook who rips people off should pay for it some way or other. The man who attacks, exploits and abuses others should end up suffering for his evil deeds.

Eternal Justice

Many people are comforted at the thought that even if bad people get away with bad things on earth, they will get their comeuppance when they stand before God. The idea of divine retribution, at least after death, fits our notion of justice.

I had one woman tell me she would forgive her husband for what he did to her, but she wanted him to burn in hell once he was dead. The idea of God’s judgement greatly appealed to her.

Do You Demand Justice?

Let’s hear it for justice! Let’s celebrate the fact that everyone gets what they deserve! Let’s demand that the annoying neighbour gets it in the neck and that the rip off merchant gets taken to the cleaners!

Is that how you feel? Do you demand justice?

There is a serious problem if you do. So, don’t be too hasty to celebrate the punishment of evil.

If Him Then You

If the annoying neighbour deserves his comeuppance for annoying you, then what do you deserve for living the life God gave you as if it was your own? If someone who offends you should feel the full force of his just deserts, then what should you get from God?

If justice works at all, it works AGAINST US!

If we have the right to demand any vengeance, retaliation or retribution, then what is God entitled to? God created you, loves you, died for you, provides abundance for you and patiently waits for you. If you have lived for yourself, served anything other than God, mocked or offended God in any way, then you deserve the most cruel punishment and torment.

If the annoying neighbour deserves to be despised, then you too deserve to be despised.

One More Time

Let me ask you again. Do you believe in justice? Do you demand justice? Do you celebrate the idea of people getting what they deserve? Do you like it when people get their comeuppance? Do you wish for people to get their just deserts? Do you think everyone should get what’s coming to them?

If you harbour those ambitions at all, you do so at your own peril.

You have just condemned yourself. You have just authorised God to give you exactly what you deserve. You have just committed yourself to the full force of God’s anger at your sinfulness, selfishness, independence, blasphemy, sensuality, opinions, jealousy and so much more.

Mercy Please

I do not want what I deserve. I want mercy. I want God’s grace.

So, I must want those things for others as well. If I demand retaliation or just deserts for evil-doers, I demand them for myself as well.

I want mercy in my life. I want God’s grace poured into every aspect of who and what I am. And so I must want mercy and grace for others. I must bless those who curse me, love my enemies, do good to them who exploit me and abuse me.

Above all, I must plead for God’s mercy and grace upon those I would otherwise despise and want to see hurt in some way.

Now, that’s a change of heart. If you can’t come at it in your own strength, then you need new life from God within you, so you can display the heart of your heavenly Father.

But for heaven’s sake, be delivered from your fleshly lust for vengeance. It condemns you outright!


There is nothing wrong with Justice. God is holy and just. God will mete our justice, and He will mete our mercy. The human problem is that justice belongs to God, not us. We can execute it, on His behalf, but we are not to indulge our human lust for vengeance or retalliation. God tells us that vengeance belongs to Him, not us.

We must serve and worship- Him, and just as we do not want Him to exact justice from us, but rather to have His mercy, we must not become blood lusting, vengeful people who want mercy for ourselves and retribution for others.

Keep your heart clean and right before God.

Faith Factor 8 – Super Abundance

Faith is the process of trusting in God. It is based on our confidence in God’s love for us. Faith believes that God is everything the Bible says He is and that God is keen to ‘reward’, or bless those who press in to Him.

We have seen that faith accesses the storehouse of Grace which is at God’s right hand. We have seen that faith places its order, measuring out from that Storehouse the things which God has prepared for us.

What I want to stir your heart with in this lesson is the sheer super abundance of what God has prepared for you.

An Abundant God

I was struck many years ago with the superfluous dimension of God’s creativity and provision. I realised that there are trees in the forests and lands that produce delicious fruit which no-one gets to eat. There are amazing sunsets which no-one gets to see. There are delicious pools and delightful beaches to swim in which no-one enjoys. Every day God creates and provides a super-abundance of opportunities, and most of them go to waste.

There are flowers which provide the most evocative scent, but which no-one smells. There are fields of food which no-one harvests. There are the sweetest refreshing breezes which no-one feels blowing through their hair.

Then there is the super abundance of design and variety. God could have created five different styles of flower and just as few shades of colour for us to see. Instead we can feast our eyes on incredible diversity of shape, size and colour. God could have limited our ability to taste flavours, or limited our field of view to things close at hand. Instead He gave us powerful senses and myriad delights to fill them with.

