faith Posts

When Bike Meets Car

There’s an old adage among cyclists: “There are two types of riders; those who’ve crashed and those who are going to.” The longer you ride, the more likely this is realized. I’ve been in a few crashes. While in a large peloton, I went down hard at mile 48 (in the “Hotter than Hell 100”, in Wichita Falls). Miraculously, I didn’t break any bones, though I ended up with the worst road rash I’ve ever had. I finished the race, but later discovered my bike was totaled with a cracked frame. My helmet was cracked as well.

I had never been hit by a car, until a few weeks ago. And when bike meets car, there is no contest. Thankfully, I was not going fast nor was the car, but it was enough to take me down quick and the result was a fractured fibula and three broken bones in my ankle. I’m in week three of a long recovery. Six to eight weeks of no weight-bearing activity and ten weeks before I can drive. I will then be in therapy to strengthen the atrophied muscles, then six months to a year before I’m 100 percent.

But enough with “lesser things”. There’s a much bigger story here, and it’s the story we all find ourselves in. When bike meets car happens on a daily basis for all of us. When expectations meet reality is a daily challenge. When our hopes and dreams are shattered like my right ankle, what do you do? When joy and sorrow collide, how do you worship God? I’ve been holding on to and revisiting Romans 8:28-29. Read it again carefully:

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.” Romans 8:28-29

Here’s what I’m learning:

  1. God has a bigger plan than ours and it is great and glorious. We often read verse 28 without verse 29 and the two are inseparable. All things work together and it seems most of “all things” are bad But God works bad things into good things. Only He can do that, showing Himself sovereign, all-powerful, and loving. The key is to notice His purpose toward which He’s working all things. His purpose is for us to be “conformed into the image of His Son”. If we have joined Him in that purpose, then we have given our lives over to whatever He deems necessary to see that purpose fulfilled. We are not our own. We have truly become the clay in the Potter’s hands. We are liquid; He is the Cast. We are soft and pliable; He is the Mold. In short, we are the created and He is the Creator. He is God and we are not.
  2. God is big enough for our questions and bigger than our disbelief. When we initially face the trauma of a life disrupted, we are shocked and surprised that things will no longer go along the track we had laid out for ourselves. We need time to adjust to the new plan, regardless of how dark or hopeless it seems initially. In the early phase of a life interrupted, all we have are questions. God is big enough for all of our questions, even if they come to Him out of anger and disbelief. Sometimes we want to crawl into His lap other times we want to beat His chest. He’s big enough for both and our angst does not phase Him for a moment.
  3. Sometimes you can only hold on to what you already know. Even in our shock and change of plans we can trust the God of our experience – the God of the Bible. He is faithful and true and does not change. Clearly, if you have walked with Him closely prior to this sudden change of direction, you are quicker to trust that He is in control and has your best intentions in mind. You’ve seen it before. You know that He is true. If you have not, this phase can be brutal and will set the course of which way you will go from here. This is when you must turn to Scripture and to those who will speak the truth about God to you. Knowing who He is, we know that when you can’t see His hand we can trust His heart. He is at work. Almost always we see, looking back, how He was at work during hard times. The goal of the disciple is to see this gap between moments of suffering and complete trust condensed into real time. We really can trust Him in the moment of suffering and pain. This is worship.
  4. We cannot dictate to God what we want as conditions for our obedience. Our role is to trust and obey. His job is to place us in situations and circumstances by which we are conformed into the image of Jesus. This is His great and glorious plan for us. And the more we trust that it is best to be like Jesus, the more we are ready to embrace whatever comes our way in life. In the end (if you live long enough), you realize you do not control what comes at you in life anyway. You only control your response to it all. And it is comforting to know that “all things” come to us first, through the loving hands of our Father.
  5. Our role is worship, through obedience; His role is to conform us into the image of His Son. I’ve learned it really is possible to worship Him, even through writhing pain and severe suffering. Job, who serves as the constant example of worship through suffering, taught us that there is something better than getting all of your answers. He got something better than answers. He got God. Through worship we get God Himself and discover that He really is enough. As we worship Him through obedience (trusting that He is good, loving and kind), we become more and more like His Son.
  6. The Spirit speaks to us when we quiet all of our intellectual questions and get alone with Him and listen. When we are debilitated (physically, mentally, or emotionally) we find ourselves quiet and sometimes alone. Pain is humbling and sets us on our backs before God. It forces us to “be still” (literally, to “let our hands hang down”) and know that He is God (Psalm 48:10). At some point we must stop asking questions and choose to listen to His Spirit speak. He does so through His Word, so we must stop listening to our souls and start speaking to our souls. And what we speak must be the truth. His Word is truth. When we slow down to listen to Him, He speaks. When we don’t, He doesn’t. Pain forces us to stop working and to stop talking and He speaks to us in quiet solitude.
  7. God uses loving people as instruments of hope and healing. We cannot make it through pain and suffering alone. I do not know where I would be right now without the loving care and patient presence of my wife. Stacy has been by me to serve me in every way. In the midst of so much in her own life, she has shown me what unconditional love looks like. Apart from the Spirit’s presence in my life, she has been the single greatest gift in this time of suffering. Indeed, the Spirit has done His work in larger part through her. I’m not used to being on the receiving end of care and it is difficult and humbling. It is also a glory to God to see my loving wife as the tangible hands and feet of Jesus. Miraculous really. I have also been blessed by the outpouring of love from my amazing church family. From our preschoolers to the eldest among us, the love of Jesus expressed, has given me hope and kept me going. There is nothing like the local church. Do not neglect the power and purpose of being devoted to the Body of Christ. Love one another. Serve each other in love. This is the church at its best.

