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Devoted Dads


For Dads who are serious about their God-given responsibilities to love their wives and bring up their children in the "discipline and instruction of the Lord."


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Being a Faithful Christian
  3. Your God-Given Role
  4. It's All a Matter of Priorities
  5. Bringing Your Family Together
  6. Daily Family Devotionals
  7. Reading and Studying the Word
  8. Strengthening Your Marriage


1. Introduction

Someone has wisely said that the best thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother. While it is true that this is a very good thing to do for one's children, there is something better. The best thing you can do for your children is to love God. Love Him with all your heart. Seek his kingdom through the pages of his word. If you do, you will also learn to love your wife as you should and to bring up your children in the Lord.

As you grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ, so will your family. However, growing in Christ is a time-consuming effort. Sometimes it is not easy with day-to-day life getting in the way. Not only do dads have the responsibility for their own spiritual welfare and growth, we also have the responsibility for the spiritual condition of our families. In addition to the spiritual responsibilities, we have their physical and material requirements to see to as well.

Being a devoted dad means being a busy dad--not pre-occupied with hobbies or pastimes that take him away from his family; not overly-occupied with occupation, working late hours just because he likes his job; not even involved with church work to the extent that his family is neglected--busy with being a truly spiritual, devoted husband and father, constantly working to provide for the spiritual and physical needs of his family.

To be a devoted dad you must first be a faithful Christian. Your first priority is to become a man of God, a true bond-servant of Christ. Second, you must become a loving husband according to God's definition in the Bible. Then you will be able to devote yourself effectively to bringing up your children "in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." (Ephesians 6:4)

The task at hand seems at times to be overwhelming, and it would truly become so if not for the help devoted dads receive. We are helped mostly by our wives, who labor with us to prepare ourselves and our children for eternal life. We also have the help of the church, from faithful Christians: Bible class teachers, elders, preachers, other parents, and so on. But the ultimate responsibly for raising the children in the Lord rests not with the church, not with the Bible class teachers, not even with moms, but with us dads--it is our God-given role.

Some of the practices and suggestions you find here may seem "radical," even impossible at first consideration. However, two hundred years ago many of these ideas were the norm. The changes in our culture that make these age-honored and -proven ideas seem out of place and difficult have occurred within the last two centuries, and mostly within the last fifty years or so. The world and the prince of this world have us thinking in the wrong directions, seeking the earthly rather than the heavenly.

One way of looking at your responsibility toward your family is to identify with Noah. God warned Noah of the coming destruction of the wicked and commanded that he build an ark of specified dimensions and materials. God shut Noah and his family in and shut the world out.

Similarly we need to build arks to keep our families safe and keep the world out. Our home (not the house, but the family) is that ark. Build it up according to God's instructions. Shut yourself and your wife and children in and shut the world out. Eventually, your children will leave your ark and go out into the world as faithful children of God, prepared to face the challenges the world presents and ready to build their own arks.

For the critic who might say that our kids need to be exposed to the world a little in order to be prepared to face it, we press the analogy a little further. Noah didn't throw his family overboard to let them see what the waves and the wind were like. He could let them look from the window, or describe it to them.

We don't have to steal or run with a gang of thieves to learn and know that stealing is a sin. We can teach our children what the word of God says about stealing and temptation and consequences of sin. When faced with the real-life temptation to steal, they'll know all they need to know about it, and act in faith (according to knowledge; see Colossians 1:9-12).

Even limited day-to-day, incidental exposure to the world and its ways is more than enough for children, especially until they are prepared at and by home to deal with it on their own.

You, as the husband and father, leader of your family, are responsible to bring up your children in the Lord, in the way they should go. Your wife will be there to assist you, but you are the one who will be held to account. Prepare yourself and train your children for eternal life.

These ideas, strategies, and suggestions are presented with the prayer that they will assist you in your obligation to teach and train. These ideas are not original--there is nothing new under the sun (please read Ecclesiastes 1:9-11). These are simple reminders of a simpler time when families, not government institutions or society at large, raised children to follow God and serve one another. May our Heavenly Father bless you in your efforts.

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2. Being a Faithful Christian

To be a devoted husband and dad, you first have to be a devoted Christian. To become a devoted Christian, you first must become a Christian. The process is fairly simple and is clearly revealed in the Scriptures.

Believe. Hebrews 11:6; Mark 16:15-16; Acts 8:35-37; Romans 10:9-10.

Repent. Luke 13:3, 5; Acts 3:19; 17:30; Acts 2:38; 2 Corinthians 7:10.

Confess. Matthew 10:32-33; Romans 10:9-10; Acts 8:35-37.

Be baptized. Acts 2:38; 8:35-38; 22:16; Romans 6:3-7; Galatians 3:26-27; 1 Peter 3:18-21.

See "Be Sure of Your Salvation" and "Have You Obeyed the Gospel?"