Our God is a super-abundant God. He has not skimped on the vastness and diversity of His provisions for us.

More Than Enough

An old chorus says, “He’s more than enough; More than enough. He is El Shaddai, the God of plenty. The All Sufficient One, God Almighty. He is more than enough!”

And not only is God more than enough, the grace which He gives is more than we need.

In Faith Factor 6, about God’s Storehouse, I pointed out that God has placed everything we all need to keep and bless us from now until the end of eternity (there is no end to eternity!) in His Storehouse of Grace. When Jesus died and rose again, that sacrifice created EVERYTHING everybody who will ever live will ever need for the whole of eternity!

Now, that’s how super abundant our God is. He has provided much, much more than enough to totally and completely, superfluously meet all of our needs, now, tomorrow and forever.

And if your need level was to be upgraded exponentially, it would not drain God’s super-abundant supply. If you were to suddenly have intense medical needs, staggering financial needs, tragic family needs, overwhelming personal struggles, full-on spiritual attack, incomprehensible sin issues and much more thrown at you right now, God would not be troubled. He will not need to start His machinery to create new answers for the new problems. All of those answers have already been created, for life’s most desperate needs, intense challenges, painful experiences, traumatic situations and so on.

Biblical Support

I expect you to demand that I back up my assertions with Biblical evidence. So, here are some verses which speak to the reality of God’s amazing provisions for us.

“But as it is written, Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love him.” 1Corinthians 2:9

Did you see that? You have not even imagined the things which God has already prepared for you! What God has put in His Storehouse of Grace is beyond you expectation.

“Being confident of this very thing, that he which has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” Philippians 1:6

God has provided enough to continue the “miracle” of salvation in your life “until the day of Jesus Christ”. The “good work” which God began in you was nothing short of a “miracle”! And God wants to continue the on-going miracle all through your life. God has provided enough to make that possible, yet you are living below that abundance.

“Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Luke 12:32

“He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” Romans 8:32

Abundant Grace

God’s Storehouse is filled with God’s grace. That grace is ours through Jesus Christ. It is “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ”. That Storehouse could also be called “the Kingdom of God”.

When Paul faced a deep personal need God told him that the grace that was there for Paul was sufficient. Grace will always be enough for our needs.

“And he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest on me.” 2Corinthians 12:9

I tended to think of “sufficient” as meaning “just enough”. But sufficiency had already been mentioned by Paul in the same letter, linking grace with abundance.

“And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work” 2Corinthians 9:8

Eternal Display

God’s Storehouse of Grace is so incredibly full of things with your name on them that it will take Him eternity to show off the complete fullness of blessing which God purchased for you with the blood of Jesus.

When you are seated with God in heaven God’s Storehouse will still be full. It will contain wonderful things which God prepared for you to measure out for yourself here on earth, but which you did not have the faith and courage to ask for and then pursue until you possessed them.

So, through eternity, God will dip His hand into the storehouse of grace at His right hand and throw a handful of His abundance into the air, to show everyone the leftovers of what He had prepared for them all to have in life. I picture that display like a fireworks show bursting in the sky. As the sparkles fall from the air you will see the financial provision, healing, ministry, blessing, grace, help, breakthrough, unclaimed potential, anointing, impact, revelation, spiritual gifts, open doors, and much, much more, that you didn’t even know you had the right to ask for.

But once God has made one show of His amazing grace, He will dip His hand into the Storehouse and do it again. He will keep on making that display for the whole of eternity. That’s how much He has in there for you, which you will never claim in this life.

Now, you will want to see where I get that in the Bible and so let me take you to Ephesians 2.

“That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:7

Measuring More

If you could catch a glimpse of how much God loves you and how much He, in His love for you, has already purchased and prepared for you, including how much He has prepared for you to have at the absolute, maximum extremity of total commitment to Him and total consumption of every blessing He has for you, then you will probably be ready to measure more from that Storehouse of Grace.

I share this whole series to stir your heart to recognise that when you reach out to claim more of what God has prepared for you He is delighted. Remember, only faith pleases God. When you step out in faith He is thrilled.

So start measuring more of what He has for you. Storm heaven for the blessings God wants you to have.