Like Paul, I Found Joy Amidst Devastating News

Joy From Philippians

One of the greatest types of joy I have in life is being a husband and a dad. I’ve told my wife from the time that I saw our relationship growing deeper that I guess I was the odd teenager growing up. We did not have much as kids but I also never wanted for anything either. So when I looked at what goals I wanted in my life, it was simple. I wanted to be a good husband and a good dad. That’s it. Simple goal but hard to obtain. Anyone can father a child that is a biological process but to be a dad it takes so much more.

That is a saying I have seen and lived. I come from a household where my dad is not my biological father, but he has been there since I was two. My father was an ephemeral figure in my life as a kid. We would spend a night there randomly and once we went on a vacation to Ocean City, MD. It was not until I was older and had my car that I spent significant time with my biological father. I worked at Burger King, and after we closed, I would drive to downtown Baltimore and hang out at the place he worked at as a cook.

Fast forward to today, I am married to an amazing woman who is my soul mate. She drives me to be a better man, a better husband and the best dad that I can be. She had two children from a previous marriage when we met, and now I find myself in the same position my dad was in when he and my mom got together.

This was unintentional on my part, I had given up hope on finding someone and having a family, but God knew better than that. He knew like he had known before I was formed that being a dad was my dream in life. In that moment where I had in my heart decided that if this next date did not pan out, I was done. I would live as a bachelor and just throw myself into my career and tuck away all notions of romance.

God’s Providence

God desires to show His power through your storm, but is your lack of faith keeping Him from doing so? God brings storms into your life to show His strength and to gain glory from His providence.

Paul Chappell

Before I get into the devastating news I had earlier this year, part of which made me unsure of continuing to write here; I want to talk about what we mean by God’s Providence. Providence is a combination of two Latin words; the first is  “pro” which means “forward” or “On behalf of” and “vide” which is Latin for “to see.”

So when we think of Providence, it should mean “to support, or to supply what is needed.” If it is God’s Providence, then we are proclaiming that God has provided support, sustenance or what it is we need for the season we are experiencing. Sometimes that providence is his non-action because of the learning and growth we get from difficult but not impossible trials.

God’s providence in my life starts with Jesus. He’s given the ultimate sacrifice for my reconciliation with him. That providence began with the fall of man in Genesis and does not end, ever. He supplied Israel time and time again in the Old Testament. He supplied the world with unending grace through the bloodshed of his son. We can lose sight of that Providence in the day to day grind of life, but it has never been more clear to me than it has been lately. I would not have a better understanding of this providence were it not for Ryan Huguley, and the time he was at Harvest Bible Chapel in Hickory. I’ll get into that in a moment. This next part is me peeling back the armor, exposing my heart to you in a way I have not done before.

Devastating News

We have two amazing kids and were considering a third because we felt our hearts and family could certainly expand to love more. So we began trying and spent time making sure we were doing things at the right time etc. Adult stuff. After 8 or 9 months I decided to go to a urologist and see if there were any issues. What I was told after examinations and several tests is that I have a condition called necrozoospermia. Necrozoo-what? Yeah, me too. What that meant is that my body manufactures sperm, but they are all dead. Their tails don’t wag, and so they can’t swim.

So what is the rate for complete necrozoospermia? 0.2-0.5% of men have it. An almost infinitesimal chance and I hit the lottery in the worst kind of way. I had thought about this many times as an adult and my desire to have a family, would I be able to? The doubt was from an incident when I was playing Little League Baseball, back before kids wearing a jock strap was a thing. My cousin was mad about something I had done and came up to me and kicked me as hard as he could in the genitals with a pair of baseball cleats on. I was taken to the hospital for that, and my whole region was black and blue for weeks.

Back to now, the doctor told me that incident caused primary testicular failure. I can’t have children without assistance. It would cost roughly $15,000 for even a chance to harvest sperm and egg then perform In Vitro Fertilization. We are nowhere near that well off to be able to afford that so my chances of having a child with my wife are zero. I was devastated. I left the urologist and did the ugly cry in the car before I called my wife to tell her something I did not want to talk about.

Paul’s Joy and Content

I cannot express the gratitude I have for Ryan enough. He was the first pastor in a long time that inspired me. When you meet Ryan, you will find a man full of God’s word, Jesus’s love and the compassion that only the Holy Spirit can provide. It is through his preaching that I know the means of finding joy in dire circumstances.

When he was at Harvest, he went through a series titled, ‘Everyday Joy – A Study of Philippians’ you can find it here on Vimeo, Everyday Joy Series. It was and has been my retreat when things look stormy, or I am suddenly in the midst of something that challenges my faith. To suddenly discover that I could not have children was both of those. The whole, testing and waiting and eventually finding out. It was hard to come to terms with it.

Consider Paul’s situation as he writes to the church in Philippi, he has spent almost four years in prison (Philippians 1:12-18). Why? Because he was preaching the truth and following Jesus. Yet, in that time he rejoices and proclaims that even if he is sentenced to death, he will rejoice (Philippians 2:17-18). Why? Because Paul learned to be content with his condition, whatever it may be (Philippians 4:11)

Coming to Terms

I know that I have been given grace beyond measure and certainly something I do not deserve. I try to teach that to my children that humanity is the cause of Christs’ death. If I am given this grace and freedom in Jesus, why am I focusing on not being able to father a child biologically? Am I not an adopted child of God? Yes, yes I am. I did not know that I could never have children, but God knew. That is where his providence comes in and becomes completely humbling.