Guarantee to Faithfulness. God gives us a guarantee that we will remain faithful if we have certain qualities and these qualities continue to grow in us:

2 Peter 1:5-11 ". . .applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you."

This is not an exhaustive list of qualities that are required in the Christian. These are representative of all the Christian qualities. If these qualities are ours and increasing we'll be fruitful and useful. If we practice the qualities we'll never stumble and our entrance into heaven will be abundantly supplied.

How can we assure ourselves of the qualities? How do we know what they are and how to practice them? We learn them and how to do them by learning and living the word of God. There are four steps to gaining the knowledge and application of these qualities. The devoted dad must engage himself in these constantly.

  1. Spend time daily in God's Word. You'll want to spend time daily reading and studying the Word of God. (This time is in addition to the time you'll spend in your daily family devotionals.) Learn what he wants you to know and do and how to do it and when. See "Getting into the Bible" for ideas and approaches to Bible Study.
  2. Spend time daily in prayer. As God speaks to us through his word, we complete the circle of communication when we pray to him. In prayer we have a unique opportunity to open our hearts to him, and while the heart is open to examine it for ourselves. See "A Study on Prayer" for details on acceptable, effective prayers.
  3. Worship with other Christians. When we assemble and associate with other Christians we have the opportunity to refine our understanding of God's word and also to apply it in the form of the "one another" commands. We cannot "love one another" or "serve one another" unless we are "with one another" in worship assembly or on a daily basis.
  4. Apply what you learn in 1-3 above to your life. "Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you." Colossians 3:16. This will bring the qualities that God wants you to have and thus the guarantee to faithfulness that God offers.

As you can see, even though there are only four steps to maintaining faithfulness, they are not simple and must be repeated continually.

What happens if you sin in spite of applying the above? If you are a Christian, a member of the body of Christ, you have Christ as your mediator and the avenue of prayer. Go to the Father and ask him for forgiveness. (Read 1 John 1:5-10.)

Being faithful to God is more than just avoiding sin. Faithfulness includes doing our best to do what the Lord has commanded. Among the other roles He gives to all Christians, he has given dads a specific and challenging role within the family.

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3. Your God-Given Role

It is evident from the Scriptures that the husband is the head of the family. With this position comes responsibility--this is not an honorary title. You as head of your household are actually servant of all those in it. Jesus said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." (Matthew 20:25-28)

God instituted the family in the beginning. As with every institution, there is a head of the family. This role God has given to the husband. In Genesis 3:16 we read:

To the woman He [God] said,
“I will greatly multiply
Your pain in childbirth,
In pain you will bring forth children;
Yet your desire will be for your husband,
And he will rule over you.”

The apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 11:3, "But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ."

In Ephesians 5:23 we read, "For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church."

As God's servant and head of your household you have some responsibilities to fulfill, each of which this study will examine in more detail. First and foremost you must love your wife, and comfort and protect her. You are also to support your family financially. As head of the home, you are in charge of the spiritual support of your family which includes the discipline and training of the children. God has charged you with these things and has given you your wife to help you in doing them, not to do them for you, in your stead.

As the head of the family you are the foremost servant of the family. This is not an easy job. As a matter of fact, if done properly, it is the most demanding job you'll ever have. However, with great investment comes great return--it is also the most rewarding job you'll ever have.

Love your wife. God has given you the responsibility of loving your wife, and you must love her more than anyone or anything on earth, including your parents or your children or your job or your hobby.

Ephesians 5:25 "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her. . . ." The husband is to love his wife to the extent that Christ loved the church: He sacrificed His life for her. The church and her salvation were more important than life itself. Husbands love your wives to this degree. Keep her spiritual and physical needs in mind at all times, and provide them.

In your list of priorities, her relationship with God and with you should be second and third respectively only to your own relationship with God. In regard to these priorities, C. S. Lewis wrote, "When I have learnt to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now."

When asked which is the great commandment in the law, Jesus said, "'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.' This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’"

In other words, love God first and foremost with everything you've got, and then your neighbor as much as you love yourself. Your closest "neighbor" is your wife. Your next closest "neighbors" are your children. Assuming you want the best possible relationship with God, loving your wife and kids as you love yourself will mean that you want them to have the best possible relationship with God as well.

Comfort and protect your wife. Part of loving your wife is providing her with comfort and protection. This involves more than simply physical comfort and protection. 1 Peter 3:7 says, "Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered." (NKJV) One way of looking at this verse is to think in terms of jars of clay in use back when the New Testament was written. Some jars were crafted to be in everyday use. These would be the more rugged, common vessels. The "weaker vessel" to which Peter is referring is the special jar used only for special occasions. It is handled with special care because it is beautiful, delicate and precious.

Today, these different vessels would be equivalent to the everyday dishes and the patterned China your wife may have. The everyday stuff is built for rougher service, and is inexpensive. The fine China has a special cabinet and is used only sparingly. It is beautiful and more costly to replace and compared to the everyday stuff rather delicate, so we treat it with "honor."

