Boring is Not Allowed

Jack London, author of the book “White Fang”, when asked about purpose in life, responded by saying: “The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.” Our boys must understand that they have incredible adventures ahead of them. They must also see that lived out in our lives. I have yet to meet a boy that wants to grow up and be boring. God designed boys and men with adventuresome spirits. We men often love to explore, take risks, and play and invent games in which we are challenged and pushed to the edge.

This sense of adventure, however, can be misguided during the teenage years. Some adventures could lead down a path towards things like alcohol, drugs, vandalism and sex outside of marriage. These paths should be avoided. It is our calling as dads to tell our boys that many things are out of bounds. When we give those restrictions, it is important for our boys to know that we are preparing them for the future, even if they feel like they are missing out on an adventure that other teenage boys are having.

This does not mean that there are no adventures left to enjoy. Your life is not meant to be boring and empty, and neither is your son’s. Author Wilfred Peterson says, “A man practices the art of adventure when he breaks the chain of routine and renews his life through reading new books, traveling to new places, making new friends and taking up new hobbies.” Men should never fall into the trap of believing that a life of adventure is over at a certain age. God called men of all ages and stages to a life of adventure.

As we learn more about the character of God and His Son Jesus, we will come to see God as sending each of us on a great adventure when we become a follower of His. Jesus lived a radical and adventurous life, and He calls us to live the same way. Real men embrace the right kinds of adventures.

My prayer is that our sons will know very clearly from both our words and actions that a life lived for the glory of God is a life of adventure.

The Power of a Compliment

Twain Quote

 

1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV): Therefore encourage one another and build each other up…

When was the last time you gave someone a compliment? Not because of something they just did for you, but just because.

I received a call this week, out of the blue, from a guy that paid me a very flattering compliment. What he said doesn’t matter, and that’s not the point here. What is the point is how reaffirming it was to me. It validated all the effort and work I have been putting in on a project. Not only did it validate my efforts, it reminded me of why I was doing what I was doing.

We shouldn’t do what we do for the compliments. But, it is nice to hear another guy say, “Hey, I’ve been watching you and I think you are doing a great job. I appreciate what you’re doing for me and others!”

I need to do more of that. I need to look for opportunities to compliment other people for things they do everyday…because they want to…because they have to! It should start with Amber and my boys. But, it should reach way beyond family.

The new dad who is struggling to figure out his new life.

The empty nester who is handling his new stage of life with actions that are to be modeled by others and speak deeply of this character.

The new believer who has a passion for the Truth that simply is captivating and inspiring.

As men (and we do not like to admit this), we need the affirmation.  Especially the affirmation of other men. We need to know our efforts, actions, and decisions are being noticed. When those efforts, actions and decisions are worthy of praise, we need to hear that. When they aren’t worthy of praise, hopefully we have men in our lives to call us out.

So, here’s the challenge: Be looking out for another guy you can compliment and reaffirm. Maybe it’s the way he treats his wife in public. Or the way he works with his kids. Whatever it is…tell him he’s doing a good job. Tell him to keep it up. Tell him to keep up the good fight. Tell him the effort is worth it!

 

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.

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!

Step Up: Serve

Step-up-serveLet’s face it: we men have difficulty serving.

I work hard to provide for my family. I pay the bills, and I keep the cars maintained. I change light bulbs and fix leaky toilets. I make sure the trash is taken out. I wash dishes fairly regularly. I even get the kids ready for bed most nights.

But do my boys see me serve in church? Do I tell them I serve my Lord and Savior, but only in words and not in deeds?

I came across a website that included some interesting facts about men and their service in church. There are quite a few statistics, and feel free to go to the website (click here) to get all of them, and see their footnotes. I will include just a couple:

  • This Sunday almost 25 percent of married, churchgoing women will worship without their husbands.

  • Midweek activities often draw 70 to 80 percent female participants.

  • Over 70 percent of the boys who are being raised in church will abandon it during their teens and twenties. Many of these boys will never return.

  • Fewer than 10% of U.S. churches are able to establish or maintain a vibrant men’s ministry.

  • A study from Hartford Seminary found that the presence of involved men was statistically correlated with church growth, health, and harmony. Meanwhile, a lack of male participation is strongly associated with congregational decline.

Even more than attending church, we need to serve. I find it a little funny how we refer to our Sunday morning gathering as a “Church Service,” yet so few of us serve there. I am challenged to look at the “Service” as a verb and not a noun. How I serve others in the church body is a response to how I understand the heart of Jesus Christ. On his final day, before He was crucified, Jesus served.

Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. John 13.3-5 (NIV)

Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. John 13.14-17 (NIV)

What a great picture of the master serving others! Our sons need to see us serving. Maybe it is serving as an usher. Maybe it is serving as an elder. Maybe it is serving as a janitor. Maybe even serving in the nursery (doesn’t sound very manly, does it?), but we need to serve. We are called to serve. We need to validate our words.

If possible, find opportunities for you to serve with your children. Let them see you actively serve, and give them a chance to pattern their lives after yours, and find the joy in serving your church as a family.

Is God worth serving? Or do I have other things in my life that I would rather serve, that take priority over God’s command to me to serve? Our sons will see right through our words, and either they will believe us when we say we serve the one true God, or they will see us serving something else.
It is not easy. It may even seem awkward. But it is time to step up, and serve.

A letter to New Dads, Old Dads, and New Dads That Feel Old

A-letter-to-new-dads(Note: This is really a letter to new fathers, but if you’ve been a dad for awhile, I hope this will have some meaning for you as well.)

Dear New Dad,

I know, I know. The baby is finally quiet and the last thing you want to do is read this letter. You want to sleep. Actually, you might be too tired to sleep, so collapsing on the couch in exhaustion may be more like it. Relax, it could be worse: You could be the new mom!

But, while you have a minute I wanted to write you this note. I remember so well the day my first son was born. I had no idea the impact him coming into the world would have on me. Looking back, I want to give you 4 things to tuck away and remember. Even with 4 boys (ages 10, 8, 6, 4) these are things I still need to hear too. I hope you find them helpful.

1. Pursue God more now than ever – Don’t lose sight of the fact your most important relationship still needs be with God and His son, Jesus. In fact, now that you have a child of your own, I bet John 3:16 (…his only begotten son…) looks a bit more real to you. You understand how much God must love you to put His son on the cross to die for you. Remember, He doesn’t want your money. He doesn’t want you just going to church. He wants a relationship with you. As a new father, you are going to need His strength now more than ever.

2. Love your wife – It’s so easy to get in the habit of raising kids that, if I am not careful, I can begin to interact and treat my wife as a business partner. No doubt sometimes it feels like Kaehr, Inc. instead of The Kaehr Family, but I want to be married to my best friend, not a business partner. Create space for just you and your wife. Create moments where you can be close to her, talk with her, and spend time with just her – remember, loving her means leading her. Now more than ever, she needs you to step up as the Godly leader in the home!

3. Check your blind spots – There are going to be areas of your life that were never an issue before and now that you have kids, those areas may become blind spots (things that are affecting you that you just don’t see). You need to be meeting with other men in discipleship/accountability to keep your life in check. You also need to have a mentor you can lean on for wisdom. If you don’t have these men in your life, now would be the time to get them. You are going to need other men to share with and help you down this path.

4. Enjoy it – Children are gift from the Lord. Enjoy the new blessing in your life. Remember, don’t just enjoy them now (when they are sleeping). Enjoy them in the middle of the night when they are screaming. Enjoy them when they throw up all over you. Enjoy them when they begin to walk or say “da da”. Enjoy them when they poop out of their diaper all over your jeans at the restaurant. Don’t ever stop looking at them like the miracle you keep saying they are right now. Believe me, that is SO much easier to write than say, but it’s true!

I could probably go on and on, but I won’t. Enjoy the quiet. Give your wife a back rub. Rest. You are going to need it.

But, let me tell you: If you will be an engaging husband and father, if you will pursue God, love your wife, share the experience with others, and enjoy the moments…there is no greater job or reward this side of Heaven. Absolutely nothing!

To quote a PBS legend, “Red Green”…Remember, I’m pulling for ya’. We’re all in this together.

Congratulations!
Dustin

Let Him Help You

Let-him-help-you

I should have known my son would be different. After two girls, I expected a boy would be different, but I didn’t know just how different he would be from the get-go.

At age one, he would watch me split kindling and giggle every time the wood popped. While I was under the sink trying to fix the garbage disposal, he wormed his way in beside me and poked at it with a screwdriver.

He’s not even two yet, but he peeks under the car and hands me tools while I’m changing the oil. He’s thrilled to sit with me in the driver’s seat and pretend to drive the car in the driveway.

He loves anything motorized, and he cries whenever he has to stay in the house while I’m mowing the lawn. In fact, anything (besides “CAR!”) with a motor is exuberantly called “MOW!” right now.

