Nine Benefits of Trials

As dads, we all experience trials of some kind, whether it’s the repetitive, tiring work of helping raise a house full of littles (like Nathan wrote about last week), the juggling act of being a responsible homeschool dad, or the challenging job of wisely loving and releasing older children as they spread their wings and step out from under your leadership.

It’s tempting to wish life would be easier, or that our responsibilities weren’t so challenging. But the fact is, God says suffering and trials are good for us in many ways.

Nine Benefits of Trials - Tree and road in the fog

Here are nine reasons from Scripture that trials and suffering are actually beneficial. Whatever difficulties you might be facing, God’s Word has encouragement for you:

1. Trials cause us to depend more on God, and less on ourselves.

“For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself… But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” (2 Cor. 1:8-10) See also Phil. 4:13, 4:19, 1 Cor. 2:5, and Ps. 84:11.

2. If we endure hardships faithfully, it brings glory to God.

“Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” (2 Tim. 2:3) See also 2 Cor. 6:2-10 and 2 Thess. 1:4.

3. Trials allow us to see God’s power and love more clearly as He works in our lives.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (1 Cor. 12:9) See also Isa. 43:2 and 2 Cor. 9:8.

4. Trials can draw us closer to Christ, who suffered for us, and help us learn from His example.

Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” (Heb 12:3) See also 2 Cor. 5:15 and 13:4.

5. Trials keep us humble.

“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.” (2 Cor. 12:7) See also Dt. 8:2 and Dan. 4:37.

6. Trials teach us endurance.

“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance…” (Rom. 5:3) See also Jas. 1:2-4.

7. Trials can lead us to repentance and to greater sanctification.

“For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Heb. 12:11) See also 2 Chron. 6:36-39.

8. Experiencing trials prepares us to comfort others who experience trials.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Cor. 1:3-4)

9. Suffering hardship in the name of Christ brings eternal rewards.

“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” (2 Tim 4:6-8)

No matter what kind of hardships we face, God is with us, sovereignly using the situation to accomplish His purposes. Nothing can separate us from His love. And that should inspire us to persevere, knowing that in Christ we can overcome every hardship that comes our way.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? …No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Rom 8:35, 37)

 

Daniel Forster is married to Katelyn, father to two girls and two boys, and the manager of Doorposts Publishing near Portland, Oregon. Those callings occupy most of his time at the moment, but he also enjoys reading, writing, playing the fiddle, working outdoors, and traveling. Daniel graduated from homeschooling in 2002, and he’s excited about raising his own children in the ways of the Lord. He is the author of Because You Are Strong: A Study of Godly Strength for Young Men.

Love in The Mundane

I am not going to write about Valentine’s Day. I have no gift ideas, no perfect words for a sentimental card, no box ‘o chocolates. This has nothing to do with Valentine’s Day.

But it has everything to do with love. Which, I admit, was partially suggested to me by the nature of this week in February. But more so, this is an outgrowth of where my wife, Alle, and I are living right now.

It’s a stage of life where repetition reigns: we get up, go to work, take care of kids, work on client projects, take care of kids, eat, put kids to bed, work, collapse into bed, sleep, repeat. We form habits, fall into roles and patterns, and most often just make it through the day. And I’ve got a suspicion that this sort of rhythm defines most of married life with children. The details and schedules will change, but the patterns, the mundane, will continue in perpetuity. That’s how life is. Cycles, patterns, rhythm.

I’m learning to see the value in the repetitive. It gives structure and stability, moments and tasks to count on, roles and responsibilities to expect. But the mundane can also drive us into habits, into going through the motions, into not paying attention anymore. Let the ebb and flow of life drive our actions, fulfill the responsibilities, and check out. It’s something I fight against on a regular basis: staying engaged and intentional during a season marked especially by days that look the same. And it’s always compounded, because routines go hand in hand with busyness–particularly with kids in the house. Things never stop, they never slow. There’s always a next appointment, a meal to be made, cleaning to do, there’s always something.