Is it sad I cannot have children biologically without assistance? Absolutely. Did I feel less a man? Yes, I did. The information I received did not cause me joy it was the exact opposite, but when I take a step back from my immediate emotions, I see something that even as I write this brings water to my eyes.

God knew.

He knew that my life goals were not money or cars or women or drugs. He knew that I would become a man some day and I would want children and provided that in the most spectacular way possible. When I took that view, I became at peace.

It is things like this that leave no doubt that God exists. The cost to have another kid is extraordinary, and there are so many children that need homes. I hope that I can continue to provide a haven, a home that follows Jesus for my children and maybe…just maybe a third that God will put in the path that Bethany and I walk in this life.

This has easily been the most difficult thing I have written to date, but I hope that you can find how God’s providence is present in your life. It is easy to get caught up in the negative emotions that Satan wants us to embrace. That does not mean that you are in a sandpit of despair. God is there, just grab on to him and those trials become contentment because through it all you have Jesus and the salvation he provides.

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Steadfast Provider – Rock in the Storm – Faithful Father Series

Steadfast Provider

As a father we provide for our children in many ways. It is east to think, ‘Well they have a roof over their head, food in their belly, and clothes on their bodies. I’m doing alright.’ and to a certain extent that is true but the logic is flawed. We provide more than tangible things for our children and must do so in a steadfast manner. Consider Matthew 7:9-11 where Jesus is speaking about how a father would not callously mistreat his children. A child asking for bread would get such, and not a stone in its place! Jesus confronts the iniquity of man directly in Matthew 7:11 where he is speaking to his following including the apostles and calls them evil, he does not mean this harshly but that in comparison to the perfection of the Father, man is evil. Yet he is not berating them but cautioning them out of love. Telling them that even an evil man knows how to do good  for his children because he has the child’s best interest at heart sometimes at least. Finally Jesus compares this action to God and how we should be like him giving in abundance to our children in a loving manner and not one done in anger.

The Christian who is steadfast, unmovable in the Word, goes forward to a discharge of his known duties, no matter what his feelings may be.

C.E. Orr

Jesus showed us that God wants us to be givers, not takers. This is important because a steadfast provider is not one that gives to get something in return. They give freely, with no expectation or reward. Christ laid down his live, giving an ultimate sacrifice so that humanity could take the chance to redeem through salvation and living as Jesus did. In 1 Timothy 5:8 Paul is writing to Timothy about his ministry at the church in Ephesus and cautions the church about the treatment of their relatives especially household members. Paul states it outright and it is true, to not provide for your relatives, especially members in your home is a blatant denial of the faith you profess. Paul goes on to say that this violation of duty is worse than an unbeliever of Christ, and I agree!

Being a parent is a lot of work. I’ve come to know this over the time that I met my wife and her children. It’s been four years and I have had ups and downs learning to be a father and that the world is not black and white but full of many gray areas. It is our duty to educate our children about these things in life so that they are not easily swayed by duplicitous individuals. The call for steadfastness does go beyond provisions and lessons you actively teach because children are super observant. How many times have you used a bad habit and your children have emulated it? Yeah, me too. It does happen and so it is clear that how you act in times of difficulty also teaches them good and bad behaviors. Living as Christ did is hard and does require a steadfast will to continue on in the face of adversity.

I posted recently about spending a month or more in prayer because I was trying to create a better connection with God. Not because I was afraid that God was not listening or had forgotten about me. It was because I wanted my kids to understand several important things about prayer. First, prayer is nothing you should be embarrassed about. Second, prayer works, it is that simple. Next, prayer can be done any where, any time. Last, and most importantly, it provides a direct communication to God which is so very key to being a Christian. My family has reaped the rewards of that, my children make no fuss about praying at a restaurant and do so loudly…I am sure some patrons would say too loudly but hey, my kids love Jesus and that is what matters. They pray at night and we read stories from the Bible every night.

I don’t always feel like doing those things, praying, reading Bible stories or even reading the Bible on a personal level. That is a flaw of mine and it is because of the same reason others give, I don’t feel like I have enough time to get things done. It is often said Satan’s greatest victory is convincing man he does not exist. I would argue his second greatest victory especially in the modern world, is preying on humanities drive to be greater as a means to disconnect Christians from God for worldly pursuits. The world moves fast and we may feel like we do not have the time but we have to be intentional in creating the time. This behavior, this intenationalist attitude, is the point, being steadfast in spite of my feelings and emotions. My desire to be this way is directly influenced by Jesus, consider, he knew he would be beaten and betrayed, he knew he would be disgraced and he knew that he would be crucified and slain for being a dissident. Yet he was not swayed and carried through with his Father’s design.

