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.

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.

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!

Celebrating The Word Made Flesh

Celebrating-the-word-made-flesh

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us; and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” – John 1:1

This is the story of Christmas, in the shortest possible form. The Word became flesh; God became man; heaven came to earth. Christ came, and He brought with Him all of God’s glory, but veiled in flesh, so that we could stand to look at it.

Once again, the Word spoke into darkness, and light came. The first time was the Creation of the world, where, John writes, “He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:2-3). The Word created all things; the Word spoke light from darkness; the Word brought about the very beginning of all things.

And now, the Word recreates us, and will recreate all things (2 Corinthians 5:17); the Word speaks light into our spiritual darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome Him any more than it could when the first shaft of light rent the darkness of the world in the Creation; the Word brings about new beginning- a rebirth- for all those who receive Him (John 1:12). The very Word, who was with God and who is God, Who created all things by simply speaking, has spoken into our dark world, and brought light and life.

When God first spoke the world into being, His words carried consequences: He spoke, and what He spoke became reality, never to be removed except by His word. In the same way, when the Word was spoken into our world, there were lasting consequences: the Word came, and dwelt, and remains. Christmas celebrates a moment in time- when Christ was born; but it also celebrates that God is now with us, far beyond that day in Bethlehem. And it celebrates not just the birth of Christ, but the reason for His coming: that all of us, sinners held back from a relationship with God, might have the opportunity to know Him. That we might behold His glory, His grace, and His truth. And that we might be changed, from dead to living, from far from God to near to Him, from living in darkness to living in marvelous light.

Dads, if you do nothing else this Christmas- if you give your children no other gifts- make sure they understand this: Christmas is very literally the celebration of God communicating Himself to us through Jesus Christ. It is Him interrupting our aimless wandering, our searching for reasons to celebrate and hopes to cling to, and setting before our eyes the only true Joy, the only hope that does not disappoint: God made man, Christ taking on flesh. God with us. May you rejoice in Him today; may your words celebrate the Word that told the grace of God.

Happy Christmas!

A Legacy of Faithful Obedience

Christmas boydad

Typically at the end of a year, it is easy to become a little pensive as we ponder all that has happened over the past twelve months and realize how fast time is flying by. As I look at last year’s Christmas card while choosing pictures for this year’s card, that truth is driven home in a fresh way this Christmas. And with that truth comes the question: “What kind of legacy am I leaving my sons?” There will come a day, all too quickly, that my time is done and they will carry on without me. What images will be burned into their memories? Matthew paints for us a picture of a dad who left the kind of legacy that I want to be true of me. In 1:18-2:23, Matthew gives us his account of Jesus’ birth and all the events that surround it. The story starts with a bit of scandal as Joseph finds that his fiancée is pregnant, and as he was getting ready to end his relationship with Mary, he received a visit from an angel via a dream; the angel said to him, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:20b – ESV).

Stop and grasp that for a moment. Try to wrap your mind around what Joseph was being told (as if the visit from an angel wasn’t mind-blowing enough!). Joseph, you need to get married to a girl who is carrying a baby (you are going to be a dad way sooner than you thought) and this kid is the direct result of God’s hand. Talk about life-changing truth! And so Joseph had a choice. Would he obey the angel’s directive or would he proceed with plans to separate from Mary? A few years later, Joseph has another dream and gets another visit from an angel. The news delivered this time is just as life altering as the first: “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” (Matthew 2:13 – ESV). Someone is out to kill your son, Joseph; you have to move- and not just to another city, but to another country, and you have to go now. And so Joseph faced another choice: would he obey the word of an angel and move to a different country with his young son and wife?

Some time later, Joseph has a third dream and another visit from an angel who told him to, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” (Matthew 2:20 – ESV). And so Joseph was faced with another choice: would he trust what the angel told him, that the danger was indeed over, and move Mary and Jesus back to Israel? Three dreams, three visits from an angel, three commands, and one response from Joseph: Faithful obedience. It was faithful obedience that caused Joseph to go ahead with plans to getting married to a girl who was already pregnant. It was faithful obedience that caused him to move his family to another country in the middle of the night. It was faithful obedience that caused Joseph to move his family back into the “lion’s den.”

It is this kind of faithful obedience to the words of God that you and I are called to leave as a legacy for our sons. But I don’t want you to think that it is now up to you to muster up the will power to force yourself into faithful obedience. That will never happen. The way that you and I are capable of faithful obedience is the same way that Joseph was able: because we have a God who is faithful to His promises.

The main point of Matthew’s birth narrative is that God is faithful to His word. In these 31 verses, Matthew shows us five different Old Testament texts that were fulfilled, which screams to us that we can be faithful in our obedience to God because He was faithful to His promises. Joseph obeyed because he believed the promises of God. The secret to our obedience is the same… belief in the promises of God. This is what Christmas is about: God’s faithfulness to his promises made visible, the word becoming flesh, that we might believe in His promises and live lives of faithful obedience. This is the legacy we are called to, dads. Is this the legacy your sons will remember?