We are to live with our wives with understanding. It is one of the most challenging and rewarding responsibilities God has given us. Do your best to understand her. Listen to her not only with your ears but with your heart also. She is the helper God has given you. While you are the head of the family, she is to help you. Seek her wisdom and advice. The final decision is yours, but if you love her as you love yourself (see Ephesians 5:25-31), you'll want to consider her input.

Protect and provide for your family. This refers to both physical and spiritual realms. You are to provide materially and spiritually for your family.

Providing material needs: 1 Timothy 5:8 "But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever."

Providing Spiritually: Deuteronomy 4:9 "Only give heed to yourself and keep your soul diligently, so that you do not forget the things which your eyes have seen and they do not depart from your heart all the days of your life; but make them known to your sons and your grandsons."

Deuteronomy 6:4-7 "These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up."

Ephesians 6:4. "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord."

As with all other work that God commands, He requires that we give our all for Him. "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might" (Ecclesiastes 9:10). "Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve" (Colossians 3:23-24).

No father who loves his children would say he's too busy to raise his children in the Lord, or that it is too much of a chore. However, in many cases, his priorities need to be realigned before he can commit fully to the loving and intense task the Lord has given him.

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4. It's All a Matter of Priorities

1 Timothy 6:6 "But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment."

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 "There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven— . . ."

Colossians 3:23-24 "Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve."

Matthew 11:30 "My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

1 Thessalonians 4:11 ". . .make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you."

Philippians 3:7-11 "But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead."

Philippians 4:11-13 ". . .I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me."

As you've probably already discovered, being a devoted dad makes you a busy dad. The time investment is extreme, but worth every moment. You'll be studying the Bible for your own spiritual growth, as well as for your family's. Almost 100% of the time you're not at work making a living to support your family, you'll either be with your family or preparing to lead them spiritually.

Making the time to devote yourself to your family is a matter of priorities. One very successful business man (a self-made multi-billionaire) was asked his secret to success. His advice is simple and can be applied easily to the life of the Christian dad. In essence, he said there are three steps to success:

  1. Determine what you want.

  2. Decide what you're willing to give up to get what you want.

  3. Be about it.

Read the above Scripture passages again with these steps in mind.

Determine what you want. Have a vision for your family. For example, "My family members will read and know the word of God, and be equipped to live it," or, "My family members will be servants at heart and show the love of Christ to one another, to those in the church, and to the world," or, "My wife and I will present an example to our children of what it means to 'be subject to one another in Christ': a wife truly being subject to her husband, and a husband truly loving his wife and spiritually leading his family." Or find a Bible verse that sums up your vision for your family.

Decide what you're willing to give up to get what you want. You, like Christ, will be required to give your life to provide spiritually for your family (See Ephesians 5:25-31 and Romans 12:1-2). To serve God faithfully, you have no choice but to serve your family as the spiritual leader. This is the job God has given you. What will you gain if you gain the whole world with its pleasures and pastimes, if you sacrifice the souls of your children? (See Matthew 16:26.) Are your hobbies, buddies, career advancements, or even church work more important than the souls of your kids? If you think so, think again and rework your priorities. What are you willing to give up for the sake of your family's spiritual security?

Be about it. Do whatever it takes to be a devoted dad. Do whatever it takes to train and teach your family in the knowledge and wisdom of Christ. Do it now. In a few short years your kids will be grown.

You cannot teach or train them if you're not with them. The next section has some suggestions for bringing your family together so that you may "be about" leading them toward and in Christ.

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5. Bringing Your Family Together

Deuteronomy 6:4-7 "These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up."

Ephesians 6:4 "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord."

Proverbs 22:6 "Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it."

To accomplish God's purpose expressed in these passages you'll have to spend a great deal of time with your family. You'll need your family together and with you every moment you can spare. This may seem like and extreme statement, but consider what you have to do and who and what the opposition is.

To bring up your children in the "discipline and instruction of the Lord," you'll have to spend time with them. To teach them "when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up," they have to be with you and ready to learn.

In addition you'll have to compete with, counter, and in some cases "unteach" what your children learn in school, in the media and from their peers. Suppose, for the sake of comparison, your children spend 6 hours at school and just 2 hours watching TV, playing video games, surfing the World Wide Web, or visiting friends on average each day. That's a total of 8 hours of influence per day each member of your family receives from the world.

Now, suppose you arrive home form work at 5:30 PM. Your kids arrive home from after-school activities and/or finish their homework at about the same time you arrive. Assuming all go to bed at 9:30 (on average), you have but 4 hours to teach, admonish, and train your charges, as you attempt to discover and undo the days' negative teachings.

In other words, you have about half the time the world has each day to influence your children for eternity.

The following list of suggestions will help bring your family together and present opportunities for instruction. This is by no means an exhaustive list, there are uncounted ways to be together. These are given to get you started. If your family is already established, that is you have school-age children, you may want to implement these one at a time, over a period of time, probably in the order they're listed. If your children are very young you may be able to implement them a few at a time or even all at once, depending on your situation.

