The Marine Corps is made up of an elite band of men who have volunteered their services for many tough responsibilities. The desire to be a Marine prompts many young men to become part of this select group. They are truly special and have been called upon many times for missions that are beyond the capabilities of other military units.
God too is looking for men who want to be special. He’s on the lookout for those who desire to be part of His elite team and are willing to do what is necessary to qualify. How can you be this kind of man? By making sure you are growing spiritually strong. Want it, desire it, and do it! This means you need to make a few decisions.
Choose to read your Bible. Why? Because this is where you meet with God.
Choose to talk to God. Simply stated, prayer is talking to God and keeping the lines of communication open between you and your heavenly Father.
Choose to confess your sin. Confessing sin is admitting you did something wrong and restores your relationship with God.
Choose to make some sacrifices. Nothing of substance happens without effort.
Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). Are you up for a greater level of commitment? For making some sacrifices so you can follow Jesus? If you are, then you are just the kind of guy God is looking for!
God says to married men, “Husbands, love your wives” (Ephesians5:25). And how you love and care for your wife is a major factor in caring for your children. Why? Because parenting is a partnership. Let me explain…
As you love and care for your wife, she will have a sense of well-being. This, in turn, enables her to better focus her attention on the children. Because of the significant and unique role a mother plays in the lives of her children, your wife’s sense of well-being will affect how she influences and cares for your family. So by loving your wife, you have a positive and powerful impact on your children. That’s one way parenting is a partnership.
This doesn’t mean you can abdicate your duties as a dad. God still requires something of you. He requires that you bring your children up “in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). And when you love your wife, she will eagerly shoulder that responsibility with you. By working as partners, you’ll find the task of parenting much easier. So always keep in mind that one key to your success as a father (on the human level) is your love for your wife. Take a moment each day to offer up a prayer of thanksgiving for the mother of your children—your wife! She’s a special lady and deserves not only your prayers, but your verbal and physical affirmation. Take Solomon’s advice—”may you ever be captivated by her love” (Proverbs 5:19).
Practically every man has heard of Mickey Mantle, one of the greatest base-ball players who ever lived. I certainly heard about him while growing up since he was born and raised in a small town just north of my hometown in Oklahoma. On one occasion I actually saw him perusing the local sporting goods store during the off-season. Of course, I recognized him right away. I was in such awe of him that, rather than ask for his autograph, I casually walked by and purposely touched his hunting jacket from behind. I vowed I would never wash that hand again!
From the time Mickey Mantle was a little boy of five, his father surrounded him with a life of baseball. Mickey ate, drank, and slept baseball. By his own account, his achievements as a baseball player were partly attributed to the environment created by his father. In later life, Mickey credited his father’s constant emphasis on baseball as the strongest contribution to his Hall-of-Fame success.
Friend, whether it’s baseball or faith, I think you get the picture that what you emphasize and exercise in your own life will leave an indelible impression on your young ones. From my pastoral and personal experience, I see that many of us Christian fathers today have two main problems. First, as fathers we are not walking with great care. We are not careful enough about how we act around our children. Our kids sometimes do not see a significant difference between our actions and how those in the world act. This is why Paul says, “Be careful how you walk… redeeming the time” (Ephesians 5:15, 16).
And, second, we as believing dads are not “redeeming the time” when it comes to our children. We are so concerned (and rightly so) about providing for the physical needs of our children that we don’t always give proper attention to their spiritual, mental, and emotional needs.
The most important way you can be a good example as a father is to accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior and confess Him before others, including your family, and live a dedicated life for Christ. That’s a life worth imitating!
Your job is to make sure you establish an environment where your Christian beliefs and character are on constant display before your children. Our children must never for a moment think that our faith isn’t the most important thing in our life. They must never for a moment think that the Christian faith is only a “Sunday faith.” Instead, they must hear us constantly talking about Jesus. They must consistently see the vibrancy of our love for Jesus Christ as it is lived our in every aspect of our lives.
A Prayer to Pray:
Lord, help me to pay attention to my activities today and to consider the importance of the small decisions that I make that affect my family’s environment. May each decision be a reflection of my one big choice to follow You and lead my family into a growing relationship with You.
My testimony is that of the “prodigal son” who came home to his father (Luke 15:11-31). As a young boy I went to church, but when I left for college, the things of God were of little interest to me. Not until age 30 did I recognize that I was spiritually malnourished… and horribly so!
