Day 40: The Fear of the Lord
In the fear of the LORD one has strong confidence,
and his children will have a refuge.
The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life,
that one may turn away from the snares of death.
The other day I was installing a crystal chandelier in the nursery (a novelty after raising three boys) when I happened to read comments on the company website by other brave souls who had tried and failed before me. Most of those comments were posted by husbands griping about all the tiny little pieces and how the finely printed instructions were of less value than toilet paper. A rare few comments came from wives gushing over how thrilled they were that their husbands had finally installed the chandelier and how it brightened up their home.
So now it’s my turn to try my hand at this Herculean task and I reach the step of connecting the wires . . . .
Day 39: Good News
By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for,
and by the fear of the LORD one turns away from evil.
My toddler once decided it would be fun to leap into the pool without daddy there to catch him. My wife (who cannot swim herself) saw this happen in slow motion and jumped fully-clothed into the pool to save him. So also, dads, be ready to rescue your foolish children with the gospel, for without Christ they cannot swim. Learn how to swim yourself by daily meditating on Christ’s finished work. Then keep proclaiming the gospel as a drowning man to drowning children.
I love the account in C. S. Lewis’s, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe of Edmund’s redemption.
Day 38: Legalism
To do righteousness and justice
is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.
Dads, your children have a foolish, self-centered plan to rebel against God (Ps. 14:1). So make it your goal to not merely change behavior, but to transform hearts. Grace tells them, “Jesus is your Savior,” but the law shows them why they need one. One of our sons never needed convincing that he was sinful: “Daddy, it’s so hard to be good!” Yet another son tended to be more pharisaical: “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector” (Luke 18:11). Such legalism is normal for children as you teach them to obey God’s law (Deut. 6:6-9).
Day 37: Comfort in Trials
Whoever gives thought to the word will discover good,
and blessed is he who trusts in the LORD.
My sons were gravely confined to suits during their uncle’s wedding. So right after the family pictures, they ripped off their pink bow ties and started shooting them in the air like slingshots. It was a time of raucous celebration—not over the wedding, but over their glorious freedom. That’s how I picture Lazarus as his friends unbound his graveclothes (John 11:44) and the joy we too should have in God’s deliverance (Prov. 29:2a). Even harder, however, is to maintain joy in the midst of the trial (Jas. 1:2). The way of escape often runs through the difficulty, not around it (1 Cor. 10:13). True faith faces all of life.
Day 36: Forgiveness
Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper,
but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.
The other day I was sick, tired, and lacking the minimum energy required just to be a parent. So I snapped at one of my sons, “Quit being stupid!” I instantly regretted my words. Truth be told he was just being silly, but I had used that word (forbidden in our house) to make him stop talking. My boys all laughed, thinking it funny to hear forbidden words (especially from daddy), but I knew it was wrong. I failed to say anything at the time, but it bothered me all night long.
Day 35: Self-Control
A man without self-control
is like a city broken into and left without walls.
In the 1970s, Stanford psychologists conducted the now-famous “Marshmallow Test.” They handed each child a marshmallow and instructed them, “You can eat this marshmallow whenever you want, but if you wait fifteen minutes without eating it we’ll give you another one.” When the researchers left the room, some of the children gobbled up their marshmallow immediately while others exercised self-control (though under visible duress). The researchers then tracked the progress of these children over the next several decades and found that the second group—the ones who waited—far excelled the first in life skills: They achieved higher grades, maintained better physical health, and were more likely to be happy in life. The driving factor in their success was self-control. Long before Stanford, however, Paul cited self-control as a qualification for spiritual leadership (Titus 1:8) and godly maturity (2:2, 5). He also gave only one instruction for training young men: “Urge the younger men to be self-controlled” (Titus 2:6).
Dads, do not be ruled by unruly heart desires . . . .
Day 34: Legacy
How much better to get wisdom than gold!
To get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.
I was named in honor of my grandfather who died a few weeks before I was born. His best friend persuaded my mother to call me, Tom, the name by which her father was known. I never met my grandfather in person, but I hear he was a character. He told fascinating tales of being a runaway slave in China, stowing aboard a ship to America, and traveling to Alaska as a cook with the U. S. army. He tricked my grandma into marrying him and worked hard to provide a better life. He loved his family, loved to joke around with friends, and one day learned to love the Lord. I never knew my grandfather, but I received his name.
Thankfully . . .
Day 33: Kindness
Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness
will find life, righteousness, and honor.
One evening, my wife and I played a game with our boys creatively called, “I like you because…” We put everyone’s name into a hat and took turns pulling one out. Then for each name we drew, we would give one reason why we liked that person. To our pleasant surprise, the boys loved it. It took awhile, of course, to define the nature of a genuine compliment, but soon they began to enjoy both giving and receiving words of kindness. There were quite a few silly ones such as, “I like you because you are good at football,” and, “I like you because you are smelly.” But my favorite was when one of our boys looked deep into his mother’s eyes and said, “Mommy, I like you because you are thoughtful and caring and hard-working.” Our boys were so intent on the game that we played three rounds that first night and they were still handing out compliments during breakfast the next morning.
We all need to practice being kind. So dads, I encourage you to . . .
Day 32: Friendship
Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise,
but the companion of fools will suffer harm.
In kindergarten, one of my sons made a new friend named Chon-Chon. “That’s an interesting name,” I commented, “Is that a nickname? Is he ethnic?”
My son answered innocently, “I don’t know,” and proceeded to share about all the games he played with Chon-Chon. Every day, he would bring home a new story: “Chon-Chon said this. Chon-Chon did that.”
These tales went on for several weeks until we finally learned from the school that there was no child enrolled by the name of Chon-Chon. My son had invented an imaginary friend. Now certainly good friends are hard to find, yet not so impossible that your children must make them up.
Proverbs exhorts you to . . .
Day 31: Treasure
My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you,
making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding;
yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding,
if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures,
then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.
My son, when learning how to read, would occasionally come across a word he had never seen before. He would spot the first few letters and take a guess at the rest of the word. Then if he got it wrong, he would take another guess and then another. So I would gently correct him: “No, son, try to sound out every word. Don’t get lazy. You can do this.” There were times, of course, when the word was just too difficult and I had to tell him the answer. Yet I knew that he would never learn to read by guessing, but by good old-fashioned hard work. Likewise, our heavenly Father makes us study hard to ingrain the truths of Scripture.
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