  • Sit-down dinners together

  • Play board games or card games together

  • Daily or Nightly Devotionals

  • Be sure that each family member is active in the church

  • Turn off your TV and video games

  • Find a family hobby or start a home-based business

  • Work toward living on one income

Have sit-down dinners together as often as possible. Have dinner together every night if you possibly can.

Family dinner at the table together does the following:

  1. Brings the family together.

  2. Enables the family to be together with Dad as the head.

  3. Provides the perfect time to share and discuss important matters that relate to everyone, or simply what each has done during the day.

  4. Provides opportunity to be respectful and kind to everyone--to learn manners.

  5. Provides time for learning a Bible verse together or having a devotional.

Play board games or card games together. Once or twice a week (or more often, depending on your family's temperament) after dinner, play some games. Games provide lots of family memories and numerous opportunities to train your children in useful skills and moral concepts. Here are a few: fairness--taking turns, playing by the rules; sportsmanship--losing and winning gracefully; patience--following the rules to achieve goals, waiting your turn; perseverance--achieving goals in the face of obstacles and opposition; sacrificial/serving spirit--playing a game with enthusiasm even when it's not your favorite, helping others who are new to the game or who are younger understand and follow the rules. Games that allow or require partners or teams help to develop cooperation, communication, mutual respect, and so on.

Other benefits of "Game Night" include opportunity for casual conversation (a skill that too many are losing), sharing planning and strategy, the children see you as the family leader having fun with them (not all of life is serious business, and sometimes children have to learn to have fun). If TV-watching or video games have been problems in your family, every hour you spend playing games together is an hour not spent in a vegetative state in front of the TV or game screen.

Avoid the temptation of allowing video or computer games be part of your Game Nights. Avoid also games that are for one or two people only. You are striving for interaction--encourage everyone to play and to play together. Choose games that allow everyone to play the same game at the same time. At most, have two games going at once. (Most board and card games are designed for four players--if your family has more than this, you'll have to improvise with teams or allow more than one game to go on at the same time.)

Finally, avoid allowing the "loners" to go off on their own on a regular basis. If you have a child that just doesn't like games at all, allow him to read or do something else on his own, but in the same room--so that he can be part of the interaction.

Have daily or nightly devotionals. It is important for everyone in your family to spend time each day in God's word and in prayer. Because you are the spiritual leader of your family, it is up to you to provide the daily spiritual feeding to your family. Daily devotionals will be discussed in detail in the next chapter. For now, be thinking about scheduling a time each day to spend with your entire family in the Bible.

If your family is too busy to work this in, your family is too busy, period. It is a matter of priorities--get yours in order and help your family do the same. It might be helpful at first, especially if you have some family members who are resistant to meeting every night or every morning, to begin having family devotion time once a week and increase the frequency of your devotionals until you're meeting every morning or evening to study and discuss together God's will.

There aren't many things that are more important than this family time together. Lots of things may seem more pressing, but hardly anything is more important. Learn to put your devotional time ahead of all the distractions the world has to offer and you'll be blessed. Teach and train your children to do this and they will be blessed, too.

Be sure that each family member is active in the church. By this I mean that you should have your family participating in worship assembly and in Bible classes and in other projects of your congregation. Dads need to take care not to get involved in "church work" to the neglect of their families. It is a sin to trade the time you need to bring up your children in the Lord for time to serve other Christians.

Your first, and by far, foremost responsibility is to your own family followed by your church family. Paul, in 1 Timothy 5:8, writes in regard to the material needs of the family, "But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." How much more important is providing spiritually for our families! If you spend your time serving the congregation to the neglect of your children who grow up and fall away, do you think God will be pleased?

Your family is the congregation you need to serve. If all dads devoted themselves to caring first for their families, in succeeding generations the church would experience almost unbounded growth due to the dedication and faithfulness of their children. This is in contrast to the trend we have now of so many young people leaving the church as soon as or before they leave home.

Turn off your TV and video games. One of the most productive things you can do for your family is to turn off the television. When you do, you'll have several hours per week of "extra" time to spend with your family.

Granted, there are some wonderful things that come to us through the TV, but these are few and far between. One study showed that the average young person spends eight hours per day watching TV. Think about that for a second. If a young person spends eight hours for school (including getting ready in the morning, eating breakfast, travelling to and from school, and doing homework), and then eight hours in front of the TV, and eight hours sleeping, that's the entire day!

While you and your family probably don't spend that kind of time with the TV, you probably spend more than you realize. If you need convincing of the time lost to the TV, try turning it off for a couple of days. Unplug it entirely. You'll probably, without thinking, try to turn it on a few times during the day. Notice how much you get done with the one-eyed monster out of the picture.

