Who do you think you are?

Recently I had the chance to work a large AAU basketball tournament with teams from all over the country. There was some talented young kids there and there were coaches from every Big 10 school, several SEC, Big 12, and dozen of mid-major colleges there to watch these 15 and 16 year old players. It was obvious the kids lived and breathed basketball. In watching them on the floor, in between games, and walking the halls, it was obvious their entire identity was wrapped up in that sport.

OK, that’s fine. They are 16 and, for the most part, don’t have a clue about what their life will be like in 5 years…or what living in “the real world” will require of them.

Then I saw their parents. Ah…that explains it. I was amazed at how many of those parents yelled, screamed, kept stats, and took notes while their kid played. I understand it can be a big deal if your kid is one of the few that may have the ability to play in college and earn a full scholarship, but it was apparent that their entire life was wrapped up in basketball and their kid.

What’s wrong with that? What happens when Johnny doesn’t get an offer to play college ball? Or blows out a knee and never plays again? Or is burnt out and doesn’t want to play anymore? Who are those parents then? Odds are they become angry, bitter, and who knows what else.

Here’s the bigger idea: Be very careful where you have your identity, because if something happens to that, you are left trying to figure out exactly who you are.

I was working with a small business owner who was thinking of selling his business and retiring. On his notes he wrote, “What am I without the store?” The question hung there like a huge weight around his neck. He had no identity outside his work.

We all have this void in our life where we place our self-worth and self-esteem. The problem is we all try to fill the void in our life with so many different things:

Job (most common for men), kids (most common for women), our marriage, our extended family, our hobbies, or even our church/religion.

So what happens when we lose our job, our kids go off to school, our wife leaves us, or our church upsets us?

Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “…He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

See it? The problem and the answer are both right there. The void we are trying to fill is this longing in our heart for eternity. The answer isn’t my job. It isn’t pushing my son to be an all-star athlete at age 8. It isn’t completely focusing my entire life on my wife. It’s eternity. The problem is we can’t fully fathom what God has done, which means we have this burning desire for something we will never be able to fully understand. But, the answer in our heart can be satisfied by having a relationship with Jesus because only in Him can we have a secure knowledge that a longing for eternity is met.

Without that kind of foundation, as soon as that area of our life we’ve staked our identity cracks, crumbles, or disappears, we don’t know what do. We’re lost. And when that happens we try like mad to hold it all together or completely give up on life…because we have no other option.

Now, none of those things I mentioned (job, kids, etc) are bad. In fact, we need to be passionate about them and pursing them to get the most out of this life. But, those things can’t be who we are or what we are most known for. Think of it like this…what do you want to be know for when you die?

Me? I want to be known as a loving father, great husband, good friend who had a passion about people and helping men be all God made them to be.

All those things can only happen if my foundation is my personal relationship with Christ. Because, without Him, none of those things will ever be what I want them to be. Why? Because I can’t do it on my own…and neither can you.

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

Prayer Day

There’s no better way to start the month of December than with a Prayer Day. We’re all in different places, with different struggles- some of us are excited for the holidays, and some dreading them. No matter what you’re facing, dads, we want to consistently offer the opportunity to bear each other’s burdens and joys, because everyone needs a safe space to come and ask for prayer. It’s an honor and a privilege to stand together as men in this journey of fatherhood.

Prayer Day for Boy Dads. Know any dads who need prayer? Point them this way!

Take some time today to pray over this Advent and Christmas season- to rest in the fact that, because of Christmas, we have a Savior, a high priest, who can sympathize with us and who prays on our behalf.

Leave your request in the comments. Then, if you have the time, leave another comment with a written prayer for the person right above you. Let’s support each other, holding up each other’s arms in this battle to raise godly men.

Let’s pray. 

(Photo Credit)

 

Holidays + Families = Fun?

Finding-joy-in-holidaysI know that having a family with young kids can be both wonderful and stressful at the same time. Add the joys of all the holiday reunions and “wonderful” goes way down…and “stressful” goes way up!

As dad and husband, we have a major responsibility to lead our families well through this season, no matter what it brings! With the Holiday season ready to hit full stride, and stores already full of Christmas music, here are 3 suggestions to think about as you plan your “over the river and through the woods” trips this season:

Family First

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. Genesis 2:24

Your first priority needs to be your wife and children. You need to work to create and preserve your own family time during the holidays. It’s OK to tell that family member (your mom, her mom, your grandpa, etc.) that the way you have always celebrated the holidays may not be how you celebrate them now that you have kids. I promise there will be some initial push back, angry looks, and even guilt cast upon you. That’s OK. Your wife and kids need to be the most important focus.

