Standing on the Shoulders of Faithful Fathers

Family Dogpile

This Sunday we celebrate fathers … hopefully, you’ll join in the celebration with members of your family … if not in person, then via video or a phone call.

I love this photo of our “family dogpile” … circa 1989 … and now, all three of our children have children for their own dogpiles! It vividly reminds me that the Bible has a lot to say to fathers (and mothers) about the importance of passing along to the next generation a legacy of belief and trust in God.

What the Bible says

Moses reminded the Israelites on the eve of their entrance into the Promised Land …

  • “Hear, O Israel! The Lord 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. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, 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. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:4–9).

Notice WHY Moses gave these instructions …

  • “that you may fear the Lord your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all His statutes and His commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long.” (6:2)

Ethan the Ezrahite, whose wisdom was exceeded only by King Solomon (1 Kings 4:31), expressed a similar sentiment in song …

  • “I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, forever; with my mouth I will make known Your faithfulness to all generations.” (Psalm 89:1)

Solomon himself wrote of the long–term benefits of fatherhood …

  • “The righteous who walks in his integrity – blessed are his children after him!” (Proverbs 20:7)

The apostle Paul first reminded his young apprentice, Timothy, of these same truths, and then urged him to follow suit …

  • “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you …” (2 Timothy 1:5–6a)
  • “You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:1–2)

Notice the four “generations” listed here: Paul … to Timothy … to faithful men … to others also.

I am blessed to say that I am “standing on the shoulders” of a faithful father … who is now basking in the presence of his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Many of you may be blessed with multiple generations of faithful fathers who have preceded you. What will our children, and grandchildren, and great–grandchildren be able to claim?

I learned many valuable lessons as an undergrad Christian Education major at Biola University back in the early 1970’s. This truth remains the most memorable …

“It’s more caught than taught.”

Jesus illustrated this principle in action and compared it to how our heavenly Father relates to us …

  • “Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:9–11)

“Everyday Intentionality”

Let’s circle back to the Deuteronomy 6 passage for clues to making this practical in our lives today. Our circumstances may have changed from those of the early Israelites. The rhythms of our 21st Century lives make look very different. But the one constant from this passage that can still be applied today is what I’ll call “everyday intentionality.”

The root of the word “diligently” in Deuteronomy 6:7 means “to sharpen” … used to refer to sharpening a sword or weapon. This immediately reminds me of Psalm 127 …

  • “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.”

Hey, Dads and Granddads, what are we doing every single day to pass along a legacy of faith to our children and grandchildren? How are we diligently sharpening the spiritual character of the lives entrusted to us? Just as we are standing on the shoulders of faithful generations who have preceded us, what are we doing to strengthen our shoulders, so that others can confidently stand as well?

With a passion for “equipping & mobilizing men to follow Jesus,” my prayer is that we grow daily in grace and Christ–likeness, so that our children and grandchildren will follow our lead, standing confidently on our shoulders of faith.

“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” (3 John 1:4)

Happy Father’s Day!

~ tr

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So long 2017 … Welcome 2018!

You’ve arrived at this blog for one or more of the following reasons:

… Instagram or Twitter led you here

… we crossed paths somewhere in the world … SoCal • Colorado • Mississippi • Montana • Haiti • Bangkok • Oregon • ???

… we’re related … by blood or marriage

… we’ve been colleagues in ministry

… you’ve mentored me along the way

… you’re a Dad (or GrandDad) leading a family

… you’re leading a church, non–profit, or business

… you’re a man following Jesus

That last one is the most significant! … and the primary reason for this blog post.

These two handouts are designed to help you and those you love and serve to approach this New Year of 2018 with more intentionality … something we all need.  The attachments are self–explanatory:

Think about the questions individually, or discuss them in a group with family and friends.  Pass them along to others who may benefit as well.

My prayer is that God will bless you beyond measure as you reflect on 2017 and prepare for 2018 … while leading others to do the same.

Peace & Joy!

~ Tim Robertson

P.S.  If you’re new to StrongStakes, here’s some background info.  Many years ago, Isaiah 54:2 strongly impacted my thoughts about following Jesus.  This verse contains powerful images that speak to our life of discipleship.

  • “Enlarge the place of your tent; stretch out the curtains of your dwellings, do not hold back.  Lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes.”

The mission of StrongStakes is about equipping (“strengthen stakes”) and mobilizing (“lengthen cords”) men to follow Jesus.  Click the “Follow Blog via Email” link for automatic notifications when new disciple–building resources are added.

If these two handouts proved to be helpful to you, then post a comment on this blog, briefly describing how you used them.

Entering Advent with Intention

December 1 begins the season of Advent, observed by Christians world–wide as a time of expectant waiting, anticipation, and preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus the Messiah.  The term derives from Latin, and literally means “the approach” or “the arrival.”  Jesus himself instructs His followers to “Watch. