Thursday, October 6, 2016

What's Up with Great Dads?

Fatherhood is challenging. It’s far more difficult than I ever expected before becoming a dad almost two decades ago. But “daddy-hood” is a tremendous blessing in my life.

As my children are beginning to get a bit older and my role is gradually shifting in their lives, I’ve been doing a good amount of thinking about what it takes to be a great dad. I’ll be the first to confess I still have a long way to go.

So what does it take to become a great dad? Here are seven things to consider regarding what excellent fathers consistently do:

They show up. 
Great dads are involved in their kids’ daily lives and various extracurricular activities. Whether it be sports events, band concerts, dance or music recitals, debate competitions, church youth activities, boy or girl scouts, 4-H, the dads who are making the biggest difference in their children’s lives make the effort to be present. Granted, I understand that it’s not always possible, but it needs to be a priority.

They listen up. 
Effective fathers are in the habit of actively and reflectively listening to what their kids are saying. These parents show genuine interest through their nonverbal and facial expressions. Dads who pay close attention to both the content of and feelings behind their children’s statements are on the right track. Great dads are tuned in to their children’s hearts—their hopes, dreams, aspirations, fears, and concerns. They grasp the deeper—sometimes hidden—meaning of what their children are trying to communicate and what is really at stake for them.

They speak up. 
Rather than assuming a passive stance—like a bump on a log, effective dads willingly share their knowledge, perspectives, and cautionary warnings with their kids. In other words, they impart godly wisdom and common sense when needed and offer insight to help guide their children’s footsteps down the safest, healthiest path. By earning their kids’ respect, great dads use their position of authority and influence to benefit their children’s present and bless their future.

They man up. 
Providing appropriate rules, proper boundaries, and age-appropriate discipline is essential when it comes to raising young people. The ultimate goal is to teach children the importance of self-discipline and self-regulation so that they turn into obedient, respectful, and responsible adults. Mature dads don’t shirk their parental role or relinquish their family leadership responsibilities to others, including their wives or other relatives. Instead, they fulfill their obligation with grace.

They pay up. 
Great dads do their part to provide financially and materially for their children. Trustworthy men work hard to earn a decent living so as to adequately supply the physical needs of their family. They aren’t selfish or irresponsible with the money they make at their jobs. If good fathers happen to be separated or divorced for whatever reason from their children’s mother, they aren’t dead-beat dads who fail to consistently pay their fair share of the child-support. The Bible says that, “if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim. 5:8, ESV).

They pray up. 
The greatest dads are those who are consistently mindful of their children in their daily personal and family prayers. They are very intentional in remembering to ask God to protect and provide for their kids’ well-being. They petition God to some day supply godly spouses who will help their children walk faithfully and make it to heaven. They also ask God to help their children overcome temptations and weather trials as they grow and mature in their faith.

They lift up. 
Great dads are constant encouragers of their children. Always looking for positive comments and compliments to share, they cheer their sons and daughters on to greater levels of personal growth, achievement, and success in their lives as they develop to their full potential. First-rate fathers seek strengths within their kids and highlight those positives so as to build up their children’s self-esteem. They affirm their kids to help them feel good about themselves and their futures.

In summary, great dads . . . show up, listen up, speak up, man up, pay up, pray up, and lift up their children.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Meaning of Discipleship

Discipleship is a topic we often don’t give enough time and emphasis to in churches today. 

If we boil it down to its essentials, there are basically three facets to discipleship: (1) becoming a disciple; (2) growing as a disciple; and (3) making other disciples.

Many Christians might have become disciples years ago, but they have failed to grow in their discipleship and are spiritually stagnant now. Perhaps they’ve never taken the initiative to play an active role in making other disciples and, therefore, have shirked their God-given responsibility. 

Some believers simply try to maintain the status quo in their lives rather than allow Christ to transform them more into His image.

It’s a sad state of affairs when someone remains a perpetual babe in Christ, still feeding on the milk of the Word and never moving on to the solid food reserved for mature Christians.

Hebrews 5:12-14 (ESV) says, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”

True discipleship entails more than mere intellectual assent to the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. It means faithfully following in His footsteps.

Did you know the word for disciple and the word for discipline are both derived from the same Latin root—discipulus, which means student or pupil? It emphasizes the notion of practice or exercise. Self-discipline and self-control are supposed to be ongoing characteristics of the followers of Jesus, as exhibited by Peter, James, and John, who left everything to follow Jesus.

At its core, discipleship is primarily obedience to our Lord and Savior. It also involves purity and holiness, giving and serving, and studying God’s Word and sharing it with others.

Jesus said in Luke 9:23-24 (ESV), “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” He warned in Luke 14:27 (ESV), “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”

And if that wasn’t clear enough, Jesus also asserted in Luke 14:33 (ESV), “So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.”

In the Great Commission, Christ challenged his apostles to “Go . . . and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20a, ESV).

Therefore, discipleship is not to be a selfish endeavor whereby we become the sole beneficiaries of the message and blessings of the gospel. Good News ought to be shared with others. That’s why evangelism and biblical education are essential components of discipleship.

According to the New Testament, being a Christian disciple involves personal growth characterized by the following:

1. Putting Jesus first in all things (Mark 8:34-38)
2. Following Jesus' teachings (John 8:31-32)
3. Bearing Fruit (John 15:5-8)
4. Loving other disciples (John 13:34-35)
5. Evangelizing the world by making disciples of others (Matt. 4:19-20; 2 Tim. 2:2)

No matter what your current maturity level is in the Christian life, you have something valuable to offer. Don’t believe Satan’s lie that you don't know enough or haven't been a Christian long enough to make a difference. While you may not know a lot of Bible verses, you’ve personally experienced the love of the Savior, and that’s precisely what you need to share. Enthusiasm for Jesus is contagious.

In Luke 6:40 (ESV), Jesus said, “A disciple is not greater than his teacher, but everyone when fully trained will be like his teacher.”

The yoke and the cross are twin symbols of the Christian life. “The cross speaks of leaving the world for Christ; the yoke speaks of learning in the world from Christ. The one speaks of sacrifice; the other service. The disciple must bear both; he cannot choose to take one and leave the other” (The Prairie Overcomer).     

Are you a true disciple of Jesus Christ today?