Now, remember, you are called to honor your father and mother, so you need to work with them so you can enjoy the holidays with them, but only children are called to obey their parents. You are not a child. You are grown man with a family. Stand up for them (and for yourself) to make sure you put them first!

Traditions

Christmas traditions are great! Singing your favorite Christmas song. Watching Christmas Vacation. Hot Chocolate on the first day it snows. Those amazing peanut butter balls!

Be sure to pass down some of your (and your wife’s) favorite traditions. It’s a great chance to share with your kids about what you enjoyed growing up and the blending of your traditions with your wife’s will build some great, lasting memories for your kids.

But…don’t forget to create some new traditions unique to your family as well, so your children can pass them down when they are older!

Focus

More than ever, it is so easy to get wrapped up in materialism this time of year. It seems our mailbox is filled everyday with a new toy catalog. It’s easy for kids to think Christmas is only about getting presents and running from family member to family member to see what they get.

It is important to lead your family closer to Christ. Tell them the real “reason for the season” and then make sure you live it out in your own life! So here’s a question: What do you do with Santa? That’s a tough one.

There was a real Saint Nicholas from which the legend of Santa Clause grew. Don’t be afraid to talk about St. Nick, who he was, what he did, and how the story of Santa Claus came from this real person.

This year, we are planning to have gifts “in memory of St. Nick” instead of “from Santa”.

Now, all that being said…I don’t get too worried about it right now. Why not? Well, let me ask you something: How much can you remember from when you were 5 years old?

Exactly.

So, for my 6 and 4 year old, I’m not going to freak out if they get excited when they see deer tracks in our yard and think that Dasher, Donner, and Blitzen have been spying on them.

But, as they get older, we talk about it more and make sure they understand Christmas is God’s plan of Salvation put into motion, and ends with an empty tomb come Spring.

Ultimately, celebrating Christmas with your kids should be an opportunity to share the Gospel with them. That should be the focus!

———————————-

The holidays can be a great time of family bonding you wish would last a bit longer. They can also be pure misery that can’t be over with soon enough. The great thing about them though? You are absolutely in control of how wonderful (or not) they are.

Let me be the first to wish you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!

Finding Meaning in Work


I aspire, as I’m sure you do, to instill in my sons a strong work ethic. To take seriously the call of the apostle Paul: “And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Colossians 3:17).

God has called us to work hard, to put our all into everything that we do, doing it “in the name of the Lord Jesus.” In the context of Colossians 3, Paul is describing the marks of the Christian life, the list of things we are to “put on” after we have “put off” sin. A strong work ethic, a life which moves away from inactivity or laziness, should be a distinctive feature in the life of every follower of Christ. This call to work hard is sandwiched between two commands for us to express thankfulness to God. Without extrapolating too far, I think it’s safe to say that God has given us the privilege of working: that even though the work we do may not be fulfilling to us, it is a gift from God to be able to work, to accomplish and succeed. Work is a gift.

Finding-meaning-in-work

To be frank, I don’t always (or often) recognize that. Perhaps, like me, you’re in a job that’s got nothing to do with your training or abilities, that is seemingly menial or insignificant. A job that just (sort of) pays the bills. A job that you do just because, well, you need to work.

How do you give thanks for that?

At the beginning of time, when God first created the world, He instituted work for man: tend the garden, see to it, work the ground. I can only assume that this work brought satisfaction to Adam, the first man. I can only imagine the feeling of accomplishment he experienced after a day of labor, tending to the garden in which God had placed him. Of course, Adam and Eve sinned, and work became difficult, even painful, for mankind.

Maybe you feel that difficulty every day of your work life. Maybe your work seems trivial, or your circumstances stifling. Maybe your job isn’t enough to cover your bills each month. Take heart; you are not called to be successful, or to be fulfilled by your work, or even to enjoy it. Only to offer it to God. To work at it with all your heart, as working to the Lord (Colossians 3:23). Sometimes, that is a small comfort, or perhaps no comfort at all. But if Scripture tells us one thing throughout its entire narrative about work, it’s that God rewards faithfulness. To the one who is faithful in the small things, He entrusts the greater things.

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned about work in the past few years is this: No work is meaningless. Even if it’s cleaning pools, finishing basements, being a security guard (all of which I’ve done), or something else that doesn’t display significant results. No work is meaningless.

