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.
Day 30: Purpose
Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint,
but blessed is he who keeps the law.
Belly buttons were the subject of our dinner conversation, so I asked, “How are babies attached to their mommies?” One of my sons, eager to express his newfound knowledge, shouted out . . .
Day 29: Surrender
The heart of man plans his way,
but the LORD establishes his steps.
“Magic sand,” he said with mystery as he climbed into the minivan. His brother looked at him curiously, so he explained: “I have magic sand and if I put it in my pocket, it will turn into money. He then proceeded to theatrically pull out a brand new five-dollar bill.
“Where’d you get that?” his brother asked.
“Magic sand,” was the reply.
At home, we finally coaxed it from our son that . . .
Day 28: Shepherding
My son, keep your father's commandment, and forsake not your mother's teaching.
Bind them on your heart always; tie them around your neck.
When you walk, they will lead you;
when you lie down, they will watch over you;
and when you awake, they will talk with you.
For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light,
and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life.
Dads, shepherd your children as their protector and provider. Like the Good Shepherd, lay down your life for them (John 10:11). Consider one simple shepherding practice which has yielded some of my favorite parenting memories. Schedule to meet with each of your children once a week on a designated day. My children call it their special time with daddy. You can do anything you want during this time: wrestle, have pillow fights, eat ice cream, watch football, play a game, or read a book. You can ask about their day or what they learned in Sunday School that week. Sometimes when I’m tired, I just close my eyes and let them talk about whatever they want to talk about (which usually ends up being sports or Star Wars). Occasionally, you can introduce spiritual conversations or pray with them. Perhaps read a theology book for kids and encourage their questions. During our special time, we often discuss the Scripture passage our church will study on the upcoming Sunday. Then as we read it together, they always have questions. Dads, never be afraid of questions. It’s perfectly fine to say, “That’s a great question,” or, “Let’s study it together,” or, “Why don’t we ask for help.” My children often ask questions that no adult has ever asked in all my years of ministry and I simply have to answer, “I don’t know.”
For example . . .
Day 27: Discipline
Whoever spares the rod hates his son,
but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.
“Train up a child in the way he should go” (Prov. 22:6a) means, “Don’t let your child do whatever he wants.” For Proverbs teaches that discipline is both necessary and good: “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him” (13:24). “Discipline your son, for there is hope; do not set your heart on putting him to death” (19:18; see 23:13-14).
Dads, consider three simple words for the practice of discipline . . .
Day 25: Truth
Every word of God proves true;
he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.
“Train up a child in the way he should go” (Prov. 22:6a) literally means, “Train up a child upon the mouth of his way.” For “upon the mouth” or “from the lips” was a Hebrew idiom meaning, “according to,” or, “in accord with,” like a servant waiting eagerly at the beck and call of his master. The word “way” occurs nearly seventy times in Proverbs to describe the habitual choices and direction one takes in life. Picture trudging back-and-forth through a field of grass until you have carved a well-worn path. So also, you must habitually walk in the way of the Lord until it becomes second nature to your life.
Join The TLP Family and receive email updates when we publish new articles and episodes.
Subscribe to Our Podcast