I can see that a desire to DO things is deeply rooted in my son. He’s watching what I do, and he wants to help me. I want to encourage this attitude! Here are several good reasons for letting our children (no matter how small) work beside us:

  1. God made us to work (Gen. 2:15, Eccl. 9:10), and our inborn sin nature has not entirely erased that desire, even in a toddler.
  2. When they’re little, it seems like they always want to be with us. We need to take advantage of this. They’re watching everything we do, soaking up all that they see, and forming their own view of the world. If your children want to be with you, make the most of it, even if it’s inconvenient at times.
  3. They will also learn to be diligent (that is, if we set an example of diligence ourselves). I want my son to be a hard-working, creative man who knows how to take initiative. A man like this will always be in demand. If he knows how to work hard, he’ll be a valued employee or a capable entrepreneur. Proverbs says a man like this will “stand before kings.”

So let your children get in the way. Slow down, and let them “help,” even when it’s inconvenient. It won’t be inconvenient for very long!

(For some practical ways to encourage young children to help, read my blog post Raising Children Who Help over at the Doorposts Blog.)

To God Be The Glory

To-God-be-the-glory

This month, I have been on an amazing journey with God. My wife and I are beginning a book by A.W. Tozer that challenges us to look beyond our man-made view of God and seek to know His greatness. As I read, I felt very convicted that I am guilty of my man-made view of who God is. Because of this, I am on a quest to catch a glimpse of the glory of God.

You see, anytime we put limits on God, we are falling into the idolatry of making a god in our own image of who we think He should be. How can I tell if I have done this? I just need to take a look at where I spend my time, how I seek my own comforts, how I look for someone to blame when things do not go according to my plan.

When we place our focus on the magnificence of God, the other things take their rightful place in our lives. God is forgiveness, so what does forgiveness challenge me to do? If God is merciful, how am I supposed to show mercy? If God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, how am I supposed to love my wife sacrificially? If God is patient with me (His child) then where is my patience towards those children He has entrusted me to raise?

The glory of God is greater than our universe. There is nowhere that He is not. (Read Psalms 139:1-18. David understood this.) His presence fills every place where I am. With each breath I breath, I take in His glory and inspiration. Should not I breath out His praise?

The beauty of the quest I am on is that God is not hidden. When we praise Him, He is here with us. When we are troubled, He is here to comfort us. God is at work in our lives constantly. The question I have challenged myself with is, will I seek to see God at work? Not just live out a mundane existence and deny His fellowship, but look today, in expectation, to what God is doing all around me?

My sons need me to truthfully seek the glory and presence of the Lord. I need a genuine, daily, expectant relationship with God, and my boys need to see me live that out. I am challenged that just giving God a passing acknowledgement in my days is idolatry, and I am teaching my children to bow before an idol of my making. God desires so much more from us. We need so much more from Him than we can ever imagine.

My accountability partner agreed with the challenge I feel, but then he asked…

“How do we get there?”

Great question. Seeking the greatness of God is a lofty goal. One that is too big to fulfill in this life. So what are your thoughts? If you are on this journey, where are you headed? What has God shown you in your quest to see God?

To God be the glory!

A Steward of God’s Blessings

In the church I’ve grown up in, we have a tradition. Before a wedding, the men will gather for a “men’s advice night” and share lessons, stories, and marriage wisdom with the new husband-to-be. I just participated in one such advice night for my new brother-in-law and another friend who was also about to be married.

Godly men who’ve been married ranging from 1 month to 30 years shared stories of their mistakes and discoveries. They gave advice like “Read the Bible together daily,” “Start your own family traditions right away,” “Take adventures together,” and “Let her know you are thinking of her throughout the day.” We all wanted these young men to learn from our experiences and start marriage out on the right foot.

A-steward-of-God's-blessings

Photo credit

That night, also I heard several men say “I wish I’d had this kind of advice when I got married.” Not all of the men gathered had a Christian upbringing, godly parents, or even godly friends when they got married. And yet, God graciously worked in their lives, even through the rough times, and today God’s grace is clearly demonstrated in their lives and marriages.

This made me stop and think about all the blessings God has given me. I’ve experienced God’s grace, mercy, and blessings in more ways than I can count.

We need to be wise stewards of the blessings God gives us. We aren’t blessed just so we can be comfortable and happy; we’re blessed so we can praise and thank God for His grace. We’re blessed so we can share that grace with others around us.

How has God blessed you?

Were you blessed with faithful, godly parents?

Were you taught the Word of God and raised in the Christian faith?

Do you have a heritage of godly grandparents and ancestors you can look up to?