Steadfast Providing is more than food and a roof over your families head. It is cultivating a relationship with and teaching about Jesus with your family. Steadfastness is continuing to do these things and intentionally laying out lessons even if life just seems to suck sometimes, it can and it will. Jesus didn’t give up, to live like him means you should not either. Lean on your spouse and support one another. Marriage was designed to be a mutually beneficial connection that is blessed by God, use that grace to your advantage.

This is the last portion of the Faithful Father Series and I hope that it has touched you positively in some way and had encouraged you to a father who is a living example of Christ, that teaches the truth to your children while guarding them and leading them in a manner that raises them to respect authority instead of hate it. All of that has to come with being a compassionate friend to your spouse and children. Fulfilling those duties will go a long way to ensuring you have been a steadfast provider of your family. Times will be difficult but hold fast to the confession of your faith and the rewards you receive would humble any earthly king.

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Respected Authority – Discipline and Honor – Faithful Father Series

God's Authority

When we speak of authority as Christians we must consider the differing levels of authority in the home. These are easy to delineate but I can guarantee that I, like others struggle with them. The first and absolute authority is God. If you are a Christian and you believe that you are the final authority in your home, you are wrong. I’m not a finger pointer though because I do it too and it is a pride thing for me. I work hard for my family, for the things we have and enjoy but all of that is God’s providence. There is no splitting hairs in that statement, your life, my life exists because he created humanity. Without that, there is nothing. Yet we lose perspective of that daily in life.

Authority of God

God has authority over all things but what is authority and who has it? Authority is the power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience. There are several types of authority we are completely under the influence of in our life and they all come as a gift from God. The Government as we see in Romans 13:1, The legal system (Judges) as seen in Romans 13:2, authority of the church (Titus 5:1) and Family/Parental authority in Ephesians 6:1 and Colossians 3:20. These are clear and undeniable, it is plainly stated in each of those verses. The authority of God is unequivocal and He has delegated authority (Daniel 4:17) to some institutions on earth. While church, the government and the legal system are topics we may cover another day we are in the Faithful Father series so parental authority is the topic of the day.

Define Parental Authority

I can think of no more important passage in the Bible for defining parental authority and obligation to your children than Deuteronomy 11:1-19. In this passage we are commanded to love and serve the Lord by keeping the rules and commandments given to us. Deuteronomy 11:2 specifically charges us with teaching our children these things. Then Deuteronomy 11:19 tells us when and how we should teach God’s word. The short answer, always. Our authority is only through God’s power and our children will not understand or respect that authority unless they are taught about where the authority stems from.

One of the ways I have been trying to help my children understand the chain of command on a spiritual level is by posing several questions when they have done something they probably should not have. The biggest one right now is lying. Our conversation goes something like this;

Child commits some act.

Me: Did you do this?

Them: No (They are lying, I know, I witnessed the problem.)

Me: What is the thing I dislike the most?

Them: Lying

Me: When you lie, who do you lie to?

Now at this point they know the answer, I have explained to them that every time they commit some act of disobedience they are breaking a commandment. They know that by lying to me they are not just displeasing me, but more importantly, God.

Them: God, Jesus, You, Momma

Me: That’s right, so i will ask again and remember, I am not going to get angry but I am going to be disappointed that you would lie to me and by lying to me you are displeasing God.

Usually after that they tell the truth, we talk, they still lose something they like doing because I am a firm believer in cause and effect. My goal is to first follow God’s command that I bring my children up under His instruction and discipline (Ephesians 6:1, 4). Parental Authority is the distribution of God’s will through the husband and wife. It is not a place of superiority and it is not about having a specific position in the home.

Culpability

The parents position in a home is not one of merciless dictator, husbands are to love and sacrifice for the wife as Christ did for the church. A wife is to help her husband in all things. They raise children under God’s will. These are symbiotic relationships and not one-way streets. We often see that position as a perk and forget that it carries responsibility.  In all places where God has given this power of authority there is also a requirement that individuals in that position will come to account for their actions.

Society is kept safe with laws, this practice was in place from Creation when God gave a single law and man failed to obey. Laws serve multiple purposes, they protect individuals and they protect society as a whole. Society creates laws when it believes an action or set of actions are causing a significant amount of harm to individuals and to society. Those with authority must understand that they have a duty of care to those under their influence and any abuse of that position answers to God. God rewards those who use that position to protect and bless those under their influence (Luke 12:42-48; 20:9-16).

Husbands, seek to not be spiritually passive. Engage with the Bible and with God daily. Engage in discussions with your wife about God, daily. Consider this, if your wife has more knowledge and is more spiritually mature than you, you will have to answer God’s questions of why you were not leading your family spiritually. This does not mean to just step back and defer to your wife in all things connected to God. Instead it is a call for you to dig in and do what God made you for. Loving Him, protecting what is His (your wife and children) and leading them to Him, through His word.

Applying Authority to Yourself

The authority, as a husband or father, you are given has nothing to do with your position in your family but has everything to do with your character as a person, as a Christian. The greatest leaders are servants. Jesus made the case for that in Mark 10:42-45 and we see this in the most successful businesses as well. There are two types of leaders, those who focus on supervision, organizing and performance. These are transactional leaders, they may be efficient but not effective. The other type of leader who works with people to identify needed change, creating a vision to guide the change through inspiration, and executing the change in tandem with committed members of a group. These are transformational leaders.

