Category: Christian Living

Lessons from Fatherhood

The other day I found myself sitting on the couch trying to read, but the sound of my four-year-old son crying on the floor distracted me.  My wife and I had planned on making the one mile trip to the shore of Lake Ontario after dinner but had cancelled the outing because my son and five-year-old daughter refused to listen to us (a problem that we’ve been having lately). We clearly told the kids to stop their manic wrestling session, go to the bathroom, and get their shoes so that we could go to the lake. They weren’t doing anything wrong, but we simply could not get them out the door with the way they were acting. Upon hearing our request they decided to ignore us and keep wrestling. Rather than using my stern “daddy voice” or separate them ourselves, we repeated our instructions, told them we won’t go to the lake if they don’t listen, and then left them to their own devices. Since they were still wrestling fifteen minutes later, my wife left for a walk with the baby and the trip to the lake was effectively cancelled. My son’s crying began when he realized that we were not going to the lake. He then blamed me for not being able to go to the lake.

This brief story is not a statement about good parenting. When it comes to parenting the only thing that I am confident about is that I really don’t know what I am doing. It is, however, an interesting example of how clear directives and stated consequences lead to suffering and misplaced accusations towards the one with authority. I had the power to bring my son to the lake, but doing that would have been a disservice to him. My son cannot mature if he thinks that he can do whatever he wants whenever he wants. In my ever growing realization that parenting is teaching me a lot about God and my relationship with Christ, this incident reminded me how we often blame God for the positions we put ourselves in.

Granted we are not always the authors of our misery. The book of Job describes the suffering of a man who was blameless. Original sin gave way to illnesses, natural disasters, accidents, and the like. One should not be quick to equate bad events with personal discipline from God. Moreover, the Bible doesn’t promise prosperity to the faithful; suffering sometimes cultivates spiritual growth (Romans 5). Still, obedience is often connected to a wisdom that reduces some types of personal suffering in everyday life. Husbands who honor Ephesians 5 by self-sacrificially loving their wives will be more content and joyful in their marriage than those who try to change their wives for selfish gain. Men who succumb to extramarital temptation will suffer (see Proverbs 2:16-19 & 6:29-7:27). Gossip destroys churches and makes life generally miserable for all (Proverbs 16:28 & 26:20-22). Obedience frees us from the tyranny of consequences that sin often brings to our lives (Proverbs 2).

More importantly the role of father teaches one about the nature of grace. Disobedience leads to consequences but does not (or should not) sever a child from his father’s love. I cannot imagine an act that would reduce the love I have for my son. Only his outright rejection of me at a later age could create separation between us, and even then I will still love him and long for him to return. And so it is with God and us (Luke 15: 11-32). Christ’s sacrifice shields believers from God’s wrath, but through grace we are all on a path of progressive sanctification (Romans 6; Hebrews 10:14). The consequences (or pain) of sin in our lives should be a reminder that God disciplines his children so that we can mature (Hebrews 12: 4-12). Maturity reflects a greater awareness not only of what is righteous but also that we are unable to work our way out of our sinful state (Romans 7). The consequences of sin should bring us to our knees, make use realize Christ’s lordship in our lives, and produce thankfulness for grace.

Later in the evening we went on a walk through Youngstown, NY. As we were leaving the house, I told my daughter that she should put on her long-sleeved t-shirt because it was getting cold outside. She refused, choosing instead to wear a t-shirt and shorts. After all, she knows more about such things than her father. We had a good walk. The kids were cheerful. We raced from point to point, all taking turns as the rotten egg (loser in each contest). The sunset over the mouth of the Niagara River was a beautiful orange/pink that highlighted Toronto’s skyline on the horizon. My daughter did complain a few times that she was cold.

How does a man lead well in his home & church?

But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.
(1 Corinthians 11:3, ESV)

I chose to start of with this verse from Paul, because it’s important to understand & address how God establishes structure and leadership from the beginning. God’s intent was that man would lead… that he would lead his wife; that he would lead his kids; and that he would lead his household. Now, let me be clear, this doesn’t mean that men have been called to dominate their wife, kids or household. There is a distinct difference between leading and dictating, so in no-way-shape-or-form am I suggesting that men are to rule with an iron fist. Rather, my hope is that by the end of this article you would see specific attributes and characteristics that God desires men to adopt, in order to effectively lead his home and church.

As I taught through this at a men’s community group, one of the first statements I made was; the moment a man is born, is the moment a leader is born. A man should never be asked the question, are you leading in your house and church? Rather, the question that needs to be asked of him is , how well are you leading? Because it has always been God’s intent that man would lead, which means that we are always leading, and the question is just, how well?

To support this idea let me take you back to Genesis 3, to the fall of mankind.

1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

As we read through this passage, you can clearly see that the female was responsible for taking the first bite. But something very interesting to note, God did not address the female and her action first, instead God addressed Adam. God addressed Adam because it was man’s job to lead and direct his wife well, it was man’s job to protect his wife from danger and harm, yet we see him leading very ineffectively by standing beside her, not saying a word, and even choosing to eat the fruit when she handed it to him. (One might argue that the first sin was not the disobedience of Eve, rather the first sin was Adam not leading his wife as God intended him to [Romans 5:12, could perhaps provide evidence for that theory] ).

This is obviously a controversial statement that may not be 1o0% accurate, but the point I’m trying to make is that whether the first sin was Adam’s poor leading or Eve’s disobedience, Adam was still held accountable because he was considered the head of that household.

