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 . . .
For example, after reading John 10 together, I asked my son, “Why do you think the Bible describes people as sheep?” We talked about all the silly things that sheep do that are like all the silly things that people do. Then as we discussed the difference between good shepherds and hired hands (vv. 12-13), my son asked, “Do the hired hands lose all their money if they run away and leave the sheep behind?”
I replied with my own question (since I didn’t have an answer): “Would you rather have money or your life?” He did not respond as quickly as I would have liked, yet pondering that question cemented for him how Jesus faced danger to care for us.
My son then asked, “So who are the thieves and the robbers?”
I replied, “They are the people who try to harm the sheep.”
“Oh, you mean, like the Pharisees.”
“Yes, exactly the Pharisees.”
Then I asked, “So what do you think Jesus meant when he said the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep?”
“Oh, he’s talking about his death. He’s about to die on the cross.”
“That’s right. Jesus’ death on the cross demonstrates how much he loves us and his rising from the dead shows how powerful he is to save us.” We discussed what makes us afraid and how Jesus brings comfort.
Then finally, I asked, “Now why did some people say Jesus was crazy or demon-possessed?”
My son answered, “Because Jesus taught a lot of things.”
“That’s right. Jesus made many claims that would have sounded crazy unless they were true.” I could see the light bulb turn on: Whether or not Jesus spoke the truth would make the difference between whether he was crazy and whether he was Lord.
All I did was ask good questions since my role is not to save my kids, but to lead them to Jesus. Dads, when you read the Bible with your children, teach them to listen to the voice of Jesus (vv. 3-5). Show them that Jesus is the only door to a personal relationship with God (vv. 7, 9). By doing so, you open their hearts to the good news that Jesus died to forgive sinners and rose from the dead to bring us into his flock.
Solomon pairs parental teaching with the law of God (see Prov. 6:20-23): “Son, listen to me. My authority comes not just from being your father, but from the Word of God. And do not merely listen, but bind these words to your heart. Hide them in your soul. Memorize them. Treasure them. Keep them always with you. Then as you walk through life, they will lead you like a shepherd. They will teach you to discern wise decisions, protect you in times of fear, and comfort you in suffering. They will give you peace when you sleep and guidance when you wake. My son, God himself will speak to you in his Word. When you actively engage with Scripture, you will have lively conversations with your Creator. These words are not dead letters on a page, but alive! I entrust to you, my son, a precious lamp to light your way when the trail grows dark and have designed my loving discipline to keep you on the path of life. Son, listen to me as I teach you God’s Word.” Scripture must inform your shepherding strategy.
Dads, I encourage you to give your children special time with daddy. Start by spending ten minutes a week per child and schedule it in like all your other appointments. You might miss a day here or there, but at other times go for longer. Shepherd your children like Jesus shepherds you.
Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for sending your Son to be my Good Shepherd. Teach me to listen to his voice and take comfort in his presence. Show me how to lovingly shepherd my children until they can follow the voice of Jesus on their own. Strengthen me to daily lay down my interests for theirs and to be your instrument in their lives. In your Son’s name, Amen.
LifeWork: Write down one way you will apply today’s Proverb.
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