A servant leader is both of these things and a husband should strive to be both of these things. There are times where supervision of your children is essential but more often than not you need to inspire them to be better, not just command them to. The best way to do that is to show them how, by committing yourself to doing the things you want them to do. Give them a vision of what God wants from His earthly followers and then drive towards that goal.

Wrapping Up

I am not perfect, I just share my thoughts on the Bible and what God is telling me needs to be communicated. Ask these questions of yourself to make sure what you are doing is based on servant leadership and not narcissism;

  • Have I given it all to God? Am I the slave of Christ? There is no room for partial obedience in God’s heart.
  • If I am in a position to exert authority am I abusing it? Or am I using it under the weight of knowledge that God will call me to answer for how I am treating those under my authority?
  • Am I serving those I am over? Am I practicing the humbleness that Christ displayed while he was persecuted and slain?
  • What is my character saying about how I use that authority? Am I leading my family by obeying God’s word first?

Authority is not a fickle subject. It is something that God has clearly defined in the Bible and has given us direction about. Authority done in a manner befitting Christ brings discipline from those subject to it. If a leader, a husband, is doing this he will have honored God’s desire for the position he has been placed it. It can be difficult to remember that desire when we are angry but we have to hold fast to our confessions of God’s love and use them for good and not the crushing of another’s spirit.

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Loving and Leading – A Compassionate Leader – Faithful Father Series

Leading and Prayer

Leadership is a subjective skill because the base definition of it leaves it as an open-ended trait. Men can posses the ability to lead people in different ways. God has a way of raising up people to lead that others simply never expected. Every married man has a command from God to be leading his family spiritually. We must love them well and show them compassion. We are to be a vicar of Christ and we can see how the parent-child relationship is simply summed up in Ephesians 6:1-2.

To summarize it children honor their parents through obedience and fathers are called to rear their children in the Lord and to not provoke them to anger. Anger does not inspire obedience so the onus is on you, me, us to teach children how God wants us to live, to act and react to life and it’s trials.

Loving and leading means we should not set out to antagonize our children and frustrate them. I’ll be honest, sometimes I find this hard. These little humans find the best ways to get at our nerves and sometimes we retaliate in an ineffective and selfishly satisfying manner. Mimicking your child in a fussy type voice after they’ve done everything but what you asked of them serves no purpose but I’m fairly certain I did it on a whim a few nights ago with Ella. It is literally arguing with a smaller version of yourself.

The authority by which the Christian leader leads is not power but love, not force but example, not coercion but reasoned persuasion. Leaders have power, but power is safe only in the hands of those who humble themselves to serve.

John Stott

Jesus did not do that with his disciples when they disobeyed. He reacted in love, chastised in patience and commanded them in kindness. Those three parts are what makes up a person that is leading their family in love.

Leading in Love

Let’s count the ways that Jesus could lead us out of anger, can you? I can’t. Humanity has done some terrible things from the disobedience in the garden, killing God’s son and the atrocities we see play out in history over things from skin color to a certain toy that our children want for Christmas. It is easy to forget that behavior like that is learned behavior. Anger, rage, hate and other negative emotions are all things we have learned and passed on to our children via our actions, the things they see and hear and how we respond to their questions about those things. Each time we allow that to continue we are saying that those emotions while unavoidable are completely okay to express in negative behavior.

Instead we should be teaching them that emotions are uncontrollable parts of ourselves but how we express those emotions we have complete control over. That starts with us controlling our own reactions and we should not look to a child for authentication that our parenting of behaviors is working if our own behavior does not emulate how we want them to react.

Chastise in Patience

Discipline is something that must be proportionate to an offense. Discipline out of anger is in fact not discipline at all but abuse. How that discipline occurs is completely up to the parents. Some parents spank their children among other methods of discipline and some do not. The Bible does not say it is required or that it is a sin. Please do not use Proverbs 13:24 as a reason to relentlessly wail on your children in the misguided attempt to say corporal punishment is okay. The ‘Rod’ referred to is discipline in general and a warning that without firm and decisive discipline a child will become accustom to getting their way. This can lead to behavior related issues that in common speech today equates to a child being referred to as a “spoiled brat.”

Consider Jesus’ reaction when Peter walked on water with him and faltered (Matthew 14:29). What was Jesus response? A rebuke made in love. Peter should have had faith in Christ and when the wind distracted him and he took his eye off of Jesus he began to waver. When he cried out for saving Jesus did so. He surely could have let Peter drown or angrily demanded his obedience and belittled him but he did not.

It is really easy to just retaliate in a physical manner when you have a stubborn child but there are non-corporal means of discipline. These non-physical methods take more time, more commitment and more patience than a swift whack on the rear end but they are effective. We should devote time to understanding which is best and when/if we should use one or the other. Jesus did not need save humanity. He did not need to be beaten and murdered and yet he offered himself up as a permanent sacrifice for our sinful nature. He bore ridicule with integrity and was leading his disciples in love. When they stumbled he chastised them in patience and when the time came his commands to spread the gospel were done in kindness.