Gentlemen, start your engines…
When I returned “home” spiritually I had a wife and two small children, two-and-a-half years old and one-and-a-half. We were off and racing through life before I knew what had happened. I was now to be the spiritual head of my family and I didn’t have a clue as to where to start. I thank God that I at least realized I needed to get my family to a good Bible-teaching church where we all began to be fed and get direction for our lives. Church is a great place to ignite your spiritual engine!
Once I arrived at the church, I started looking and praying for someone who could give me some help, some guidance, anything that would assist me in being a godly husband and a loving, caring father to my girls. And the Lord answered my prayers. I found a church elder who was able to give me some biblical direction. He imparted to me some valuable principles from God’s Word and from his own life experiences. These insights, along with those from godly parenting books Elizabeth and I studied together, were a constant source of input for the next 25 years of my own life as a parent. Seeking wise counsel can point you in the right direction!
Here is the goal: Behavior is heart driven. Therefore, correction, discipline and training—all parenting—must be addressed to the heart. The fundamental task of parenting is shepherding the hearts of your children. Author Tedd Tripp says it best:
…parenting is concerned with shepherding the heart. You must learn to work back from the behavior you see to the heart, exposing heart issues for your children. In short, you must learn to engage them, not just reprove them. Help them see the ways that they are trying to slake [satisfy] their soul’s thirst with that which cannot satisfy. You must help your kids gain a clear focus on the cross of Christ.
Your children are given to you by God, and their hearts are your stewardship from God. He expects you to do your part in raising them to know and love Him. And He has given you all you need in Him to accomplish his purposes. The heart is the best place to start!
A Verse to Recall:
Love the Lord God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up (Deuteronomy 6:5-7).
I’ve heard it said that you can tell the spiritual maturity of a man by looking at his checkbook or his credit card statements. Well, how do yours look? What do they reveal about you… and your spiritual maturity? What would another person see if they were allowed a peek at your checkbook? Would they see checks written to missionaries, to your church, or to charities? Would they see checks written to cover the necessities of life, the needs of your family, and your children’s education? Or, would they be staring at a long log of checks written for indulgences, excesses, frivolities, fun… you know, toys? To prevent money from controlling your life more than it should, try these six little things that can make a big difference:
1. Give to God first.
In the Old Testament, God’s people were commanded to offer the first portion of their crops to God as a tribute to His abundant provision. In the New Testament, too, we are to give according to how we “prosper” (1 Corinthians 16:2). But the principle of “giving off the top”—the firstfruits—is a good way you and your wife can acknowledge your trust in God’s provision for you and your family, not only today but also for the future. (And, considering the weakness and selfishness of man-kind, there probably won’t be anything left to give God from the “bottom”!) So give to God first. Then trust that “God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8).
2. Have a budget.
Most financial experts say the starting point for money management is having a budget. Without a budget, you and your wife will probably buy things that are not essential. A plan for saving and spending gives the two of you boundaries and defines what’s important. Just purchase a standard “Household Budget” workbook and start following the directions. But the real key to a budget is making it together with your wife and being in agreement as to what’s in and what’s not in your budget. Then you can hold each other accountable and celebrate and enjoy the benefits that having—and sticking to—a budget brings your way.
3. Pray over major purchases.
Since the money you are to manage is really God’s money, shouldn’t He be consulted as to how you spend it? Hopefully you and your wife have already committed your budget to the Lord. The two of you have prayed about what should be included in your monetary plan. Therefore, if something is in the budget, you don’t necessarily need to pray about it again (although that’s a good practice). So this point of praying over major purchases has to do with non-budgeted purchases. You and your wife will want to pray for answers to questions like, “How will this purchase impact our budget? Can the purchase of a newer car be delayed by fixing the ‘clunker’ just one more time?” These are the kinds of prayers and questions that are necessary when making decisions about major purchases.
4. Get organized.
Finances are complicated, even with the simplest of incomes. You and your wife should institute a financial filing system to keep track of important documents and financial statements. So purchase an accordion file folder with slots for each month of the year. Then drop your bills into the month they are due. As the bills are paid, drop in the receipts. At the end of the year you have everything handy in one place that you need for tax purposes.
5. Declare a “day of fasting” from spending money.
In Bible times, fasting usually applied to food and was a religious exercise. Because those who fasted were not eating, their interests were diverted from the physical realm to the spiritual life. Similarly, when you implement a money-fast, you allow your interests to be turned from the “stuff” of life to the “staff of life.” And, as an added benefit, you and your wife come one day closer to staying within your budget. Now, that’s a praise! So take calendar in hand, pick a day, and proclaim it “a day of fasting.”