Now, ask yourself what your kids gain by watching TV. What necessary information do they get from it? What life or learning skills do they develop while watching? Are you hard-pressed to name anything? You should be.

There is very little information that comes via TV that isn't available either on the radio or in newspapers, magazines or books. Why other media and not TV? TV is a "complete environment." You don't have to think or use any skills to watch TV. Listening to the radio (news, not just music) reinforces our listening skills (obviously) and we get the same information as on TV--sports scores, sports events, news, etc. Newspapers and magazines help develop reading and analysis skills.

What about sports? Isn't that good entertainment? Yes, but the commercial ads are becoming more and more immoral. Instead, take your family to a game. Better, get your family involved in sports and go to their games!

What about those history and science shows? Isn't that good, educational TV? Well, no. No science or history can be presented with a neutral world-view. What percentage of history shows present Christ-centered history? What percentage of science shows present God as the creator or have a Christian world-view or philosophy? Wouldn't it be better to study a subject in history or science together with your family? Wouldn't you rather your children learn about the Creator and His creation from you, than from some atheist or agnostic?

Find a family hobby. Does your hobby take you away from your family? If so, find a hobby or past time that will include your whole family. Your children will learn from you how to have fun while they see you learning new things. Best of all, they'll be spending time having fun with you.

Taking your family with you to let them watch you while you do your hobby is not the same as involving them in a hobby with you. In fact, while some kids may be content with "watching you do your hobby," this teaches them that you'd rather be doing your hobby than spending time with them. You had your time to be a kid and to enjoy "doing your own thing" when you were single or before you had kids. Now you have children, and they need you to grow up and be their dad.

Need your hobby to "get away" or "recharge"? That's what evenings after the kids' bedtime are for. If you need more time to yourself to study and pray, get up earlier than the kids do. Need to spend time with your buddies? No, you don't. If spending time with your buddies or hobby is more important to you than spending time with your family, your priorities are not in proper order. Has your wife complained about the time you spend away from your family because of work or church work or your hobby? Listen to your wife! Put your priorities in the proper order! In a few short years, your children will be grown, and your opportunities to influence them will decline. If you spend time with them now, your influence will be felt for generations to come.

Choose a family hobby or activity. It's okay if you don't know anything about the hobby you choose. The point is to have a hobby together. Be sensitive to the idea that bringing your family into your hobby may make it difficult to own it. Choose a new hobby together. If you try it and, as a family, don't enjoy it, try another one. (Someone in your family may like it a decide to have it for their own hobby.)

Whichever you choose, be sure that it has something for everyone to do. There may be some who don't enjoy a particular hobby as much as the rest of you do. This is an opportunity for learning to be a servant, to be patient, etc. Remind the less enthusiastic that hobbies don't necessarily last forever (you will probably want to phase in new hobbies every so often), and that they will have a turn at a hobby or activity that they really enjoy.

You may in fact need more than one family hobby or project to reach the aptitudes of your entire family. Still, the hobbies, or activities, or projects you get into must be able include everyone and ideally everyone will participate. You may want to choose a more "physical" hobby along with a more "intellectual" or "artsy" hobby to meet everyone's needs.

Hobbies for all families. Gardening, camping, bird-watching, rock/mineral hunting, insect collecting, scrap booking, jigsaw puzzles.

Hobbies for families with older children. Photography, backpacking, biking, canoeing, sailing, collecting (stamps, coins, sports cards, old postcards, photographs, etc.), genealogy, drawing, painting.

Projects. Making soda pop, yogurt, cheese, flavored vinegars or oils; painting the house; spring cleaning; building a playhouse, fort, doll house, swing set; cooking (a day off from the kitchen for mom).

Start a family home-based business. Your family hobby may lend itself to a family business. The emphasis here is not so much making money as it is running a business as a family. This is a great way to teach self-sufficiency and business skills. Your business might involve raising plants or animals, making crafts, landscaping and yard maintenance, or caring for others' animals or houses while they're away.

Raising animals. This teaches responsibility, patience, work ethic, and other valuable skills. Raising animals can also provide for some of your family's needs: eggs from chickens, milk from goats, etc. Raising animals can also be an object lesson everyday of our dependence upon God and His care for us.

Whatever you choose to do as a family "hobby," be sure that everyone can be and is involved.

Learn and teach as you go.

Work toward living on one income. This will allow your wife to stay home with the children. She can then be a greater helper to you in raising the children in the way they should go, and give her greater opportunity to fulfill her God-given role as wife and mother, using the qualities that God has given her.

Too often, and unnecessarily, parents turn over their responsibility of raising their children to others. You as their father have this responsibility to be shared with your wife. She should be at home with the children while you're out earning a living. You should be at home with the children as much as you possibly can after you've provided materially for them.

Cut back on the "extras" and the "toys" (you don't need them). Make your first priority your relationship with your wife and then the relationship with your children. You'll find that as you work on these relationships you'll have little or no need for the "extras."