Command in Kindness

Our children have natural feelings for us such as love and fear. They love us because of all the goodness we pour in to them and there is fear for the wrath they drum up when disobedient. That fear does not need to be paralyzing and in fact it shouldn’t. They are our children, even when they know they are in trouble we want them to have comfort in the fact that our commands, our discipline, or reactions are done out of love for them.

When you discipline do you take the time to tell them why it was wrong? Do you explain better was of going about things? These talks are important because they allow our children to know that they are loved and being cared for. It allows them to understand that a goal can be accomplished in many ways and very likely within the confines of what is acceptable. When you take the time to show them these things you are leading them in a positive way without fear but with kindness.

The greatest leaders are the most humble. You can get things done through sheer will and brute force but we have to consider the effects of those kind of actions. You have to consider the legacy you leave. Will your children think that dad was a hard man or will they think that even though I did lots of stuff he was patient and loved me and supported me. I fall somewhere in the middle, we are a work in progress as long as we want to be. What I want is my children to know that I love them, I expect them to behave in a manner consistent with the Bible and that my dreams are that their dreams become a reality.

Integrity Required

All of the stuff we have talked about today cannot happen unless we are men of integrity. Integrity is the living of your internal life and external life in parity with one another. It is easy to put on a Christian front and pretend you are leading a righteous family for God. Living that life at home, away from the eyes of the public is the harder of the two. If you can manage to do that you can lead your family in love, you will be capable of chastising your children in patience and commanding your family in kindness. Stay focused on God, what He is and the work Christ commanded of you. The moment you do not your leadership falters like Peter on the water. Hold fast the confessions of your faith and make disciples through that faith.

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Walking the Walk – Living Like Christ – Faithful Father Series

Walking the Walk

You talk the talk but are you walking the walk? It is an age old idiom and as we continue the Faithful Father series we need to move beyond simply talking about God and the work Jesus did to acting upon those words. Our children learn so much from us at home because they spend so much time with us. Eli has picked up on some of our behaviors and Ella articulates herself like an adult because that is how we speak with her at home. To be a good father we have to capitalize on those sponges in their head while they are young. The best advice on how to do that comes from Paul in his  first epistle to the Corinthians where he urges the church in Corinth to be imitators of him for he is an imitator of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).

For whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise.

It is not the only piece of sage wisdom Paul gives the Corinthian church, in fact there are all kinds of phrases in 1 Corinthians that we all quote and reference from time to time. Paul was nothing short of prolific in his walk with God. He didn’t get there easily though and walking the walk of a Christian father is not something you segue in to, pretend to be good at and then get an awesome participatory trophy.

Christians, we are prone to give platitudes because we believe we are “showering people with love” but are we really? Where is our heart in those words? Where is our heart in our actions following those words? I have to wonder how often we say things but don’t follow up when it comes to God. If we do not fulfill the words, “I’ll pray for you.” we are quite frankly, shunning God’s love. I’ve been guilty of it, I would find it hard to believe that anyone I’ve met who is a Christian is not guilty of it too.

You can thank the world for that. There are so many distractions that those promises are easily forgotten. Forgetting about God seems almost impossible I mean, He is everything! We do not truly forget about God but the devil is really good at distracting us. Out of sight, out of mind is a bit on the nose but it is exactly how we treat the words we speak to others and then fail to follow through. Our children see that, they hear it, they see our inaction and think it is the way they should act.

Walking the Walk

So how do we fix it? You solve inaction by action. I can share with you a story of how I personally turned my inaction and platitudes in to a chance to teach my children action and why it is important to walk the faith and not simply regurgitate things we learn in Bible school.

A few weeks ago we were picking up some things from Michael’s craft store. We left the parking lot and everyone got in, buckled and all that good stuff. When we turned the corner of a median in my rear view mirror my wife and I saw a pair of ladies walking and one fell as she stepped off the curb. She didn’t get up. I swung my car around and pulled in to a parking spot right there. My wife and I got out and the kids stayed in the car.

When we got near we could see the woman was an older lady who had been wearing sandals. She had tripped up and fallen. The reason she was not moving is because her left arm, which she was laying on, was in pain and very likely broken. We blocked traffic coming both ways while an ambulance was called. My wife is a nurse so I stepped back and let her do her thing (which she is awesome at btw) and checked on the kids.

They were in the car and only knew something had happened. They needed to be assured that everything was alright. We talked, I told them the woman’s name and what happened to her. Ella was worried for her and I told her I know, I was too but it was time for us to pray. My kids like praying to God. I try to teach them not to rush their prayer because God deserves our time, all of it. They are kids of course and prone to all things done quickly because two minutes is an hour in their world. They closed their eyes, we prayed for her quick healing and safe journey home.

It was a sweet moment where God happened even in a time when someone a few feet away was in pain. I never told the woman we prayed for her. I don’t think we need to tell people that all the time, we simply do it. If someone is on your mind, pray for them. If you hear about someone who is facing a trial, pray for them. You do not need to go back and tell them you did, it takes away from the focus of placing your love in God’s hands and shines a light on you instead.