So when bike meets car life is turned upside down, at least for a while. I’m told I will be back to normal some day. I know others who do not have that hope. The true heroes are those (mostly older friends) who have gone through much worse than me and have no hope to improve, but continue to worship God fervently. These are the ones who have learned what I’m seeking to embrace with all my heart. Nothing can separate us from the love of God that is ours in Christ and we know that “in all these things” He is at work to conform us into the image of His Son – all for our good and all to the praise of His glorious grace.

What a good God He is to us.

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Grace changes everything.

Many give up on the fight for purity because of past failures or habitual sin. This is precisely where Satan wants us to land. My counsel to young men has always been, “The good guys fight”, meaning that you’re either in the fight or you’ve given up the fight. Even “good” men (and women) battle sexual lust and temptation. Sexual sin is Satan’s easiest door to shame. In John 4, a Samaritan woman encounters Jesus and it transforms her, from a life of shame to forgiveness. This story exposes a kind of shame that defines many of us because of past sins, driven by on-going misplaced affections. Shame is a step beyond blame.

  • Blame says, “I’ve done wrong and I deserve to be punished.”
  • Shame says, “I am wrong and I cannot change. I can’t overcome my past, my mistakes, my failures.” I am who I am. Shame leads hopelessness and despair.

How do we move from shame to forgiveness? Like the woman at the well, when we realize that we are fully known and completely loved, our lives are changed. In his book, The Meaning of Marriage, Tim Keller writes: “To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.” To be known fully and loved completely is the greatest truth you’ll ever know.

1. God knows you fully. (vv. 1-15) Like this woman, God knows where you are and He’s gone completely out of His way to come to you, to find you. Like her, we seek diversions, a rerouting of the truth about ourselves. We guide our conversations, in an attempt to avoid the truth, so no one will truly come to know us. Many of us go through our lives like this. Are you fully known? Your greatest need is to be fully known. God knows everything about you. Psalm 139 says He knows when you get up and when you lie down. He knows what you’ll say before you say it. You can’t go anywhere and be away from His presence. He formed you in your mother’s womb. Wherever you are, He knows where you are right now. He’s pursuing you.

2. God loves you completely. (vv. 16-26) She was thirsty for love and clearly, she sought to satisfy this thirst through relationships with men. She thought that what she needed most would be found in the next man, a better relationship, the next love, in someone who would finally love her. We are all thirsty. We’re all craving love. He alone satisfies. And before we do write this off as a third-person story, don’t miss this: We all have lovers. Call them idols, other gods, false identities- we all have them. Who are you sleeping with? Jesus seeks to provide for you the one thing that He knows you actually need. The only thing that can quench this soulful thirst of the human heart is the love of God. What we need is what Thomas Chalmers, the Scottish minister, called, “the explosive power of a new affection.” Her problem is ours; it’s love out of order, disordered love, misplaced affections. Disordered love is when good things become God things. Misplaced affections need to be replaced by the far greater power of the affection of God, of the Gospel- what He has done for us in Christ. She needed what you need today, what I need: to be fully known and fully loved. What you need is a greater satisfaction in Him, the explosive power of a new affection. This is a life-changing reality: God knows you fully and He still loves you completely.