Your kids don't need a lot of "stuff" either. They need a mother and father who are there for them.

You'll be surprised how much less income you really need when you've aligned your priorities correctly.

How much are you paying for day care? Probably the better part of your wife's net income goes to day care for the children. Try making a life-style change and budget to allow her to stay home with the children.

How may vehicles do you need? How many RV's? How may "toys"? Are your toys worth trading for your children's souls? If you neglect their spiritual development in favor of keeping your toys, you'll be risking their souls and therefore, your own. Jesus said, "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matthew 16:26)

Your wife and children need a roof over their heads, clothing, food, and your love (as defined in the Scriptures) which above all includes your spiritual leadership. They don't need any more than these.

A home-based business might help to pay for the "extras."

What about college? Many families worry that a single income will not provide enough savings to pay for college. While this may be true, there are other financial assistance avenues available, along with less expensive community colleges. To clarify priorities here, consider whether you'd rather your children go to Heaven or Harvard. If you had to choose one, you'd choose Heaven. The time you do or don't invest with your children now will be a major factor in their spiritual fate. College and careers have a way of working out when our children have great character and high morals. Invest in Heaven for your kids now, and Harvard will likely follow.

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6. Daily Family Devotionals

Deuteronomy 6:4-7 "These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up."

As mentioned in the preceding chapter, it is important for everyone in your family to spend time each day in God's word. You are the spiritual leader of your household. You, not your wife, or the Bible class teacher, or the preacher, are responsible for the spiritual feeding and well-being of your family. These other faithful servants of God can be a help to you, but you are ultimately responsible to "bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." (Ephesians 6:4)

Depending on your work schedule and the make up of your family, decide when to have this scheduled devotional time. Some families may be able to begin the day with devotional time before anyone leaves the breakfast table. Other families may choose to have devotional immediately following dinner. Another option is to meet just before bedtime each night, or between dinner and bedtime.

Each choice of time has its strengths and drawbacks. Just after breakfast is good because your family begins the day with prayer and encouragement from God's word and from you. However, the time is limited by work and school schedules--you may have to cut your message or discussion time shorter than you would like. There are few things more irking than to have your family interested, engaged and learning from a particular lesson only to have it cut short.

Just after dinner is good because everyone is together and the advantages of family dinner time extend into devotional time. A drawback would be interruptions by evening activities: heading off to mid-week Bible study, visiting friends and neighbors, having to finish homework before bedtime, children's sports teams, etc.

Just before bedtime is good in that all the day's events are behind you so interruptions will be held to a minimum. You'll have opportunity to reflect on the day's events and issues (with input from your wife--she'll be happy to tell you how the day with the children went!). One drawback here is that some of the children, especially the younger ones, will be tired and may have a hard time paying attention or participating. Another disadvantage is that your family is more likely to be looking back over the day in your devotions rather than looking ahead. A review at breakfast of the previous night's devotional will be helpful here.

Strategies and Topics. The following topics and outlines are for your consideration as suggestions only. You are responsible for the spiritual "feeding" of your family. You know what your children need to learn from day to day. Your wife will be able to offer suggestions, based on her interaction with the children.

It may be a good idea to begin with a series of talks on the roles of family members. Ephesians 6:1-4 and Colossians 3:18-24 will provide a good framework for this series.

With any topic you choose, do not assume that everyone in your family has the same level of understanding or any understanding at all. Ask questions to discover what they know and where to go from there. Cover your topic fully. Even if they have heard your topic before, even it they already know by heart the memory verse you present, the review will do them good--we all need reminders and encouragement now and then.

Christian Character building. These passages provide lists of characteristics you can study and discuss with your family (one characteristic at a time): Galatians 5:22-24; Colossians 3:12-17; 2 Peter 1:5-11.

Service. Study and present to your family the "one another" passages, among which are: John 13:34; Romans 12:10-13; Romans 14:19; 1 Corinthians 12:25-26; Galatians 5:13-15; Ephesians 4:1-3; Ephesians 4:32; Ephesians 5:21; Philippians 2:3; Colossians 3:12, 13, 16; 1 Thessalonians 5:11-15; Hebrews 10:24; James 4:11; James 5:16.

The Armor of God. Present each of the parts of the armor of God and discuss how to use it. Ephesians 6:10-17; 1 Thessalonians 5:8.

The Seven Ones. Ephesians 4:4-5.

The Qualifications for Elders and Deacons. The church needs qualified leaders. These passages reveal God's character and life experience requirements for those who would lead a congregation. Begin now to instill in your children these qualities. 1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-16.

Structure your discussion time. How you do this will be based on your family's make up and needs. The smaller children will do very well to pay attention and stay involved for a half hour at the most. Older children can participate for longer, if you engage them in the topic.

You'll want to begin and end with prayer. Ask God to bless your study together. Ask Him to open your hearts to His will, and to help each apply what is learned.