Are you a survivor of a rougher, less godly upbringing? God’s grace is still at work. No matter how you were raised, I’m going to assume, if you’re reading this, that God has brought you into a saving relationship with Him. You have a unique story to be thankful for and to share with others.

Are you blessed with a godly wife? Are you growing and learning in your marriage?

Are you part of the body of Christ, the Church? How has this been a blessing to you?

Do you have godly friends who care about you?

Have others invested in your life? Parents, teachers, friends, pastors, mentors… we’ve all learned from other people God has put in our life.

What about God’s provision? Have you seen God’s hand at work times of financial difficulty?

Has God given you success in your calling?

When has God answered your prayers, or given you wisdom and guidance?

You may not have experienced all of these blessings, but look around you. God is at work in your life. What blessings can you see?

What you do with these blessings matters.

Thank God for them. Tell the stories to your children. Mentor someone else who needs help. Share these blessings and be a conduit for God’s grace, reaching others around you who desperately need it.

If we gratefully steward God’s blessings in this way, we’ll be a strong influence for good in the lives of those around us, especially our sons.

 

Daniel Forster is married to Katelyn, father to three little ones, and the manager of Doorposts Publishing. He also writes for the blog Doorposts of Your House. You may enjoy his blog post How Grandpa Influenced Me.

Teaching Your Son What You Don’t Know

How do you teach your kids something you don’t know?

Or, more generally, how to you help your kids excel in areas where you don’t? Where, perhaps, you’re an abysmal failure?

teaching-your-sons-what-you-dont-know

It’s hard enough to pass on those values, skills, and ideals we possess in abundance. I can teach my sons how to be kind, patient, forgiving, faithful, and so on, because these happen to be some of my strengths; and even these will be transmitted to my boys only by concerted effort, diligence, endurance.

Harder by far is it for me to teach them decisiveness, strength in leadership, financial intelligence, even healthy aggression, because these are areas of weakness for me–areas where all my best efforts and concentrations are hardly enough to propel me toward any noticeable growth. But they are qualities I admire, aspire to, and desire for my sons. I want them to be well rounded, strong in the areas where I am weak, protected from my own shortcomings.

But how, exactly, am I supposed to pass that on to them? If I don’t possess certain abilities or character traits in abundance, how can I teach those things to my sons?

Being keenly aware of my various and colorful shortcomings (as you probably are of yours), I’ve thought a lot about this question. And, as a young dad, I’ve thought of several ways to help address the issue—ideas that are helping me as I implement them, and which I believe are applicable to fathers from any life stage. So, here goes: My list of How To Teach Your Sons What You Don’t Know…

1. Become a student

Come up against an issue that baffles you? Something outside your comfort zone, and beyond your strengths? Read up on it; study the issue in Scripture; begin trying to work it out in your own life. Experience, it’s said, is the best teacher. So, for example, if you struggle with making wise financial decisions, start by reading sound financial advice from a biblical perspective—then put it into practice. Always be willing to learn—for your benefit, and for your sons’.

2. Surround your sons with mentors

Proverbs 15:22 says, “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisors they succeed.” From an early age, our sons need to understand that we, their dads, don’t have everything they need: we are not perfect, not able to completely prepare them for all that life brings. We are their primary teachers, yes: God has designed it that way, and we should never shrink from that responsibility. But, let’s help our sons one more step along the way: let’s help them learn to be mentored. By accepting mentoring in our own lives, and by surrounding ourselves—and our sons—with godly friends, they will see a more complete representation of God-honoring masculinity.

3. Seek wisdom from God

James 1:5 tells us, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, Who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him.” The greatest tool we have for fathering, and especially for teaching our sons the things that are beyond our capabilities, is the wisdom of God. I believe it’s possible, through our inexperience and failure, that God can help us find the teachable moments our mess ups create. We can teach our sons through the dumb things we do, if we’re willing to admit our mistakes and seek the better path for next time. Even better, God can grant us the supernatural wisdom to understand that which is beyond us, and to make the wise choices. We can allow the Spirit of God to lead us, even in situations where we have no experience or aptitude, into victory.

These are general ideas, yes, but they are ones I’ve found extremely helpful as I consider my many shortcomings and how to raise my sons to avoid them. Become a student of the areas where you fall short, surround yourself (and your sons) with godly mentors who have different strengths than you do, and, most of all, seek God’s wisdom through HIs word.

Dads, what are some ways you’ve found to teach your sons what you don’t know? How do you pass on what you don’t have?