We see another sexual sinner in John 8, the woman caught in adultery. The woman turns to Jesus condemned by the law and the religious leaders. And after He silences those who wanted to stone her to death (by telling them, “If any of you are without sin, then let him case the first stone.” He then says one of the most amazing statements of grace (of the Gospel) in the Bible:

“Neither do I condemn you. From now on go and sin no more.” John 8:11

Notice the order of His words: You are not condemned by me, but forgiven – fully known and completely loved- let my love transform you and NOW, go and sin no more. Let my love compel you to holiness. Let my grace propel you into a life of obedience!” Most of us would say the opposite – “Get your act together, then I will no longer condemn you.” God’s acceptance of you is the power that liberates you toward obedience, not the reward of liberating yourself. We obey God, not to gain His approval but because we already have it (in Christ). Listen: God is not mad at you.

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1

Sex is not the answer, it is however, an expression of the question. Another person is not the answer. More money is not the answer. A better job is not the answer. A new and improved you is not the answer. These things, these pursuits, these thirsts point you to the question. And they are designed to point you to the Answer. It’s why you can’t stop working. It’s why you’re never satisfied. It’s why you’re anxious. It’s why you can’t rest. Your restless soul is not the answer but it IS an expression of the question. And the ultimate question is: Can I be fully known and fully loved? YES, and His…

3. Grace changes everything. (vv. 27-42) She leaves her water jar (I love this detail). The greatest need in her life had been met- she realized that she is fully known and completely loved. This is the foundation upon which you can build your entire life, because circumstances cannot touch that. She had a new identity, a new resolve, a new motivation, and a new purpose, and a new message. She had no need for a jar that would slow her down. She has a new, relentless urgency, a new purpose altogether.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

You are totally loved, fully forgiven, and completely accepted by God. His grace changes everything. Now, as a portrait of His grace, live to the praise of His glorious grace.

The Key (and almost always overlooked) Ingredient to New Year’s Resolutions

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45% of all Americans usually make New Year’s resolutions, while only 8% actually achieve them. The more troubling number is the 55% who make no resolutions at all. Goal-setting is the beginning of a pathway to growth, improvement in certain areas of your life, and the accomplishment of greater things in the coming year. If you have not set goals for the coming year, let me help you begin by focusing on what matters most.

If you are a Christian, you are called to follow Jesus every day, always motivated by the Gospel – that is, what He has already accomplished for you. This is critical:

The most important goals that you could ever set or achieve for yourself, have already been achieved for you, by Christ Himself.

Jesus lived the perfect life on your behalf, suffered the punishment for all of your sins, and He died your death on the cross. He rose again from the grave to conquer death and hell, so that you could live the resurrected life now, and into eternity. So, the key question you face as you set your eyes on the coming year is this:

Now that Christ has already done everything necessary for your salvation, what will you do?

This question sets up all the hopes, dreams, and goals for your life in the coming year. If all that really matters has already been accomplished, you can now live without fear of failure or a need to gain the approval of others. It means that all you need to do is worship Him daily and follow Him as His Spirit leads you, one day at a time. You are now free to love others without any need for love in return, because all the love you need you have already found in Him. So, as you set more specific goals in the freedom and rest of the Gospel, begin with these key truths:

  • As you pray for blessing, remember that Jesus Himself is the Blessing.
  • As you pray for guidance, remember that Jesus Himself is your Guide.
  • As you pray for rest, remember that Jesus Himself is your Rest.
  • As you pray for joy, remember that Jesus Himself is your Joy.
  • As you pray for success, remember that Jesus Himself is your Success.
  • As you pray for direction, remember that Jesus Himself is the Way.
  • As you pray for truth, remember that Jesus Himself is the Truth.
  • As you pray for life, remember that Jesus Himself is Life.

Now, set specific goals for the coming year in light of these life-changing truths.

“… Christ is all, and in all.” Colossians 3:11

Christmas Presence – The Presence of Our Need

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Christmas Reminds Us of Our Greatest Need and Our Greatest Gift.