At the beginning of each session, review last session's discussion. Give each a chance to recite memory work. Memory verses are beneficial to everyone, not just the little ones who as a group really enjoy memory work. Have everyone memorize a pertinent verse, or your text verse. Memorized verses come in handy to have when facing temptations. Christ is our example here (Matthew 4:1-11) or sharing the gospel with others.

Older children can take turns with you and your wife reading the passages you select to study and discuss.

Define any concepts or new words in terms that each can understand. Have several or everyone in turn repeat definitions back to you. Ask questions. give plenty of examples, from your family's own experiences if you can. Tell stories: you should learn and know the Bible stories well enough to relay them accurately without referring too much to the text (however, always emphasize the importance and authority of the Bible text and what it actually says).

Don't be discouraged if you feel you don't have very much Bible knowledge. It will come with time and effort. You can present the truth of God's word to your family if you thoughtfully read and study the Bible daily and speak it to them with love. Also, do not hesitate to say "I don't know" when you really don't know the answer to a question. Say you'll find out the answer and get back at the next opportunity.

It's a good idea to vary the way you present your lessons. Bible word and "trivia" games are a fine way for you and your family to learn. You can give them age-appropriate handwork (coloring, cutting, pasting, etc.) from time to time along with "pencil and paper" work. Don't be afraid to give your family "homework" occasionally.

At the end of each session, quickly summarize the lesson. You can do this by asking a few questions to see how everyone is learning. End with a prayer.

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7. Reading and Studying the Word

Deuteronomy 6:4-7. "Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up."

Quality instruction. Notice that immediately following the command to love God completely, there is the admonition to teach one's children. A devoted dad studies the Bible with the goal of teaching it to his children. Using God's methodology outlined in the passage above, we are to teach His words to our children diligently and constantly. Quality instruction requires preparation; constant instruction requires constant preparation. Read and study the Bible everyday. Make time each day to learn and prepare a lesson for your children.

Reading God's Word. Read the Bible daily. Read with an eye toward improving your own relationship with God as well as imparting what you learn to your family. Ask yourself what is the lesson God is teaching in a given passage of Scripture. How will you communicate this passage to your family in such a way that everyone will learn and be able to apply the message? The first and best way to teach is to do so by example. If your children see you living God's will it will be easier to impart it to them. If they see that you are not living according to the Bible, no matter how you communicate the lesson to them otherwise, they will tend to follow the example you set.

When you read, keep a notebook handy to record the Scripture reference, your questions, and observations. This information you will use as you study more in depth at a later time.

Organize your approach. Follow a plan to read through the Bible within a year or two. Reading the whole Bible over time will give you the context of the entire Bible and the immediate context of each book and chapter. (See the suggested Daily Bible Reading Schedule for Dads.)

Resist the temptation to open the Bible at random and begin reading. Reading "piecemeal" will not give you a clear picture of the history of God's working with us in our struggle against sin.

Study the Word regularly. Reading the Bible is not the same as studying it. An in-depth study of the Bible is necessary to understand all of the intricacies and nuances of God's will for us. God's word can be understood--He wrote it so that we could and would understand His will for us. However, not every topic, or process, or command is presented or explained fully in one section of Scripture. The various books of the Bible were written to various people throughout many centuries. To begin to understand the depth of God's wisdom and the relevance today of His commands, we need to understand the various people, situations, and cultures to and in which the Bible speaks.

Which Version of the Bible? Chose a standard version of the Bible that is easy for you to read and understand. A standard version is one that is translated from the original languages (Hebrew and Greek) by a committee of translators comprised of scholars of various religious groups. A paraphrase (i.e., The Living Bible) is not a translation, but rather a restating of the Bible text in the words and based on the understanding of a single individual (or a group with a common religious point of view). A paraphrase should be viewed as a commentary on the Bible rather than as that Bible itself.

For your daily Bible reading, use a standard version of the Bible that is easier to read. For your study Bible, chose one that closely follows the text of the original languages, the American Standard Version, for example.

  • KJV -- King James Version (AD 1611)
  • ASV -- American Standard Version (1901)
  • *RSV -- Revised Standard Version (1952)
  • *NASB -- New American Standard Bible (1960)
  • *NIV -- New International Version (1973)
  • *NKJV -- New King James Version(1979)

*Easier to read.

Materials. Besides a Bible, you'll want to keep a notebook. Write down any questions, observations or ideas for future study that arise from your daily Bible reading or studies so that you can study them at length at a later time. A concordance is handy for looking up verses that contain the word or concept you're studying. A Bible dictionary defines terms and gives information about places and people about which you're reading. However, remember that a Bible dictionary is written and produced by humans and thus may contain errors. Colored pencils can be used to mark verses that deal with certain topics that are of interest to you. These tools are optional. The only things you absolutely need to study the Bible are the Bible and time.

Methods of study. There are several approaches one may take to study the Scripture.