The whole point of that story I think is that the solution to our problem of speaking it but not doing it, is to do it then and there. Hug them, show them real love and pray for them, pray with them. Right then. Not later at home when you’re going to struggle to remember. When you’ve barely survived putting the kids to bed or running ragged all day. Include your children if possible so they see what you are doing. They’ll learn and it will have the potential to make them some of the most prayerful people one day and that is not a bad thing at all.

The Son Can Do Nothing

Jesus tells us directly in John 5:19-23 how the parental relationship involving action vs. inaction works. He was speaking of Himself at the time of His words. He had healed on the Sabbath and the Jews were angry with Jesus. He told them that the son can do nothing on his own but that the son does as he witnesses the father doing. The Jews were riled up because Jesus claimed to be the son of God and His words placed Him on the same level as God.

Take a step back one day and observe your child(ren) and see how they act. Is it like your spouse? Is it like you? It can be eye opening and also a scary thing. They are going to pick up on your habits both good and bad. Their behavior and actions are on your level. That is why walking the walk is an important cornerstone of being a faithful father.

We repeat what we learn just as I emphasized in the last part of this series where we went over teaching our children the truth of Jesus. Now we must show them how to act like Jesus. Lip service may win over the heart of someone temporarily but loving God-filled action is a matter of the heart and not the mind. If we teach them to do all things from their heart and not their emotion we get rewarded with Godly children serving a world full of pain in ways that pleases the Son and the Father. Walking the walk and showing God’s love is a powerful thing that we cannot mistreat.

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Teaching Truth – Faithful Father Series

Teaching Truth

In the introduction of this series I discussed just a piece of where this was headed. God has given man a defining set of characteristics that a father should not only be aware of but strive to be. A father who teaches is the most defining role we play in our children’s lives. It gives us the chance to really put our love for Christ in to practice and teach the next generation. As a father you need to be an educator. That education comes in many forms such as first words from your toddler, primary school and hopefully your child’s married life. We do that by teaching truth to our children and that truth starts with the greatest commandment.

It is not that God has developed an inability to speak but His stubborn children have employed selective hearing.

In Deuteronomy 6:4-5 God has given Israel their greatest commandment. It was to love God with all our heart and soul and might. It is a command to place God first above all things. It is also a reminder to Israel that the nation has often turned from that behavior and done it’s own thing. It’s why they ended up in Egypt after all, men forgot to continue teaching truth or they simply did not care.

This commandment is more than just a reminder, it is a way of life. Two verses define how we should live as Christians. Those verses are called the shema by Jewish practitioners. The word shema means ‘hear’ in Hebrew and makes complete sense. When we fail to abide by God’s greatest commandment we can no longer hear Him.

I’ll highlight my recent hearing issues so that I can give an idea of what I mean. I don’t ever want someone to come across this and think ‘that guy is on a high white horse,’ and I am not, this site allows me to share my struggles hoping men like me learn and grow just as I do. My kids have found out that as brother and sister they want to be as caustic as possible some days. It is a weary battle that has stressed Bethany and I to the point some days where I want to lay waste to their hopes of ever getting in to the swimming pool my brother and I constructed for them this summer. There have been times where I’ve told them unkindly to be quiet and jumped to conclusions on who should be reprimanded for some behavior or another.

In every one of those instances I chose to ignore how patient God is with us and emulate that with my children. That is what teaching about God is all about, unwrapping his nature and showing children why they should try to live like Jesus lived. The truth is that God is benevolent when we do not deserve it. That does not mean that you allow your children to run roughshod over you and become a doormat. It means teaching them better behavior through other activities that do not always result in a spanking. It means putting God first in your actions and letting them know that what they are doing or have done is not honoring Your wishes for them and by proxy their disobedience is displeasing God.

Life is not idyllic and the pretty picture above of the dad reading the Bible to his children is clearly a stock photo but what it represents matters. You have a father who is taking time out of his day, spending it meaningfully with his children and teaching them about God. He is teaching truth to his children. He is doing it, not the church. The church is mans partner is a partner to the endeavor to teach our children about God. They should not be the only source and if they are, we are failing as parents.

The world provides us a wonderful amount of distraction that we intentionally dive in to every day. Most of that attention is a diversion of things we ought to be doing. No child comes out of the womb wishing they had an absentee father. They grow up  believing that behavior is normal because that is their experience. Absenteeism is not restricted to a father who leaves. In fact I would like to submit that a father who stays but shows little interest in the rearing of his children causes more damage than the one who ghosted his family.

Teaching Truth

Proverbs 4: 1-4 calls for our children to be attentive listeners but it is something they learn through us. Their desire to listen to what we say is derived directly from how we address teaching them. Children need their mind flexed and not just fed information. You overcome that by asking them questions and engaging them. I wholeheartedly believe we do a disservice to them by reading them Bible ‘stories’ that take a dive headfirst in to prosperity. God doesn’t promise us protection from harm or even physical death. His promise is the reward of Heaven through Christ’s death in place of our own damnation.

Stay in the word with them every day. Memorize important verses. Pray. Be kind and understanding to your wife. Show them how much you love your wife so they have a good understanding of what husband and wife should be and not what society expects them to be. All of these activities are teaching. They watch, they emulate, they learn to repeat your behaviors.