As a kid, you know it’s getting serious when mom says, “Wait until dad gets home.” At other times dad shows up when a child is in need or, as we’re older, when we have car trouble or a financial need. Dad shows up when there’s a big announcement or a surprise. Sometimes dad shows up just to save the day. When the Father has to show up in person, it’s always a big deal. Think about it: at that first Christmas, God had to show up. He came in Person, to set things right. He didn’t come angry (“for God so loved the world”), but He did come to bring justice, to set things straight – not to punish us, but to rescue us from our sin.

But He had to show up in Person? Christmas begs the question: Why? Why did Jesus come? Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 1:15-17:

“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”

Christmas Reminds Us of Our Greatest Need and Our Greatest Gift. “The true value of anything is known only when it is wanted.” J. B. Stoney

What did Jesus do? “… Christ Jesus came into the world…”

Matthew 1:23 says, He will be called, “’Immanuel’ (which means, God with us).” “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” John 1:14. This is Christmas presence. God showed up in Person.

Why did Jesus do it? “… to save sinners…” Christmas and the resulting Gospel, is not a gentle exhortation towards a more fulfilling life. It is the announcement of divine rescue from a life of self-destruction and an eternity in hell. The Good News of the Gospel is not that there is hope for you to change yourself, it’s that Jesus has “saved” you. This is why it’s not incidental that this story of redemption is called “Good News”. If it were merely information or a program for self-improvement, it would be called something else, like good advice or a good idea, or good enlightenment. Instead, Jesus came to SAVE sinners. Not improve them.

Reason and morality cannot show us a good and gracious God. For that, we need the Incarnation.

Why did He come in the flesh? – (Why the Incarnation?) Why did He have to show up in person? Couldn’t God (from heaven) just fix things? He came in the flesh:

  • to show us that God exists – How do you know God exists? He came here in person to tell us so, to show us that He does and how He would live “IN PERSON”
  • to empathize with us – to understand, to identify with us

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 4:15 He came to sympathize with us- so that we would TRUST Him.

  • to live the perfect life on our behalf – He came not simply as our good example, He came as our perfect Substitute. He lived the perfect life FOR us, because we could not. God demands, not our progress, but perfection. And only in Christ is He satisfied.
  • to physically die on the Cross – This is why our Message is not, humanity and it improved, but “Christ and Him crucified”. Christ is not just our good example; He is our perfect Substitute.

“Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” Hebrews 9:22

  • to physically be raised to life again
  • to be glorified in bodily form – Death results in the separation of the body and the soul. Our bodies go to the grave and our spirits go to the Lord. The separation continues until the resurrection. But w/ the Lord, He rose again, with a glorified body, the same as it was before & is now into eternity- and we will follow Him one day, at the final resurrection. He had to come in the flesh- to be born like us, to live, to die, & to be raised again, and to reign forever as the Risen King.

D.A. Carson: “If God had perceived that our greatest need was economic, he would have sent an economist. If he had perceived that our greatest need was entertainment, he would have sent us a comedian or an artist. If God had perceived that our greatest need was political stability, he would have sent us a politician. If he had perceived that our greatest need was health, he would have sent us a doctor. But he perceived that our greatest need involved our sin, our alienation from him, our profound rebellion, our death; and he sent us a Savior.”

What is my response? “… of whom I am the foremost…” Like Paul, we recognize our sinful state and humble ourselves before God. We will never truly celebrate Christmas until we realize how sinful we are. We will never be truly transformed by the Gospel until we realize how desperately we need a Savior.

For many of us, our greatest problem is not our badness but our goodness. We’ve concluded that “good people” are those who “do good” and “bad people” are those who “do bad”. Even our good works are done with sinful motives. Ironically, as theologian John Gerstner points out, “The main thing between you and God is not so much your sins; it’s your damnable good works. ”

Consider sin, not so much as breaking the rules, but putting yourself in the place of God as Savior, Lord, and Judge- through your own self-salvation project, it puts you in control. Sin is not as much about bad behavior up against good behavior. Sin is a condition of the heart. This is why we cannot rescue ourselves. Romans 3:23- “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”, but that doesn’t stop us from measuring distances. We’ve forgotten that God demands perfection not progress. And He still does. Jesus came not to abolish the Law but to fulfill it. We say that we’re not saved by works but by grace, but many of do not believe that we’ve been saved by grace alone. We could say that we are saved by works, just not our own – we are saved because Christ fulfilled all of the crushing demands of God’s Law and He lived the perfect life on our behalf. In Christ, you are not defined by your past. You are defined by Jesus’ past. And His is perfect. Consider the elder brother in the story of the prodigal son. The older son was kept from the feast of salvation, not because of his remorse over his bad deeds, but pride in his good deeds.