  1. Pray -- Always begin and end your study time with prayer. Ask God to help you understand His Word.

  2. Book Study --

    • Read -- Read through the whole book (or a few chapters if the book is long). Choose shorter books at first so you don't get discouraged.

    • Go back through the book and look for natural divisions. Look for words like: but. therefore, however, finally. These words signal important points or divisions in the text.

    • Take notes! -- Write in your notebook the important points in each chapter , the verse references, and your observations thoughts, feelings, etc. You may want to outline each chapter.

  3. Word Study --

    • As you read, you will find words that are interesting, perplexing, or meaningless to you. Write these words down in your notebook so you can go back to study them in depth later.

    • Look up the meaning of the word in a dictionary, concordance, or Bible dictionary. Write the meaning in your notes .

    • Use your concordance to find all the verses which use that word. Look up and read all the verses. How does the Bible use the word? How do the verses fit together? etc. Write your findings and thoughts in your notes.

  4. Character Study --

    • Choose One -- Jesus, Peter, Paul, and David are always high on everyone's list of choices, but at first, try to pick an easier character to research, so you don't t get discouraged. For example:
      • Timothy
      • Elijah
      • Silas
      • Hezekiah
      • Mary
      • Nathan
      • When you are ready, then study Peter or Paul!
    • Find out about each character:
      • Who was he?
      • What was he? and What did he do?
      • Where did he do the things he did?
      • Why did he do the things he did?
      • Whom did he affect by his life?

    Be sure to record these things in your notes as well as your thoughts and other findings.

  5. Topical Study --

    • Choose a topic for study--Angels, Worship, Service to Others, God's Plan for the Home, Salvation, or any topic that is of interest to you.
    • Use the concordance to find verses that contain a word related to the topic. As you go through the verses, you'll find other related words and topics. Track these down in the concordance as well.
    • Once you have a basic understanding of your topic, read through the Bible, either the Old or New Testaments or both, with your topic (or topics) in mind. Record in your notes any passages that deal with your topic. Once you've read through and found all the verses that touch on your topic, organize your notes and outline the topic. You'll have read in context all the passages touching your topic, giving you a better understanding of that topic. Now you're ready to pass this information on to your family.

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8. Strengthening Your Marriage

1 Peter 3:7-12. "You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered. To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. For, 'The one who desires life, to love and see good days, must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit. He must turn away from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the lord are toward the righteous, and his ears attend to their prayer, but the face of the lord is against those who do evil.'"

Ephesians 5:25. "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her. . ."

"When I have learnt to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now." --C. S. Lewis

Your relationship to your wife is the most important earthly relationship you have. It is second to none in your devotion, attention and priorities. Not having a good relationship with your wife hinders your relationship to God. (see 1 Peter 3:7)

Here are some simple things you can do to build or rebuild commitment in and to your marriage:

  1. Look at your marriage license often. Put it in a frame and display it in a place where you and your wife will see it everyday. Think of the excitement, expectation, and joy you both had in preparing for your wedding day. Sure, there were probably some difficult moments while discussing and making decisions. You worked together through the tough parts to make your wedding day special. Continue to work together to make everyday in your relationship special.
  2. Revisit your wedding vows on a regular basis. If you don't remember exactly what those vows were (many husbands have a hard time remembering very much at all about the wedding, let alone the vows), ask your wife--she will probably remember. Write them down. If she doesn't remember them exactly, ask your minister for a copy. If he is not available, ask any minister for a copy of traditional wedding vows, or find a copy on the Internet. Your vows would have been similar. Read them over and meditate on the meanings.
  3. Constantly look for ways to meet your wife's needs and special wishes from her frame of reference. She will often have the need or desire to talk about her day when you arrive home from work. Listen to her and ask pertinent questions and make helpful suggestions as necessary.
  4. Commit to never being alone with someone of the opposite sex who is not your wife. Keep your hands to yourself (i.e. discriminate between appropriate and inappropriate touch). Once you break your wife's trust, it is difficult to rebuild. Consider also the damage that adultery and the resulting divorce would bring to your children.
  5. Keep the romance in your marriage alive with spontaneous loving acts. Bring her cards and flowers. Take her shopping (for her) once in a while. Do the dishes and/or laundry. Buy her all the smelly stuff she needs to take a nice long relaxing bath (draw the water for her and take the children out for an hour or so).
  6. Determine to only speak well of your wife in her absence. Your relatives, children, friends, and acquaintances have no business in your marriage. Talking to others about your wife's shortcomings is gossip. Gossip is a sin. Remember also what Jesus said: "In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you" (Matthew 7:12).
  7. Read good books; listen to good material on tape; attend helpful, Bible-based seminars on relationship building; and learn from other Christians who have been married successfully for many years. Not all advice you receive will apply to you and your wife, but basic principles will apply.
  8. Pray. Ask God to help you become the best husband you can possibly be. Study the Bible to find out how to be the best husband you can be.
  9. ©2003, 2005 David Carl Swanson. All rights Reserved.