The Gospel Coalition goes over missteps we all make in more detail. Check it out!

What we learn, we repeat. Are you happy with where you are in your children’s lives? Can you do better? I can, I believe every one of us father’s can. It starts with teaching the greatest commandment. Put God first by teaching truth to your kids.

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Praying In Public Unashamedly | Public Prayer

Praying In Public

Why do we not see more praying in public? I don’t mean when we are in the house of the Lord or in the presence of faithful family and friends. I see families out for dinner and lunch all the time and I never see them praying. This is something that crossed my mind when my family and I were out at Cracker Barrel a few days ago. I am not saying we need to stand on a chair and do the whole “Y’all bow so we can go before the Lord y’hear?” type of thing but a simple bowing of heads, hands held with family or clasped together in absolute submission before God.

I am in no way tooting my own horn for good parenting but instead I want to lift up the joy that my children happily say grace in public. While their prayer may be formulaic it still allows them to express their thanks to God and they do so unashamedly. They do not whisper it either, they sing it from the top of their lungs sometimes and I have to resist the urge to laugh a bit because it makes my heart swell with so much joy.

Praying in Public is Biblical

Our savior Jesus prayed in public often (Mark 8:6-7) and we can safely assume that whenever He gave parables there were prayers. Ezra prayed in public (Ezra 10:1) when he could no longer bear the knowledge that Israel had forsaken the worship of God. Solomon prayed before the entire nation of Israel in a plea not only for himself but for his people (1 Kings 8:22-23).

You will never make saints through force, saints are made from conviction and through salvation.

There are plenty of examples in the Bible where praying in public was acceptable, done and enjoyed. That isn’t what we see anymore, in America anyway.

Praying in Public is Controversial

Praying in public is also highly controversial and we see that in the Bible. Daniel an administrator in King Darius’ kingdom was tossed in to the den of lions because he prayed in public when Darius’ was convinced by jealous individuals that praying to their Gods was a problem. Daniel ignored the law, prayed publicly and was punished (Daniel 6:1-16). His desire to please God was more important than what other people thought. Courageous.

We see that in modern times as well. Christians are beaten, drowned and slain for praying in public. Muslims are beaten, drowned and slain in public for praying. I make a point to mention another faith because persecution happens in all religions and we should never be so short-sighted to think we are the only victims. I am absolutely certain of where I will be when I die and I have a genuine concern for the souls of others but violence against someone because their faith is different or non-existent does not show Christ.

Prayer in School

I see people complain that prayer was taken out of schools and get so upset about that. Why are we so concerned about forcing children who may not be Christian to pray? We should be teaching our children to pray unashamedly and to respect the will of others. There is a time for Evangelism but forcing children at a public school to be stuffed in to a box that they do not understand is wrong. You will never make saints through force, saints are made from conviction and through salvation. Our negligence to encourage our children to pray so bravely is what has led to the cry that law has ‘taken’ God out of schools. It hasn’t, He is everywhere we should acknowledge that by encouraging our kids to pray instead of point fingers.

Prayer From the Heart

Pointing out the issues and triumphs of prayer in public leads me to my point really. We should pray in public regardless of the consequence. Whether it is out of practice over meals or because you’ve got that weight pressing down that calls for you to kneel, do it. It’s not illegal and God loves hearing from His children. Jesus warned us about praying in public when our intentions are not focused on the purpose of praying to God but instead we do so to try and raise our status with others (Matthew 6:5-6). It is sinful plain and simple. Anytime you place your wants, desires and needs above the sovereignty of God you are trying to undermine Him.

Pray from your heart men, get your family praying from theirs. Show them that praying publicly is not only okay but encouraged. How? By doing it. Just hold fast to your faith and the desire to please Him. When you let go of that need to improve your stature among other men you gain the courage of God’s love.

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Men to Know: Jephthah – A Tragic Vow

Jephthah

We are taking a look at another judge this time (last time was Barak and Deborah). This time we will have a look at Jephthah and his life as he was judge over Israel for six years. The history of Jephthah begins in Judges 10:6 and goes all the way to Judges 12:7 where he dies and is buried in Gilead.

Israel

Oh Israel, you never learn. You continue to forsake God and when you do He allows you to be crushed beneath the heel of many enemies (Judges 10:7-9) and then you cry out and God gives you salvation in the form of a Judge. You right yourself and for awhile you walk with God only to forget Him in your hearts and then you fall again. The book of Judges is a clear example of not only the failing of a nation but a showing of how we sin and get comfortable in that sin. Like Israel we get complacent and we forget God in our hearts only to call out to Him during tragedy and need.

Yet every time, God is there showing us the way. Judges is an uncoated display of the forgiveness and patience of the Father who deals with a child consistently testing it’s boundaries and willfully disobeying the words (law) of the Father. This is something any father can understand because our children, like Israel are amazing and loving for a time but they have their spells where there is no way but their own. Dad does not know what he is talking about and he has way too many rules so we are just going to do everything we can to not listen to him. Yet, that is who is called upon when fear or pain sets in and we, despite our displeasure with our children comfort them and love them. There is nothing wrong with that relationship, it is an emulation of our own with God and one of so many reasons we refer to Him as Father.