When was the last time you realized your need? When was the last time you were truly broken over your sin? When was the last time you expressed your need for Him or thanked Him for it? The only thing that we bring to the table, is our sin that makes Christ’s sacrifice necessary for us.

“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one?” – Romans 3:9-12. Christmas begins with the recognition of our great need for a Savior. Christmas Reminds Us of Our Greatest Need and Our Greatest Gift. It all starts with a recognition of our need. J. N. Darby, (a theologian/author in the 1800s) said it this way: “Wisdom and philosophy never found out God; He makes Himself known to us through our needs; necessity finds Him out. The sinner’s heart- yes, and the saint’s heart too- is put in its right place in this way.

“Necessity finds Him out.” Only in your need for God do you find Him. Do you live with a constant realization of your need for Him? If so, I know this about you: you are a worshipper. You live in constant gratitude for God’s grace to you. Let’s let Christmas Reminds you of your Greatest Need and your Greatest Gift. Christmas brings forth worship.

Paul’s response was worship: “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” When you have an awesome dad, you know what you do- when he shows up to save the day? You praise him, you thank him. You talk about him. You tell all of your friends about him. You want everybody to meet him. God came in the flesh and the response of the angelic host was worship. Luke 2:14 says, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!”

Christmas Reminds Us of Our Greatest Need and Our Greatest Gift.

Dads: What your children really need to know about you.

 Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:1

Paul sets forth the greatest leadership principle a father can practice: “Follow me as I follow Christ.” Many Christian men know that this principle makes sense but few actually follow it. We’ve come to believe that we can say we believe one thing but live out another thing. And unless your children are under two years old, you’ve already figured out that you can’t fool them. They have a built in bull detector. In fact, you’ll do more damage than good, claiming to be or teach one thing, but do another. You will instill distrust and confusion in the life of your child.

The only way to be a great father (or a great leader in any arena of life) is to pursue something greater than yourself. As Christian fathers, we pursue Someone greater than ourselves. In Luke 7 we find the one time in all of Scripture that Jesus was actually “amazed” at someone. Consider how difficult it would be to amaze Jesus. A centurion had come to Him, begging Jesus to heal his sick and dying servant. He explained to Jesus that he believed if Jesus would just say the word, his servant would be healed. Luke 7:9, says,When Jesus heard this, He was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, He said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” But it wasn’t simply a blind faith that impressed Jesus. It was the centurion’s understanding of Jesus and who He is. The centurion understood a powerful lesson of leadership and of fatherhood. The depth of his understanding is revealed in Luke 7:8, as the centurion explains, “For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” The centurion knew that Jesus was under the authority of the Father and He had been given the authority to do what He needed to do. This is the first guiding principle of fatherhood. Dads, you are under the authority of God almighty. You have been given the role as a father by God Himself. Fatherhood is a stewardship; it is temporary; and you are accountable.

If you want to ask your children to follow you as you follow Christ, then you must first understand the guiding principle of fatherhood- that more is caught than taught. In fact, most of what you pass on to your children is caught, simply by watching you day after day. Apply these five principles as you seek to be a father worth following, and then experience the joy of leaving the rest up to God Himself, to shape and mold your children into His image. In the end, life is all about worship. Who/what you worship guides everything else in your life. It’s all about love. What you love is what gets your time, your energy, your thoughts, your money, and your life. Jesus said what you love is where your treasure is (Matthew 6:21). It reveals what you value most. The problem with most of us is that we practice “disordered love”. Augustine said that all of our sins are the result of love out of order. We love good things, more than the Supreme thing. Show your children how to love by putting your loves in order.

1. You love Jesus above all else.

Show your children how to live out of a Gospel identity. Show them that you love Jesus above all else by spending time with Him daily. When your children wake up in the morning, let them see a father pursuing Jesus first, above all else, in His Word. Show them a man who is in passionate pursuit of Jesus. And make Church a priority, above travel, the lake, golf, or whatever your other loves may be. Lead the way. Make it your life’s goal to follow Jesus every day. I’ve seen children watch their dads go to church every week but not follow Jesus every day and if you do so, you will present a false, distorted view of Christianity. Indeed, simply a religion that bears His name. In his book, Risk, Kenny Luck writes, “No man’s life for God will ever outperform his view of God.” He says the biggest challenge facing Christian men is not the world, so much as their view of God. We need men willing to risk and aggressively pursue God. Your view of God will determine your spiritual direction. It’s revealed in His Word and confirmed through your obedience. If a man’s view of God in Christ is accurate, there will be an aggressive and bold spiritual commitment and courage in leadership.