6. Make a list of ways to cut expenses.
You and your wife should realize that your finances are a reflection of your spiritual condition. Isn’t self-control a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:23)? And aren’t you a steward of God’s money? Whether you have enough money or not, then cutting expenses will do you good. If you don’t have enough money, trimming your costs will give you back some of what you need. To get started, take your new budget in hand and together see what you and your wife can lop off and live without. If you have a sufficiency of money, cutting expenses to give more to God will help you and your wife to “set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2).
Question: Which of the preceding six financial ideas would help you and your family the most?
The task of raising a child is daunting to say the least. You may feel inadequate to face the responsibility of guiding your children into the knowledge of God. I definitely felt this way. Perhaps the most encouraging wisdom and insight I received as young, clueless parents was shared by another father and mentor to my husband, Jim.
We clung to its message while our girls were in their formative years and living at home. And guess what? We still draw comfort from it as grandparents today. Jim’s mentor said, “The ground at the cross is level when it comes to child-raising.”
This experienced dad went on to explain that he had learned not to judge other parents because the way is hard for all mothers and fathers. No parent has done or will do it all perfectly. It’s a mega-challenge for each and every parent.
This mentor also encouraged us that the end results are never fully evident because God is in the equation — that only time will reveal the outcome of our parenting, which is intermingled with God’s sovereignty and grace. No matter what appears to be real, whether rough seas or smooth sailing, all parents need God, and with God, all things are always possible.
So know that your mission is to begin where you are to follow the Lord. Just as it is never too late to receive Christ as Savior, you can choose any day — today, if you haven’t already — to begin diligently teaching your children and talking to them about the God you love and who loves them. Raising children is never done perfectly, but it is usually done with a heart of immeasurable love…and hope.
You know what this means, don’t you? That you and I as parents must always be praying hope for our children regardless of their age or stage in life. In fact, this is yet another one of God’s “missions” for moms and dads: We are to be diligent prayer warriors. We are to do battle through prayer on behalf of our precious children.
Pray for their spiritual growth into a man or woman after God’s own heart as your calling, your mission assignment from God. One of my favorite verses to pray for my children is Ephesians 1:17, “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ…may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better.”
Commit to doing your part and trust God to do His!
Question: What additional verses or thoughts do you pray over daily for your children or those children in your life?
How many situations arise in an “ordinary day” in your life that cause fear or doubt or a lack of confidence to well up in your stomach and maybe even up to your throat? I’ve made my own short list from some of my days that began in the usual way:
Witnessing a teen boy and his dad in a physical and verbal brawl
Enduring a super-bumpy plane ride
Having a flat tire on a dark stretch of road at night
Facing a public performance or ministry
Suffering through a medical test to determine the cause of an illness
Watching a grandchild suffer an unknown long-term medical condition
Putting up with a stressful relationship with a family member
God has four words for us when we must face, endure, or are surprised by these kinds of challenges: “Do not be afraid” (Joshua 1:9). These words were spoken by God to Joshua, the new leader of the children of Israel, after Moses’ death. Suddenly Joshua found himself responsible for leading a massive group of people — more than two million!
Fear is often seen as being reserved for the weak. But Joshua, a man experienced in warfare, was in no way weak. Yet God spent a considerable amount of time bolstering Joshua’s courage and admonishing him about the dangers of fear (Joshua 1:1-9).
God knew Joshua, and He knows you and me too. He also knows that we are strong in many ways but still tend to have our own fears and doubts. But no worries! God told Joshua–and He speaks to us as well–to “be strong and of good courage.” Why? Because “the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (verse 9).
The first step to gaining courage is realizing that fear is natural, whereas the presence of God right beside you, all the time, is supernatural. When you recall this truth, you’ve successfully begun to fight your fears and gain strength and courage of heart for the tasks—and challenges—the Lord has prepared for you. Strength is yours when you remember that Jesus promised to stay with you when He said, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
Courage was perfectly modeled by Christ in the face of His impending death. But, Jesus was courageous because He knew that He was in the faithful hands of the Father. Fear was never an issue for Jesus because He trusted in the Father’s timetable for His life. Courage is as much about trust as it is about bravery. God was with Joshua infusing him with courage. God was with Jesus. And He’s with you and me too. If we trust that God will guide and protect us, then He will provide the strength and courage we need to make it through the challenges of life.
Question: Can you share a time when God’s presence infused you with His supernatural courage? If you are facing a challenge or fear today, choose and share a verse that you will help you trust God and claim His supernatural courage.
Bestselling authors dedicated to helping people live a life after God’s own heart. They've written over 70 books with more than 11 million copies sold. For over 30 years, they've helped countless men and women.
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