That is, if it is rendered to God. If it is done for His glory, seeking His ends and how He would use us in whatever situation we find ourselves. God is not concerned with the title of our position; He is concerned with the position of our hearts (1 Samuel 16:7).

One final note, something that hit me only yesterday. In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, He looked at His work and declared it good. The results of His work were good: they were worthwhile and significant. Do you know, fellow father, that no matter our jobs, we can say the same thing for our work? When we strive to bring God the glory through our work, when we work without complaining (Philippians 2:14), when we offer our work as a sacrifice to God…

We can look at the most difficult, or insignificant, or overwhelming task, and say that it is good.

 

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!

The Beatitudes and Boys

The word Beatitudes is translated, “blessed are.” The word means “happy.” The idea is not that we are simply happy in the sense that we are happy after a good meal or after we have laughed at a funny joke. It refers to a deeper happiness, a happiness that comes from peace with God. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus challenges his listeners and us as well. As you read the Beatitudes, you might be thinking that it is an odd list of traits.

Typically, Christians want things like the fruit of the Spirit or other traits such as honesty, humility, and reliability. Those are definitely traits that we should strive for. However, the list that Jesus gives in the Beatitudes is quite different. This should lead us to ask, what is Jesus really saying here in this list? Is Jesus saying, the blessed person has these eight traits: they’re poor, they mourn, they’re meek, they don’t assert themselves, they hunger and thirst for righteousness, they’re a peacemaker, they’re pure in heart, they’re merciful, and they’re persecuted?

This is not a list that you hear fathers talking about with their sons.
“Great job being poor in spirit today, son!”
“Excellent work being merciful today, son!”
“I am so proud of your peacemaking skills!”

You don’t hear this because we are wired as a society to raise boys who are tough, hard-nosed men. While those are not necessarily bad things, they do tend to take our attention away from other critical areas. As fathers, we need to be raising sons who are aware of their sin. Jesus says in the beatitudes that the starting point in the kingdom is to know that you cannot rely on yourself, to know that your spirit is poor. You cannot be good enough, strong enough, righteous enough to make it on your own before God or in His kingdom. If you recognize your own spiritual poverty, you will mourn over it, and that will lead you to be meek. Our sons need to be taught this and they must see it in our own lives.

Are we more concerned about raising athletes and students than we are about raising future men that hunger and thirst for righteousness? Are we modeling a life of mercy because we have been shown mercy by our Savior? Are we waging war with the culture to make sure our boys are striving to be pure in heart? I pray that we do not get so wrapped in the world’s picture of manhood that we forget what Jesus values as important.

What are some creative ways that dads can teach the Beatitudes to their boys?

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.

Training Wheels

Training-wheels

Train up a child a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6 (NASB)

I was reminded of this verse when I was out for a run and my 4-year-old wanted to ride his bike. He was ahead of me, wobbling back and forth. More than once, I had to catch him from tipping completely to the ground as he leaned too far for even the training wheels to help.

The idea of “train up” really means “to initiate” or “discipline” and gives us as dads good, foundational guidance on how we interact with and raise our kids. But, as I thought about that popular verse and watched the little boy in front of me, I realized something. Riding a bike with training wheels and my job as dad has some real similarities (see if you can make the connections):

 

  • It is his job to pedal; I cannot do it for him – I need to give him instruction, guidance, and help, but I cannot sit on the bike for him.
  • He is so focused riding, I need to be looking farther down the road – He is so intent on peddling, looking around, and having fun that if I am not looking ahead, he would surely wreck or end up somewhere he shouldn’t be.
  • When he knows I am behind, he does not have a care in world – The confidence he has knowing I am right there “just in case” is all he needs to move forward.
  • If he could, he would keep the training wheels on longer than he needs them – There is little risk with training wheels, but I know he cannot keep them on forever, and sooner or later, he needs to trust himself to ride!

For dads, there are some valuable lessons there. We are responsible to God for training up our children. We need to guide. We need to advise. We need to share our experiences so they can learn from our mistakes  and successes. But, if we simply do all the work for them, not only do they not learn anything, they miss out on all the joy.

This does not mean that someday, training wheels or not, they are not going to wreck. That is when we need to be tender, loving, and compassionate.

So, regardless if you have boys who are still using training wheels or boys with the trainers off looking for the biggest ramp around, make sure you remember your job as dad.

If you do, the Proverb has a great promise for us: “…even when he is old, he will not depart from it.”