The Tree that Keeps Growing

Last month, I went on my first mission trip. It was a great experience. (Why did I wait until age 30 to try this?!) I went to Kolkata, India, for two weeks with a group of 15 people from my church, and we worked together with Bengali Christians at the Grace Community Centre in Kolkata. We taught computer and English classes. We helped run a daycare and VBS. We went on a boat to the Sundarban islands where we acted out Bible stories, sang songs in Bengali, and preached Jesus to people who have never heard of Him.

Our trip allowed several free days, and our hosts graciously drove us around the city to for some shopping and sightseeing . We saw everything from Mother Teresa’s hospital to the Kali Temple, where people still make goat sacrifices to the Hindus’ gods.

We also went to the botanical gardens to see The Great Banyan Tree. This 250-year-old tree holds the world record for the largest canopy of a single tree, covering almost four acres. It spreads as the high branches send shoots downward, which take root and eventually become supporting trunks. A road was built around the circumference of the tree, but branches have since reached across the road and grown new trunks in an ever-widening circle. Today there are about 3600 interconnected trunks, all supporting one broad, leafy canopy.

The Tree that Keeps Growing

The growing Banyan tree reminded me of the reason we went to India: to share the gospel with new people and help make disciples for Jesus. This is how God works. Slowly but surely, the gospel is preached, churches are planted, and people find true life as God’s plan for the world unfolds.

Sadly, the original trunk in the center of the Banyan tree was removed due to disease almost 100 years ago. But the tree keeps spreading in all directions, thanks to the new roots and trunks that keep on growing.

In a way, this reminds me of how God can work through faithful parents. One father who loves his children and points them to Jesus can have a huge impact on future generations. You and I will be long gone 250 years from now, but God willing, there will be thousands of Christians in the world who can trace their heritage back to us and see fathers who loved Jesus and faithfully made disciples of our children.

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

The Path to Self-Control

I’ve been enjoying and old book called The Children for Christ, by Andrew Murray. Being over 100 years old, these daily readings on godly parenting are sometimes slow going, but I’m also discovering some great nuggets of wisdom.

These words on the fifth commandment are especially relevant to our day:

“Man was created free that he might obey; obedience is the path to liberty.

“On this point parents often err; they often say that to develop the will of the child the will must be left free, and the child left to decide for himself. They forget that the will of the child is not free—passion and prejudice, selfishness and ignorance, seek to influence the child in the wrong direction…

“But are we not in danger of repressing the healthy development of a child’s moral powers by thus demanding implicit submission to our will? By no means. The true liberty of the will consists in our being master of it, and so our own masters. Train a child to master his will in giving it up to his parents’ command, and he acquires the mastery to use when he is free. Yielding to a parent’s control is the path to self-control, and self-control alone is liberty.

“The child who is taught by a wise parent to honour him and his superior wisdom will acquire, as he gives up his own way, the power over his will, as he never can who is taught to imagine that he need do nothing unless the parent has first convinced him of the propriety of the act, and obtained his consent.”

Andrew Murray, The Children for Christ, p. 111-112.

This inspires me to recommit to requiring first-time obedience from my little ones. Besides learning obedience to both their earthly and their heavenly Father now, my children are acquiring the tools needed to make their own decisions and live in obedience to God long after they have left my home.

Boys and Integrity

Boys-and-integrity

The evening was coming to an end and so were my wits. My oldest was crying in her room. As I went to see what was wrong, my son scurries out of the room avoiding eye contact with me, leaping into bed with guilt dragging behind him. I ask her what he did and in between gasps of air she belts out, “He’s exasperating me!” I ask her how he’s exasperating her and she proceeds to explain he sold her a pen for a dollar and now wants another dollar after she had already given him the money.

I call him into the room.

He peers ever so slowly from around the corner. His head is down. Our eyes barely meet.

He tells me this is true of what happened.

He’s hardly remorseful and more concerned that he didn’t get more than what he sold it to his sister for.

The words, “You need to give your sister back the money she paid for the pen…and she’s keeping the pen too,” rolled off of my tongue.

You would have thought I took all of his toys and burned them with the look I received from him.

I explained the meaning of integrity and what it means to keep your word. I explained there are few men who have it and having integrity is a noble characteristic.

I want him to know what integrity is. I want integrity to be his best friend. I want it to be my best friend too. I turn to him and give him permission as man to man that he can call me out on anything that I’m not doing with integrity.

It’s a two-way street.

I have seen men fall from high places from a lack of integrity. And no man is above falling.

I want my son to know I have his back. And I want him to have mine.

If he loses everything and has God and integrity, then he really hasn’t lost anything at all.