2. You love their mom more than them.

The greatest thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother. I’ve learned over the years that the greatest security you can bring to your children is to love their mom. Fathers must express that love boldly and kindly in every day interactions. Again, it’s being caught by your children. Our sons will love their wives as we love ours. Our daughters will be loved and love, as we love our wives. When your children are young, establish clear parameters about who is most important in the family. It’s not the children. The child-centered family is certain to produce selfish attention addicts. The parent-centered family is clear about who’s in charge and which relationship is most important, above all the others. Do not let your young children interrupt adult conversation or adult time. Time for husband and wife supersedes time for children. Over time, this pattern brings great security in the lives of the children. Keep your relationship with your wife the priority, then you’ll be ready to guide your children. In our day, as never before, our sons need fathers. Our daughters need fathers. A father is the son’s first hero and the daughter’s first love. John Eldredge, in his great book, “Wild at Heart”, writes, “What we have now is a world of uninitiated men. Partial men. Boys mostly, walking around in men’s bodies with men’s jobs and families, finances and responsibilities.” Like food through the body, boys become men by spending time with men. And the father is the primary giver of manhood to his son.

3. You love your family more than your job.

One of the most common disordered loves in the lives of men is our God-given love for work. We were designed to work, to build, and construct. In his book, “Choosing to Cheat”, Andy Stanley sets forth a provocative principle: When it comes to balancing work and family, you’re going to cheat someone. He explains, “Everyone is busy. All of us have more to do than we will ever get done. We all have to cheat along the way. When you cheat strategically, you leverage your busyness for the sake of what’s most important. Cheating strategically allows us to communicate the message our families long the feel–you are important to me. You are more important to me than anybody or anything else in the world”. The idea of “cheating” is simply another way to talk about decisions made according to our priorities. Too many fathers pray, “Lord, help my family thrive while I’m in such a busy season and unable to be present in their lives.” Instead, there are times we need to pray, “Lord, I place my work in your hands. Allow my work to thrive, even as I seek to be present with my family during this critical season of their lives.” Throughout any career there are seasons of intense focus at work that will demand your time, but there are also critical moments in the lives of your family that will demand your time as well. In the end, Jesus never talked about “balance”. He talked about an all-out pursuit of one thing: the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33). There’s only one first, and when we determine to follow Jesus every day, He will guide us when those tough decisions must be made.

4. You love others without condition.

Show your children how to love others like Jesus loves them. As you parent with grace, forgive and forget, your children will do the same. But you must also teach them to love others outside your family. Especially those who are very different from them. Watch for opportunities to offer biblical commentary on the issues of the day. The way you extend grace to others is the way they will. Show them by your actions how to love others unconditionally. Talk to your children about issues of race, religious pluralism, and sexual orientation. It’s even more important to show them what you believe. Befriend others who are not like you. Introduce them to your children. Have them in your home. You will teach your children how God loves them by showing them that you love people who are not like you at all. If you are not intentional about this you will inadvertently teach your children that you are only comfortable with people who are like you. This is not the way to help them experience God’s grace in diversity nor is it the way to prepare them for a future of growing (and necessary) diversity.

5. You love being with them.

The most important way to show love to your children is by being with them. The old adage that children spell love, T. I. M. E. is true. You can talk about how much love your children and even tell them how much you love them (often via texts or voice mails for some), but nothing surpasses your presence. I love the story of the little boy who was talking with his classmates at school about who had the best dad. “My dad is very busy and has a really important job. He makes lots of money and tells a lot of people what to do every day.” Another boy, seeking to one up the other, said, “My dad is the president of his company and flies in his own private jet to get to meetings all around the country. He’s the best!” Finally, the third little boy spoke up excitedly, “My dad is here!” His dad then joined his son and his classmates for lunch. If you are going to call your children to follow you as you follow Jesus, they must see you do so firsthand.

Dads: be there.