Compassionate Friendship – Benevolent Bonding – Faithful Father Series

Compassion = Benevolent

Bonding with our children is so important that the Bible made sure we understood the need to provide benevolent bonding for our children. Proverbs 22:6 tells us what that bonding can lead to.

I consider my home an institution and I think that men should look at their own home that way as well. Consider the children you are raising and that they learn from you and your wife. Together you are forming who they are, what they value and how they interact with the world more than any other persons God has put in their life. This foundation, this institution, should be a benevolent one that aims to guide our children in God first. Way easier said then done man.

You have to be intentional about it, this whole series is built on the hope that as someone comes across me sharing my life, they find inspiration that is the catalyst for improving their relationship with God, wife, children, family, and friends. On one hand you have authority and discipline but you must also be compassionate with those same people. Especially your wife and children, I mean, you don’t have them except by God’s grace. That is the way we need to approach this series. We are not seeking to judge how lucky those are around us but the reverse. How lucky are we to be surrounded by those we love because God placed their paths and our paths together?

How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these.

George Washington Carver

Compassion is Not a Weakness

We live in a world that views aggressiveness as strength and compassion as a weakness but I tell you it is not. The expression of either of those traits is entirely situational and my belief that compassion is a strength almost always comes from a singular Biblical reference. In Psalms 103:13 fathers are called to show compassion to their children just as God does to those who fear Him. There is a reason why God uses compassion so often in the Bible. Even when Jesus gave the Pharisees a good tongue lashing over their lofty perch in Matthew 23 he wept for Jerusalem in the last three verses of the same chapter (Matthew 23:37-39).

Compassion is an inspirational emotion that can drive us towards goals. It can help us recover from being distraught and it makes us better people. Francis Schaeffer said, ‘Biblical orthodoxy without compassion is surely the ugliest thing in the world.’ He is completely justified in that statement, there are groups that exist, specifically the Westboro Baptist Church who we are just going to call a hate group, use the Bible to treat people as if they were so far from God’s forgiveness that they have no hope and will burn in Hell. Now does that sound like Jesus? The man sat with whores and outcasts throughout His ministry. He was compassionate in all things he did and that is part of why the disciples followed Him. He was strong and meek, authoritative and compassionate.

Compassion = Benevolent Bonding

We cannot spend all of our time critiquing and correcting our children. They are kids who will make mistakes just like adults do. I lose sight of that sometimes on days I feel like they are testing all the barriers at once. At 5 and 7 that can seem like it is every day but I know that is not true, we just have a tendency to focus on the short intense spurts instead of viewing the overall picture.

Bonding with your children is an intentional activity and not something you can assume will happen because you are a parent of that child. We are always so busy, doing what? Work? Personal interest? Just not wanting to do anything because we just need a break. I’m guilty of this, and trying to change it but how often has your child wanted you to do something and you make an excuse? It’s so easy to say later or anything that puts it off until they forget or give up.

Sometimes the things our kids want us to do are just plain boring. Sometimes it is messy (a lot of times at our house!). We are missing out on a critical time with our children when we do this. They thrive and learn and grow every single time we set aside other things and make intentional bonding experiences with them. You’re going to make memories that to you may seem small but to them it will be profound. That reminder you get from them when they say “Hey Daddy, remember when…” is humbling and something we overlook in our daily parenting routines. We sabotage our change for benevolent bonding.

Parent and Friend

We can be our child’s parent and we can be their friend. We may not be their best friend but we have a compassionate friendship and a benevolent bond that even their very best friend has. We just need to continually pour in to our children the love Christ has shown us. The poor outlook of a parent being a friend to their child comes from the parent enabling irresponsibility. You’re 50, you don’t need to go to the club so you can watch women twerk.You also shouldn’t be operating on the premise that your child is going to be drinking or smoking weed so why not do it with them when you can control it. That control is illusory, a powerful tool of the enemy. All you are doing is saying those behaviors are okay.

If we want long-term healthy relationships with our children it spring from intentional time spent with them each, intentional time spent with the family. It does not come from giving them gifts and condoning their poor behavior. As a father my goal is to teach, love, sometimes discipline but mostly love. We wear many hats as parents. Sometimes we even have to wear birthday hats on your forehead and pretend to be a unicorn.

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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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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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Men to Know: Manasseh

King Manasseh

“I am not good enough.” – everyone at some time.

