On Dads and Kids

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:1–4, ESV).

Earnestly pray for your children and with your children

If there is low hanging fruit here, prayer is certainly it. Nothing brings God into the home like a dad earnestly praying with his kids. Does that mean every day is Valley of Vision level prayers? No. It’s not in our home either.

It’s the consistency of praying. And yes, pray before meals and bed. That’s good. If you’re doing that, well done. Pray spontaneously when you hear a family member is in crisis or the little one has a boo-boo; these bring God into the culture of the home. That’s the point. Prayer brings God into the home and into the heart. Fill your home with prayers.

Create a spiritual culture in the home

My parents did this really well. Regular devotions and prayer. Never missed church. Every week seeing dad write a check to give to the church and missionaries and other kingdom causes.

We were blessed to have missionaries often in our home. They would tell their stories and I would sit there in rapt attention wondering, does God want me to be a missionary to remote Africa? I hope not. God I’ll go, but I’m not very mechanical and I might not do well.

I’ve told you before we had verses and spiritual sayings in plaques around the house. Joanna Gaines may not decorate that way, but I could quote most of them to you to this day. It depends on what’s important to you, I suppose.

Every home has a culture. What’s yours? Is God a part of it? How? It doesn’t just happen. Be intentional. Someday you will be glad you did.

Teach them biblical truth

But I’m not a theologian! I’m no Billy Graham. I don’t know what to say. Do you have a Bible? Just reading the Bible gets you 2/3 of the way. Then ask, Kids, what do you think God is saying here? They are going to say the craziest and funniest things, but it gets gospel conversation going. It doesn’t have to be very deep to be effective with children.

Don’t farm this out to Sunday School or Awana. Teach them. Drip it in as life allows.

Here is the important of all:

Model what seeking first the kingdom of God looks like

I don’t remember much of what my dad taught me. I don’t remember any specific prayer that made a difference in my life. I don’t recall any particular moment of instruction or discipline making a huge impact.

Biblical fathering is the cumulative effect of a life observed up close. Eventually, your kids figure you out. They know what makes you tick. There at the core of your being needs to be the love for Christ. Imperfect? Ebbs and flows. Mistakes? Yes!

Notice I didn’t say perfection. Super dad. Awesome-all-the-time dad. It needs to be real. The gospel is that I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior. If our kids see from us our own sense of unworthiness, and we seek from them forgiveness for our failures, and they receive from us grace in their failures, and all this is done with a sense of God’s glory, it will powerfully impress on them that Dad thinks Jesus is great. Does that guarantee heaven forever with your kids? No. Each child must make their own life choices regarding Jesus.

But here’s what we know, while faithful fathering can’t guarantee salvation, unfaithful fathering can spiritually hinder a child. They take their cues from us. If a sports team is the big deal, they will likely cheer for that team their whole life. If fishing is the big thing; they will fish their whole life and remember days fishing with you. You are setting a lifelong direction and priority.

Remember, Jesus said it is better to have a millstone around your neck and be cast into the sea than to cause one of these little ones to stumble (Matthew 18:6). Dads, let’s take this Father’s Day to renew our purpose to nourish our children’s hearts toward a personal faith walk with Jesus.

One second after you die, you will be so glad you did. Happy Father’s Day.

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

© 2020 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

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