Jephthah

We know some things about good ol’ Jep thanks to God’s word. He was a Gileadite meaning he came from the land Gilead. He is the product of a forbidden union between his father whose name is actually Gilead and a prostitute. His father’s wife also bore him sons who once old enough drove Jephthah away to the land of Tob. (Judges 11:1-3)

Eventually the elders of Gilead begged for Jephthah to return and help save them from the Ammonites. Jephthah in his anger condemned their actions towards him but he did accept their request. He was raised up above all over Gilead and tried to resolve the war with the Ammonites peaceably. This was refused by the Ammonite king and he continued to attack Israel. (Judges 11:10-27)

The Vow

We’ve done this, we’ve probably all broken them as well. You get worked up or try to show sincerity by words and you say things like, “I swear to God…” or “I swear on my Grandmother’s grave…” and other forms of vow taking. We do this as a way to show we are being genuine and as a way to illicit a favorable response form whoever we are talking with. We do this as a way to get something we want, “If you do this, I will do this.”

This is the very mistake that Jephthah made. The Spirit of the Lord came on Jephthah (Judges 11:29) and he made a vow to God that if he delivered the Ammonites in to his hands that whatever came out of the door to his home first to meet him would be the Lord’s and that he would sacrifice it as a burnt offering.

Tragedy

God did deliver the Ammonites in to the hands of Jephthah and his army. He subdued twenty towns and then returned triumphantly to his home in Mizpah. As he approached his home his only child, his daughter came from his home to greet him while dancing to the sound of timbrels. Jephthah was devastated and he tore at his clothes. He told his daughter of the vow to God that he could not break.

Despite his misstep for making a vow he really did not need to make, his daughter said that she had only one request. She wanted to go to the hills for two months to weep with her friends. She showed great courage in God’s plans by returning and allow herself to be given up as sacrifice. In a way she was the antithesis to his actions. She did not make a vow to return, she did not try to persuade for better circumstances or plea for her life.

What We Learned

I would like to say that we learn things and not forget but that would be untrue. We must consciously make an effort to remember the things we learn from men in the bible like Jephthah. There are some key things we can learn from this judges tragic mistake;

  • You do not need additional assurance from God that He will do what He promises. To ask for more than what He has promised is a failure in faith.
  • God is not a bank, you cannot bargain with Him.
  • Making rash vows to God can lead to grave consequences.
  • Think about the outcomes of your words before they depart your lips.

A Commandment on Vows

One of the things I stressed to Bethany during our dating, our engagement, and will continue to do so in our marriage is that I am a man of my word. What I mean by that is that I will not tell you that I can and will accomplish something you ask of me unless I am certain I can complete the task. Marriage is a sacred vow. It is a serious proclamation of love and devotion that God endorses and allows man and woman to create a covenant with Him. This is why a vow is not a promise and a promise can never reach the importance of a vow.

A promise being not the same and something we often confuse with a vow. It is important to give an example; I can promise that every night until my death I will rub my wife’s feet before bed. There may be mitigating circumstances that force me to break that promise. I could be sick, away on a business trip or even paralyzed.

Understanding that, we can see why Jesus told us in Matthew 5:33-37, “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.”

The vow of marriage is a specifically God endorsed vow that we are granted to take because it is the symbol of union between man, woman and God. The commandment that Jesus was giving during His sermon on the mount was against the practices that the Pharisees were using to control the people. There were vows being made on the heavens and earth, on the creatures of the sea and the land etc. Yet, none of those vows were truthful. They were being used to sound impressive and to subjugate the people of Israel under the hand of the Pharisees.

In short, if you say yes, mean it and allow it to be sufficient. If you say no, mean it and allow it to hold it’s own weight. You do not have to promise the heavens or the earth. Frankly you can’t. You do not own them, you have no sway over them and you never have. Only God has that authority and if we find ourselves doing that we are putting ourselves on the level of a Pharisee. Repent and allow yes and not to be enough.

Jesus told us it was enough. Jephthah did not take God’s word for what it was and faced dire circumstances because of it.

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Men to Know: Barak

Barak

Sometimes I find it helpful to reiterate why Men to Know focuses on uncommon men. We get so lost in the men we commonly associate with the Bible. Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, and the Apostles. The exception to that of course is Jesus Christ because his life was without blemish where other men have failed. He is an uncommon man in every good sense of the word. Not to diminish that I have to ask what about Barak? Barak who? No, I do not mean our current President Barack Obama but Barak from the Old Testament. Barak appears in the Book of Judges because, well, he was a judge. God put him there for us to learn from him, a man of faith.

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Election, Pride, and God’s Directions

Election

Whew! That was an election of elections. I would be a terrible liar if I said I showed love during the last 18 months that the election cycle ran. Let me be blunt here, I was in no way acting like a Christian either. I don’t like the outcome of the election, I don’t like what has happened in our society and I’m ashamed of that, of my own actions. Terribly so. I thought people were stupid for their views; I sat gobsmacked listening to things that just didn’t align with what I thought was the right choice. In short, I was prideful.

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