King Manasseh (2 Kings 21:1-18 and 2 Chronicles 33:1-20) is probably the most reviled if not the most wicked king that Judah ever had in the history of the tribe. This was a man who intentionally did undid all of his father’s (Hezekiah) work in removing idolatry in Judah. He rebuilt tore down altars and he created an Asherah as Ahab had done. He went beyond just that he began building altars to idols within the temple of the Lord. The place that God told David and Solomon would be where his name resided forever. Manasseh did some terrible things that even now my heart tightens at the thought of this but he sacrificed his own son by burning him.

I mean, can you draw the line any clearer that you hate God?

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The Big I Do

I Do

I’ll preface this by saying that I am no authority on the role that I am about to take, but this is about my hopes, my dreams, my prayers to be what I discuss. After October 15th at 3:00 PM (I just checked the time of the wedding. No seriously, I did.) I will not be just Scott; I will be Scott, the husband. Legally it’s a small change with profound repercussions. I do not wish to discuss what the law says I am because that is simple and far easier than explaining what God commands of that position. It is quite terrifying frankly.

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Breaking the Shackles of Doubt

Shackles of Doubt

We all have doubt. I doubt myself. I doubt the person who says they’ve never doubted anything. I really doubt the person who says they’ve never doubted God. It’s hard not too when we face a difficult time in our life.

Why is this happening? Why does God allow it to happen? What did I do to be put through this?

All questions we ask ourselves in times where we are experiencing difficulties personally, read in the news or from seeing someone we know go through a trial. It is fear and it is anger that drives these doubts.

My biggest fear isn’t death, it isn’t even whether or not God exists. I know I will die one day and I know God is real. My biggest fear is failure. I fear failing God, my soon to be wife, our children and my family. I fear failing at work or failing my friends. That failure does not paralyze me but it affects how I react to things when I do and also affects the choices I make. Can I risk hours, days and months chasing something while allowing my family to suffer? Well no, no I cannot. Or what if I speak harshly to my children or Bethany? It drives my choices or it did.

God has a way of kicking people in the pants when they really need it. I needed it. I got a kick in the pants. When I set out to write for Just Hold Fast (JHF) I thought big things like people would take an interest and I’d be able to get men together, fellowship and maybe set up some things we could do publicly to spread our cause, to spread the gospel. I’ve spent so much time worrying about helping people that I allowed doubt to creep in. No one is interacting on Just Hold Fast, maybe men won’t peel back that armor and expose their pain as easily as I have seen women do. It isn’t an expectation, it is a hope.

Bitter obedience is just disobedience baptized in right action.

A Seed of Doubt

I walked away from God because I didn’t understand what it meant to love Him like I do now. I didn’t understand what made Him so important. I do now, I ‘get it’ so to speak. Since that fire has been ignited it’s all I’ve wanted to do, share and maybe help someone if God puts it in my path. So I started this, I was overly ambitious and thought I could manage to do a devotional every single day. I could but after some time and doubt I stopped. I hadn’t posted anything for over a week. During that time I became bitter, family and friends who I thought were supportive didn’t notice. So I thought, ‘what’s the point if it doesn’t reach anyone because no one spreads the word?’  Still during all of that I soldiered on albeit bitterly as I started writing again.

A Kick in the Pants

So that kick in the rear I said I got? Came from Ryan Huguley, a man I admire because he gives a straightforward message and it is always something I can take home and reflect on. We are going through Philippians currently, it is a time when Paul is imprisoned yet he finds joy as he writes to the church at Philippi. Paul, who once persecuted Christians with a tenacity that was only surpassed with his conversion and the fanatical love for Christ he eventually showed, was ultimately going to be martyred and yet found joy in his work. The moment Ryan said, ‘Bitter obedience is just disobedience baptized in right action.’ my brain exploded. It had been three weeks since I had done anything related to JHF because I had become fed up. I was writing because I had committed myself to a lofty goal. I was performing right action but my heart was out in left field looking at the grass.

Facing Doubt

I had allowed doubt in what I knew God was wanting for me to creep in because of my own hubris. My need to succeed and to fulfill a prideful mission was blocking the way to glorify God. So what do you do about that? You address the doubt and you seek God for healing. He’s the only one that can heal these deeply seeded things. Talking with people can certainly help relieve the pressure but if that is what you put your faith in then you will face issue after issue because a Godly man is not the solution it is a stopgap. That doesn’t mean men of God cannot help, we can guide someone to God but God does the real work, the real healing. We are advocates of Christ. We are disciples destined to help others find Him. So I had to face that doubt, pray a lot and make sure that I would continue on this path regardless of some tangible reward that is ultimately insufficient for the needs of my soul, of any soul.

Three Verses for Doubt

God provides us everything we need even though we may not need it right then but we may need in the future. So what does the Bible say that can help us combat doubt? It says some very clarifying things that helped me. I pray they help you as well.

