Thursday, March 27, 2014

Being a Loving Dad

The first fruit mentioned in Galatians 5 is love. As a Christian I have to love not only my family and friends, but strangers too. It doesn’t stop there. I must love even my enemies. It really doesn't matter if I travel the world as a missionary and teach myself a dozen languages; if I can’t love others like Christ does, then I’m just making noise. I might as well be singing “What Does the Fox Say?”
I can be a student of sound doctrine and spend my life becoming an excellent theologian, able to defend the faith against the most aggressive atheists. Or I might be deeply entrenched in the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements. I might be able to move in the power of all the gifts and attend every Holy Ghost Prophetic Conference. I might even have enough faith to pull people right out of their wheelchairs. Still, if I can’t love, I’m a big zero.

I could give away all my cash, my car, my house, or even die for the Lord as a martyr… OK, you get the point. Those would all be wonderfully good deeds, but if I never learned to love, it’s all in vain. I’d say Paul was pretty clear about where God places love on his list of priorities. You might have crazy faith. You might have hope on steroids. But 1 Corinthians 13 says being a loving person is better than any of those. How do best show your kids that you love them?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Are You a Mary Dad or Martha Dad?

Now I know the story of Mary and Martha isn’t the most manly story, but it’s the best passage to make my point. In Luke 10, Jesus arrived at Mary and Martha’s about mealtime. As the perfect hostess, it was Martha who let them in. Notice the details. Martha’s sister, Mary, sat at Jesus’s feet and heard his words, but Martha was distracted with serving. She said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me” (v. 40b).
Jesus basically answered, “Martha, chill out.”
When I read this, I winced. I really connect with God when I’m serving him. It feels good, and I often feel his pleasure. So where does that leave me? What did Mary have that Martha needed? What was the “good portion” (v. 42) Mary chose? In a world filled with the distractions of single parenting, the story of Mary and Martha can frustrate us if we are men prone to do rather than stop and become.
The Gospels are clear that Jesus felt pretty comfortable in the home of Mary and Martha and their brother, Lazarus. The four weren’t just acquaintances; they were close friends. The siblings spoke to Jesus as if he were family. Jesus was at ease with them.
If you read no further, you could assume Mary was a bit lazy. But John's account of that same visit (Ch. 12) gives us more detail about the visit. Mary took a pound of very costly oil and anointed Jesus’s feet, then wiped it up with her hair. The whole house was filled with the fragrance.
Obviously Mary was so dedicated to Jesus that no expense was too great or demanding. This attitude is the kind of approach God desires from us. It’s illuminating to contrast the two siblings’ relationship. Martha was so comfortable with Jesus that she openly included him in her frustration. “Don’t you care?” she asked.
Humorously, Martha didn’t suggest that he ask Mary to help; she told him directly. Jesus responded tenderly: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her” (vv. 41-42).
If you’re like me, you have to make a choice as a dad to stop trying to be the best. While it’s true that a lot of men need to step it up in the area of fatherhood, I can err in the other direction too—thinking excellent parenting is something we do to please God. But we must seek the good part, like Mary. Jesus tells us our highest priority in life should be to seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness, first.
I don’t know about you, but I have to ask, “What did Jesus mean when He spoke of that good part, which will not be taken away from Mary?”
The apostle John answers us: "For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever" (1 John 2:16-17).
Let me reword that for us fathers.
Everything the world throws at single dads—lust for sexual encounters, desire for possessions for ourselves and our kids, recognition as good dads—it all comes from mere humans. There’s nothing honorable or long-lasting about it. Because this planet is fizzling out, along with all the stuff in it. But fathers who choose the good thing of spending time in God’s presence have chosen something that lasts forever.
           We can work harder than a chiropractor at a rodeo trying to do the right thing as Christian dads. 

Yet the moments with God that we accumulate in this life will be ours forever, never taken away from 

us. Like Mary, we must learn to be in Christ. So what does that look like? 

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Other Road

In his famous poem “The Road Not Taken,” Robert Frost wrote about deciding to take a route “less traveled” and how that choice changed his life. As single dads we too face a decision. We can stay in the car and keep going. It’s a good road and it will get us places. Or we can get out of the vehicle and stroll down that other pathway. I meet men all the time who have ignored the less familiar road, preferring the comfort of the ruts made from previous travelers. For me, it’s often an ongoing challenge to be still, to be his child. The lesser-worn road is one I need desperately to take; yet so often I find myself on the well-worn road of activity and good works. Can I suggest you turn off your engine and come with me? Let’s discover together something we might be missing.
I oscillate between keeping my spiritual life more private like Jesus instructs us in Matthew 6 or modeling it openly—so my kids can see me praying, reading the Bible, and giving tithes. I want to model these disciplines, but is that pretentious? On top of that, I often unpack spiritual conversations strategically while driving with my kids or grab opportunities while taking walks with them.
All this is good. Scripture says that we are to bring our children up in the “discipline and instruction of the Lord.” The two sides of this admonition mean to educate them with both correction and teaching. This is most effective when we learn to simply be a Christian in front of them. Talking about what it means to be a Christian is great, but let them see what the Christian life looks like when you live that out in the midst of trials or pain. How do we do that?