Men, even though those in our families may fall into sin, God holds us accountable, because we have been called to lead them well, to love and care for them effectively – it is our job to direct them away from sin and towards the gospel of Jesus.

So what does it look like for a godly man to lead his family and church well?

This question must be contemplated by every man at some point in life.

What does it look like to roll up our sleeves,
put our big boy pants on, and assume the responsibilities that God has given us?

Now it’s worth noting that the bible doesn’t specifically address this question, but what it does do is give us specific guidelines and qualifications for elders in the church.

Although all men will not be elders, all men are leaders (and all men are leading in some capacity in their churches too), either effectively or ineffectively. Therefore godly men should not have an issue aspiring to attain these qualifications, they should not have an issue in pursuing godliness. This list should be the standard that all men are aiming for, elder or not.

Elder Qualifications

Found in 1 Timothy 3

Elders are to be above reproach

These are men that welcome accountability, men that are above question. Obviously being on mission for Jesus can place us in tough/questionable situations sometimes. For example, I may be ministering to a group of people in a bar, and if I’m seen in there every other, people could start talking and the sincerity of my faith could be questioned.

Men above reproach are men that welcome accountability in situations such as those.

That plays out practically by making your mission field known to others, so that if and when your testimony is questioned, you are not blindsided, but rather you have a number of people that can support the reasons for your actions. Being a man above reproach in the household means that your wife is the one to hold you accountable, means you have complete transparency with her. If she has to question your actions or thoughts, I would suggest that you might want to spend some time explaining them to her. A wife should have confidence that her husbands actions are pure and pursuing holiness.

Elders are to be the husband of one wife

This simply means, a one women man. Godly men are committed & faithful to one women and one women only. Godly men are not men that emotionally or physically involve themselves with other women. It’s important to note the words “emotionally involved”, because even though men might not be physically involved with another women, they can often check themselves out of a relationship emotionally and find another female that they “talk to” on the side about their issues. This is not godly behavior! Godly men are emotionally and physically involved with one women.

Elders are to be sober-minded and self controlled

These are men that make smart, thought out decisions. Men who are disciplined enough to control their emotions in tough circumstances. Men, who when faced with hard situations, do not retreat back to a sinful habit, but prayerfully consider the right way to proceed, that will ultimately bring God glory.

Elders are respectable

Respect is something that is earned, it’s not something that is given freely. Respect comes from consistently being above reproach; from being the husband of one wife; from being sober-minded and self-controlled. Respect is earn, within their sphere of influence, when men are seen to be honestly pursuing these qualities.

Elders are hospitable

This is just another way of saying that godly men are selfless. They are not only concerned about the needs of others, but their concern leads them to invest in the problem and be a part of the solution. Godly men are hospitable enough to share their assists (house, wallet, vehicles, time, energy) with others in order to lead them to Jesus and ultimately bring God glory.

Elders are able to teach

It’s important that we acknowledge that, yes, Paul is talking specifically about the ability to teach the bible here (which I think godly men should be able to do). But I would also suggest that if we were to attempt to generalize this list to accommodate all men in their pursuit of godliness, then it would be worth broadening the horizons of this point (without detracting from it’s original meaning). Godly men are men that are not only able to teach from the bible, but they are men that are able to teach through the actions of their life too. People are watching how “godly men” respond to the circumstances of life. I believe that God has provided us a platform, through our responses to daily life, that will either point people to, or from himself.

I think this is especially true within our families. Our kids need to be taught accurately about Jesus through how we live, not just what we say. I believe a huge reason why kids are turning their backs on Christianity, is because they have witnessed the unrepentant hypocrisy from their dad. Men need to be able to authentically teach with both their mouths and their life’s.

Elders are not addicted

These are men that have recognized that their identity is found in Jesus and nothing else. Godly men will not be controlled by any substance or artificial high. They do not need those things to figure out their sin or any of life’s issues, because Jesus has already done that for them.

Elders are not violent but gentle

Mark Driscoll uses the words, tough and tender. It’s vitally important that godly men are able to find a biblically balance between these two. We need to be able to do what is hard sometimes, but we also need to approach every situation with caution and discernment. Often times men can unemotionally trample over a situation and make them 10 times worse than before.

Elders are not quarrelsome

Godly men don’t pick fights for the sake of picking fights. Too many times men have been found to be arrogant, closed minded and very quick tempered… These are not godly characteristics. Godly men have a control over their desire to want to fight by proving their point; or have their voice heard; because godly men step a-side knowing that it’s not about them, it’s about Jesus.

Elders are not a lover of money

Godly men are not motivated by finances, they do not do things simply for financial gain. Instead they lead selflessly, putting themselves and their wallets a-side and focussing on sacrificially giving, reaching, teaching and leading their families and others towards Jesus.

Elders manage their household well, care for God’s church, keep their children submissive & are thought well of by outsiders

Because we have covered a lot of points so far, I bundled the last few together, because I believe that none of them are achieved without observing and pursuing all of the previous points.

Remember, godly men don’t lead with an iron fist, rather with strong, loving, dependable hand. They lead with a life that their children will look at and respect/trust greatly. They will, very seldom, question the motives and heart of their father, instead they will always know that he loves them unconditionally and that sometimes the tough decisions he makes are for their best interest.

This kind of behavior produces confidence and favor in those around. People will look in at a man that is certainly not perfect, but a man who has humbly been saved from his own sin by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. And they will see a man who, with every inch of himself, pursues godliness by aspiring towards this list because that is least that he can do out of appreciation and love for His savor. Godly men are genuine in their love for Jesus and others.