Time and money get scarce; the schedule doesn’t let up; the kids get sick. Days that used to be set apart just for us–anniversaries, Valentine’s Day, and so on–get interrupted, or postponed.

Love-in-the-mundane

So I’m learning. I’m learning to celebrate our marriage in the mundane. I’m learning to just lean in, and take it as it comes, and show my wife in the routine that she is still my priority. It’s usually not a big, romantic gesture. It’s the serving. The words. The attitudes toward her and the kids. It’s learning to let the moments, the tasks, the mundane breathe love for her.

I’m finding ways to show that love on a consistent basis. Giving her the afternoon to go out or work; making sure she comes home to a clean house; cooking dinner; bringing home her favorite dessert for no reason. In the routine, it’s building a routine of affection, concern, consideration– merely showing that she’s always on my mind and heart. Small actions accumulated go so much farther to demonstrate love than the occasional all-out gift.

Love is serving. It is laying down my life–setting it aside–for her good. And this happens not on the celebratory days, not the annual remembrances, not the special occasions; it happens every day, in the mundane. In the rhythm of life love grows deep. In the mundane, passion becomes loyalty. In the routine, I learn how to give extraordinary love.

Boys Club

A couple of weeks ago, I was sitting by myself and having lunch. I was reading a magazine, watching sports on TV, and checking email on my phone. At the next table, there was group of 3 guys talking; and I wasn’t really listening until one of them said this:

“There’s no way my wife could leave for a couple of days. I don’t think I could handle it with my kids. All the meals and baths and stuff. It’s more than I can deal with.”

I stopped. I wanted to get up, walk over, sit down, look at him and go, “REALLY?!?” (and then slap him). You couldn’t handle having the kids for a couple of days? Really? You couldn’t handle being the sole care giver for 48 hours? Really?!?

Listen, if you are a dad and you couldn’t be solely responsible for your kids for a couple of nights, without…

…your wife preparing all the meals
…your wife writing out instructions on which kids get which medicines, etc
…your mommy coming over to watch them so you can go golf or to help get them to bed
…just putting them in front of the TV, Wii, or Game Boy for a couple days…

…then you aren’t doing your job as a husband and father. You’re immature at best, selfish at worst, and I guarantee you cause your wife more stress than anyone else in her life. It’s time to grow up.

Your kids need alone time with you. They need to bond with you without their mom around. They need to see how you handle dinner (and carry out doesn’t count…cook something!) They need to see how you do bath time. They need to see you doing dishes, picking up, and keeping the house in good order. They need to see you take them to swim practice, to their basketball game, and to church on Sunday! Quite simply, they need to see their dad being dad.

My boys love Boys Club. In fact, we are just coming off a Boys Club weekend this weekend. That’s what we call it when when my wife is gone for a few hours or for the weekend. They look forward to it. I look forward to it. She really looks forward to it!

Here’s the point: Be engaged AND intentional in the life of your kids. Don’t just be a paycheck.

40% of babies born in White families today have no father in the home. The number jumps to over 70% when you talk about babies born in the African American community. Those are homes where there is no father at all. That doesn’t count the homes where a dad is physically there, but in all the ways that matter he’s not there!

Here’s the challenge: Be alone with your kids for an overnight or for a weekend. Send your wife away somewhere. I’m guessing you won’t have to twist her arm!

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Now, in case you are a mom reading this (or you men want to show her this post when she looks at you funny for suggesting she go away for a night), you need to understand your husband is not a mom. He is not going to do things the way you do.

He’s not going to feed them the way you do. That’s OK.
He’s not going to treat them the way you do. That’s OK.
He’s not going to do bedtime the way you do. That’s OK

Why? Because he is their father. He loves them, cares about them, and will protect them. They will still all be there when you get home. Let your husband test his own parenting skills. Only doing everything you tell him to do when it comes to the kids isn’t having an engaged father/husband…it’s having a male nanny that brings in a paycheck.