1) Listen to the word of God like you have never listened to it before. In Romans 10:17 it says ‘Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ’ (ESV). Put yourself in the path of someone who speaks the word of God in their life, a pastor, a deacon, someone from Church. Don’t allow yourself to stew and become bitter towards God.

2) Read the word of God like you have never read it before. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17 we are told plainly that all scripture is God’s word and we are also told what it is good for (everything). Correction and reproof are key because when we wander off the path and doubt we definitely need correction.

3) Speak the word of God like you have never spoken it before. When Christ was in the desert being tempted by the devil (Luke 4:1-13) it was in a way His right of passage. Immediately after this Jesus began his ministry and began the work that God set into motion after the Fall. During this temptation Jesus consistently defended against the devil by speaking against him using the word of God as his sword. He truly embodied having the whole armor of God (Ephesians 16:10-18).

I don’t know how much it will help exposing myself like this, sharing my doubt. I’m in a place where I don’t care if it affects 100 people or 1 person. God wants me to share myself and I am content with that. I know I will struggle and fail. I am imperfect but if I start to doubt I know I have the wisdom and experience to help myself. If God is willing, maybe I can help others too.

In Christ – Scott

Serve Each Other In Love

Serve

Let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him. – 1 John 3:18-19

We talk about love around here. You could say we got a whole lotta’ lovin’ even. It’s significant to us as Christians. It’s something as men we need to embrace because we are responsible for our households. Not just in money or chores but in the deepest way we know, our spirit. Men are responsible for the spiritual wholesomeness of their homes. One way we can teach this is how we shove love to others through service to them. We’ve talked about serving one another before, let’s go deeper and talk about the difference in serving to serve and to serve in love.

Serve in Love

Anyone can provide a service to one another. It can be great customer friendly service that will make the person come back for help when they need it again. That’s great but is it in love? Maybe love of the profession but love for the customer is what I am inquiring about. Love for your service done with Christ at the forefront. If we do service so that others may see that we are doing service then we defeat the purpose of what it means to serve (Matthew 6:1). Do deeds for the sake of being a Christian and not because someone may think well of you. That’s the easiest way to serve in love. Letting go of our pride and saying, “Hey, they need help.” then thoughtlessly doing it.

That’s the big thing, you have God’s love in you. There is no effort to help others and be there for them. You’ll find happier people are surrounding you when you can cast away that need to get something out of it for yourself. If we can put this in to our household and show love to others in practical ways we are doing the work we are commanded to do. Help and support out of love and not just to get it over with.  I’ve done it, I want to do something but I keep getting asked to do this or that and get frustrated but if I take a moment and address the situation as this. The woman I love, who I am called upon to protect and serve in love, is asking me to do just that. I don’t want to fail my commitment to her. That is bitterness (Hebrews 12:14-15) and it is a weed that can grow quick and deeply. Better to stamp it out before it takes hold. Love. Serve. Love to Serve. Most importantly, Serve in Love.

A Family Loves One Another

Family Loves

You are also members of His household. – Ephesians 2:19

What is home to you? Maybe it is whatever building all your stuff is in. Maybe it’s your place to get away from the world. It could be filled with the laughter of children and sometimes it is filled with harsh words better left unsaid but slip out when we fail to remember what takes prominence in our lives. It’s more ‘who’ than ‘what’ but the ‘who’ gives us an idea of ‘what’ should matter. Christ should take prominence in our lives, not just publicly but at home too. Home is where our family is and family loves us unconditionally.

The people we love the most, the ones we keep the closest have seen the very best of us. They’ve also seen the very worst. Family protects us against the world. My family has had and likely will have some terrible arguments and we will say terrible things in the passion of the moment. Yet all of that will disappear if someone is hurt or is spoken to harshly and we do not like it. It is that ‘I can mess with my family but you can not mentality’ and it’s been part of my family since I can remember.

Who else has seen you that way? Well, God has. He knows you like none other. He sees what even your family doesn’t. He sees both good and bad things. His love knows no boundaries. We are all part of God’s household and that is home for the soul. That is one of a multitude of reasons we call fellow Christians brother and sister. They are spiritually bound to us because we are all children of God. They will help protect us against the attacks of the enemy.

Your Spiritual Family Loves You!