You want and need your husband to be engaged in your kids’ lives. You need him to be willing to take them off your hands for a change. You need time away from the kids, and just as importantly, they need time away from you.

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OK, back to the men. I think it’s time more of us men Stand Up, Step Up, and Suck It Up when it comes to being actively involved in the raising of our kids.

So, don’t tell me you don’t think you could handle your kids alone for a couple of days while your wife gets a much needed break.

You can do it.

It’s called being a dad.

The Role of Imagination in the Exaltation of God

boydadsjan2014

 My second son has a pretty vivid imagination.   When he gets that glazed-over look and stares at the same spot on the wall for 5 minutes, you can tell he has departed Earth.  This is a much appreciated attribute when it comes to church… he is the one kid of our four who we don’t have to arm-wrestle or give the death-look to in order for him to quit squirming.  But aside from me appreciating how his imagination can make my life circumstantially easier at times, I will probably admit that I have at best been indifferent to his tendency to “space-out,” much less seeing any redemptive value in it.  Until I spent a few minutes one day chewing on Ephesians 3:20-21 (ESV):

20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Have you ever stopped to really consider what Paul is saying here?  He is saying that our imaginations, your son’s imagination, the one that we sometimes put up with, sometimes get annoyed by but seldom encourage or celebrate, has huge implications for his view of God.  We see the goal in verse 21, that the glory and greatness of God be lifted high in the church and in Christ through every person, young and old, through every time.  But in between his opening introduction of who he is talking about at the beginning of verse 20, “Now to him” and the resumption of that thought where Paul picks back up at the beginning of verse 21 with “to him” we see a parenthetical statement that Paul inserts to tell us two things about the “him” that he is referring to.

First, Paul says that God’s power is beyond anything we can ask or think.  It is easy for me to see limits to what I can ask.  But Paul says that God’s power is infinitely beyond (far more abundantly) anything I can think.  That means that whatever my son can imagine God having the power to do, He cannot just do more, but infinitely more.  What would sitting with your son for 15 minutes do, if you were to spend time encouraging him to imagine with you all that God could do and then affirm that He can do even more, way  more, than all that you two have just come up with?  Oh how the Spirit could use that time of imagination to increase your son’s vision of God!  And as your son’s vision of God grows, so will his fear, love, joy, reverence, and hope in that same big God.  But Paul didn’t stop there!

Second, Paul tells us that this same infinitely-beyond-our-imagination power that God has, is the power that is inside of us working!  I can imagine some pretty amazing things that God can do.  I can imagine the power it would take to make a galaxy, the might it would take to create a supernova, the strength it would take to not just create but control a black hole.  The power required to do all of these things is way beyond me, but it’s not even a fraction of the power of God.  And that very same power is at work in my son.  That very same power is at work in me.  That is some crazy power flowing through us!  How can those realizations and thoughts not result in the glory of God being exalted through the people of God for all time!

So dads, the next time you son is off in la-la-land, resist the temptation to call him back to the “real world,” and instead engage him in some God-exalting, hope-inducing, fear-creating, imagination-utilizing discussions about His power and greatness and with the hope and expectation that the Spirit will use that God-given gift of imagination to exalt the glory of God in the life your son!

 

 

Do You Have a Plan?

The engines roar so loudly you can feel your whole body shake as the fighter jet accelerates down the short runway on the aircraft carrier in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. You can smell the burning fuel. Standing on the deck of the carrier, you can’t even see the fighter pilot inside because his plane is racing by at such an incredible speed. You can, though, sense the power of the great plane and the intensity of the takeoff. Just seconds before, the jet was calmly stationed at the end of the carrier, along with a few other ones. But now, just seconds later, amidst burning fuel and an awesome display of speed, it’s at the end of the runway and quickly airborne, racing up into the blue sky.

But where is the plane going?

Like the fighter jet, you, too, are about to accelerate down a short runway and take off on a great adventure with many possible missions and destinations. During your childhood, your life has probably been pretty steady and stable for the last few years. Sure, there have been ups and downs and you’ve changed and grown as a boy, but boyhood is usually marked by very slow and gradual development compared to the upcoming season in your life. But soon, instead of just hanging out at the end of the runway with the other fighter jets, instead of slowly taxiing back and forth on the runway, your life is about to accelerate in a very intense and rapid period called adolescence. And at the end of adolescence, you will take off into the sky for an even greater adventure: manhood.

Any fighter pilot will probably tell you that good preparation before the flight is essential to a successful mission. He has spent thousands of hours learning to fly. He has considered problems he could encounter and maneuvers he could use in those dangerous situations. He has tested and serviced the plane. He has filled it up with fuel. He has studied the specific flight plan, considered the weather, and learned the goal and details of the mission. The takeoff is but a few seconds; the mission is but a few hours; but the preparation is years in the making.

The preparation is years in the making. Do you feel the weight of that challenge? It is up to us to make sure that we are being proactive with our sons as we cast vision for it means to be a godly man. We have to give them the Flight Plan well before their flight takes off. That requires work on our part. Are you willing to put the time and effort in now so that your future pilot can fly on the journey himself? The challenge is set before us. The question is whether or not we are up for it!

Bring the Bible to Life!

I have fond memories of acting out Bible stories with my family as a kid. Back in those days, Sunday afternoons were often spent re-enacting the plagues of Egypt, the defeat of Jericho, Zacchaeus climbing a tree to see Jesus, and more. For me and my brothers, the stories of the Judges were always our favorites, like Gideon’s nighttime attack on the Midianites, Ehud burying his dagger in King Eglon’s belly, and Samson taking out masses of quickly re-spawning Philistines with his stuffed-sock “jawbone.”

Bringing the Bible to life

Now that I have kids of my own, I’m discovering that Bible drama is one of the best ways to get young children excited about the Bible. They may not sit still for Bible reading very long, but if you give them a chance to get up and act out the story themselves, they will engage with God’s Word on a whole new level. If you haven’t tried Bible drama in your home, there are many reasons to give it a try, especially if you have young ones in your family.

How Bible drama can benefit your children:

  • It can help them pay better attention and listen for details when you read the Bible.
  • It may lead to questions and better understanding of the stories.
  • They will remember the stories much better after acting them out with you.
  • It helps them to see the character of God and the pattern of His faithfulness throughout history.
  • They’ll see the consequences of man’s decisions as played out in Scripture.
  • It helps them think through and better understand Scripture passages (especially the Proverbs).
  • Acting out stories is often more engaging for everyone, especially boys, extra-active children, and kinesthetic learners.
  • Drama brings the Bible to life! Children realize that the people in Scripture were real people living real lives, just like us.
  • You’ll create fun family memories as everyone learns and plays together.
  • As your children grow older, they may also find ways to bless others through Bible drama, including mission work, outreach, and church programs.

While you’re having fun with Bible drama, remember the ultimate goal. We want our children to know God – as He reveals Himself in His Word – and believe in Him. This is why God tells us to instruct our children. This is why He gave us such rich stories to share. That’s what I’m praying for, for my kids and yours.

 

Do your boys enjoy acting out Bible stories? Do they have a favorite story?

You may also enjoy Get Kids to Love Bible Study or Doorposts’ Bible Drama Video Contest.

The Dance

Our family traveled from Virginia to Michigan at the beginning of the month to celebrate our niece’s wedding. It was a “white-knuckled” drive through a blizzard but the prospect of everyone being together provided plenty of motivation. For the first time in a year, Cindi and I would enjoy time and stories from our 6 children, their spouses and “plus ones” as we spent a few days together. I have to admit that it was nice having two other men in the room; most of the time I am considerably outnumbered by the women in my life.

I did manage to make my way to my “coach’s” home to join 20 other men who get together every Saturday morning for a time of reflection and encouragement around God’s Word. It was refreshing, to say the least. The discussion starting point that morning was a reminder that we are called “human beings,” not “human doings.” It seems many of us get so involved in the day-to-day “shoulds” and “to dos” that we lose sight of who God has called us to be. Let me caution you here: if you find yourself overwhelmed by the “do this and do that” or the do-do-do impulse, you may look back on your life someday and find that all it amounted to was a big pile of dodo!

As the conversation progressed, it soon veered into the area of obedience. It seems that many Christians, especially parents, spend a lot their time on this topic. This is probably due to the fact that we spend so much time trying to get our children to be obedient. The things we do in life should be done out of our obedience to God’s direction. After all, the more obedient we are, the more things we will do for Him, and the more we do, the more He will appreciate us. God’s blessings, therefore, are a result of our obedience to God and the things we do for him. It all sounds pretty logical, doesn’t it?

Yet this flies in the face of the reality that we are to be still and know that He is God, that He gives us rest, and that He is our rest. We were created to be in an intimate relationship with our Creator. We were designed to have fellowship with our God and walk with Him in the cool of the afternoon.

As parents, we desire our children to be obedient to our instruction. Even if it is something that they don’t want to do, we desire for them to choose to be obedient out of love and respect, don’t we?

Cindi and I have been taking basic ballroom dance lessons recently. In those lessons we are learning that arm position and gentle pressure from our hands communicate direction. We are learning that in order for the dance to work, I am to lead and she is to follow. The lead, though, is communicated through the intimacy we have as we dance together. When I lead well and she follows well, we dance. If I don’t lead well or she doesn’t follow well our feet get tangled.

I have learned that obedience from God’s perspective is less about doing what He says regardless of the situation and more about following His lead well as we embrace one another in intimacy. It’s a dance and not a duty.

Intimacy with God is not a morning devotional, prayer 3 times a day, church on Wednesdays and Sundays and the memorization of the entire New Testament. Intimacy with God is an embrace that goes on all day and all night. It is 24/7/365 attention to the gentle and guiding pressures of His hand. It is a closeness that can hear the whisper of His voice. It is intimate enough to feel the beat of His heart.

Try it and watch what happens.

What does your son mean when says “I’m sorry?”

repentanceThere is no better theological learning environment than the family.  It is in the context of family that you see the truest picture of your son’s heart, and therefore have the best opportunity to speak life-transforming, Christ-exalting truths to his heart.  And, since it is the Holy Spirit who ultimately superintends our growth and maturity (Gal 3:1-3), it doesn’t matter if you don’t have a seminary degree, or you are just learning all of this stuff yourself; you, dad, can and should be a tool of theological growth in the life of your son.

After the nation of Israel is freed from slavery (Exodus) and makes the journey through the wilderness to the land God promised to give them (Leviticus-Deuteronomy), Joshua tells us the story of Israel taking over the land.  But they failed to obey God and did not drive out all the people living there.  The book of Judges depicts a repetitive cycle of what follows as Israel lives in the land along side those people, a cycle of Israel abandoning God and sinning, God allowing them to be conquered, the people crying out to God for deliverance, God raising up a judge to deliver them from their enemies, the people obeying as long as the judge lived- but when the judge died, the people go right back to their evil ways.

In Judges 6, we again see this cycle of sin– one of these cycles of sin we see a glimpse of the life of the nation of Israel that provides a great backdrop to teach your sons the difference between repentance and regret.

“The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord gave them into the hand of Midian seven years.” Judges 6:1 (ESV)

This time was worse than any other time.  Usually their oppressors would come in, collect some tribute, impose their political will on the Israelites, but life generally continued.  The Midianites, however, were a different kind of bad guy.  They were a bunch of marauding nomads that liked to ride in on their fast camels, and decimate everything you had, taking it all and leaving absolutely nothing (6:5).  It was so bad that the people had left their homes and were living like a bunch of animals in the mountains (6:2).

The result? “And Israel was brought very low because of Midian. And the people of Israel cried out for help to the Lord.” Judges 6:6 (ESV).

But this time was different.  Every other time, the Israelites would call out and God sent a hero (3:9, 15; 4:3-4), someone who was able to free the people from the tyranny that they were suffering from.  This time, God doesn’t send a hero, he sends a prophet.  This prophet comes and doesn’t lead the people to military conquest over the Midianites, he preaches to them.  And you have to stop and ask, “Why would God give them a sermon when they wanted a savior?”  The answer is in the content of the sermon.  In verses 8-10a, the prophet tells the people all that God had done for them, his deliverance of them from slavery, his giving of the land to them, but in 10b, the prophet tells the people what they have done.  “But you have not obeyed my voice.”  Judges 6:10b (ESV).    You see, the people were filled with regret over their circumstances, but they had not repented.

There is a difference between regret and repentance.  Paul illustrates this difference in 2 Corinthians 7:10 (ESV), “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.”  Regret is centered on the circumstances. Regret is the expression of your desire for the situation to be different, the pain to stop, the punishment to end, the suffering to subside.  Repentance is different than regret.  Repentance includes a desire not just for situational change but for heart change.  Repentance has more to do with others and less to do with us.  Repentance understands that there is damage to the relationship that needs to be healed.

So dad, when your son says, “I’m sorry,” what does he really mean?  Is he expressing regret or is he expressing repentance?  Does he know the difference?

 

Let’s Help Celebrate the Praying for Boys Release!

Hi Dads! Thanks for stopping by! We want to take today to help support our sister Brooke McGlothlin and celebrate the release of her new book, Praying for Boys: Asking God for the Things They Need Most! If you’re not familiar with Brooke, she is co-founder and one of the driving forces behind The MOB Society, our sister site. And, even more, she’s a great encouragement to tired moms everywhere, and a mother passionate about raising boys into godly men.

Praying-for-Boys-250 So let’s keep it simple, guys. This would make a great gift, “just because,” for your wife, sister, cousin– or, honestly, a great read for you! Brooke is insightful and her writing is laced with and founded on the Word of God. And, most importantly, she is passionate about seeing boys grow into godly men.  Let’s help make this a successful launch. Head over here for more information about the book and how to purchase it!

Don’t Let “Oops” Define Your Parenting

There are several people in life that you don’t want to hear say “Oops!” Your barber, your mechanic, and your surgeon come to mind. Another is your parents. None of us want “Oops” to sum up the influence we’ve had on the lives of our children. Sadly, I am hearing more and more of that from dads. It is crucial for us to become intentional about what we are giving the next generation in the short time they are in our care.

If you don’t know this, time sneaks up on you. At first it was sleepless nights and leaky diapers. Exhausting and disgusting, but a fair trade off for getting close with such a little bundle of joy. Then they raise the bar with bumps and bruises, dinnertime spills, crayons on the walls, and the word “No” in response to, well, everything. The trade off seems a little less fair. Before you know it, you pole vault over issues you never thought were part of the parenting package- that first cuss word, awkwardly trying to explain sex, or working through that first time they are picked on or excluded.

It is our job as dads to give them a biblical framework for living. We are called to equip them with a strong sense of identity that comes from knowing who made them, who they are, and how they fit into the larger story of life. We must help them understand their story from the Author’s perspective, to enjoy the wonder that comes from knowing that with God everything is sacred and nothing is meaningless.

Dads must lead the charge in this battle for truth and teach our kids about:

A personal, loving God who created them for relationship.
A sense of purpose and meaning that transcends the often confusing and painful experiences they will endure.
Timeless truth that frames the choices they will face and explains the seemingly hapless circumstances of life.
A profound hope only found in Jesus Christ that can overshadow the deepest despair.

Don’t let this opportunity slip by. The curtain is up and you are on stage. It is time to act!