And that is why you should love them back. Intercede for them, support them and love them unconditionally. Someone will stray, maybe it will be you or maybe it will be me. God’s the one that knows that and how we react to that is what sets the bar for how much we value our spiritual brethren. If they stray love on them. Walk them back to God and if it is a crawl back to God then get on your hands and knees and do that with them. Jesus loved us so much He came here and gave up everything to live as man did and yet He loved on people like so few men did or would. Our spiritual family loves us as Christ loved, pay it forward because the healing of one family member through the power of Jesus makes it all worth it. We are members of God’s household and that makes us a family that needs to love everyone and not just someone in good times.

Be There For One Another

Help One Another

Everyone helps his neighbor and says to his brother, “Be strong!” – Isaiah 41:6

A few weeks ago my pastor was speaking about church, about diversity in the church when he was addressing the issues we face today in the world. Mostly in America because that is where we live but abroad also. It’s painful to think that you must be of a certain demographic to worship somewhere. We were called to love one another. To be there for one another not because it is nice, not because we feel bad but because it is what Christ did. Even in times when He could have justly torn someone down such as Peters’ denial or Judas’ betrayal.

Christ understood hard times like no man has before or will again. Yet He still found strength to comfort others. He looked outside of His own interests and in to what was best for all of us (Philippians 2:1-7).  I don’t think any church has reached that. Even my own. We want it, I pray we do. We are people though and that means we often become judgmental or whispering about things. Sometimes that humanity makes us choose not to be there for one another when we should.

Tragedies have a way of uniting people in ways they never considered possible, it’s in those times we realize how true 1 Corinthians 12:26 is because we suffer with others even if the tragedy is afar. Yet we forget to rejoice with those same people. When we get tired or are hidden from public view our real feelings tend to surface. Sometimes they are ugly, I’m guilty of it and I ask God to give me a change of heart to always be encouraging.

That does not mean we cannot reprimand those we love or with. In fact we should (Ephesians 5:11) because we are looking out for them. It’s something that must be done with care. We are stewards of God’s grace and with that comes the responsibility to hold ourselves and others accountable without condemning them and to reprimand them when they stray without ostracizing them.

When we walk a mile in someone else’s shoes we get a better picture of why we should be there for one another. We experience their experience. Putting ourselves in that mindset mentally is great as long as we use it to prepare ourselves to actually serve them if we can. When I get home I want my family because that is what soothes me from work. I have that shoulder to lean on. Sometimes that is all someone needs. If we can love others and learn to see things from their perspective that is when we are being there for one another. You don’t have to go to a foreign country to be a missionary, do it in your own back yard. Make a step towards creating diversity in your life and invite those people to where you worship. That is how we put the diversity back in the church. It’s simple, effective and it glorifies Christ.

Teaching Forgiveness

Teaching Forgiveness

Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. – Colossians 3:13

Kids ask the darnedest things. Sometimes I don’t even know how to answer them in a kid like manner. I was talking to Bethany about that on the way home from a coffee run to Dunkin’ Donuts. While we were driving Elijah asks out of the blue, “Scott, Why did they kill Jesus?” He is deep like that. The death of Christ was terrible and every martyr since has died because people fear the truth and have lived a life of lies. It is one of many reasons that Jesus was slain. So how do you answer that for a child who is only 3 but asks about God and loves God in the way only children can? How do you go about teaching forgiveness in a way that glorifies God without losing the message that Jesus came to give?

Don’t be a Pharisee. You tell them the truth and you live it. You go about teaching forgiveness as Christ does. I struggle with how to answer some of his questions. Not out of lack of knowledge but in how to share it in a way he can comprehend but I think I did alright. He is at that stage where lying is commonplace unfortunately. So why not use that? I told him that people killed Jesus because they were strong and had lots of power . They gained that power by lying about God’s word and using it to make people believe something they couldn’t live themselves. I would be remiss to admit there was an ulterior motive there to teach him not to lie.

I went on to tell him how lying hurts people and that Jesus was killed out of fear. Fear that all the things those powerful people had won falsely would be taken from them. Jesus was teaching us to love one another above all things because God had sent Him out of love to save us. Which led to another question, “Did Jesus love the soldiers who kilt him?” This kid…

He did (Luke 23:34), He asked for their forgiveness even while they slew Him. I still saw no reason to not tell him that. I explained to him that Jesus forgave them for hurting Him, for not knowing what they were doing. Jesus came to save the world, not the Jews, not the believers, everyone (1 John 2:2). We in many ways teach this kind of forgiveness to our kids, or we should. Children are ignorant to the world, many of the things they do and we teach them by forgiving them and telling them why it was wrong.

We have no desire to brag, teaching forgiveness is a cornerstone of rearing Christian children. My children know about the forgiveness of the prodigal son, they know about the parable of the unforgiving servant but most importantly we make sure they know about the forgiveness of Christ.

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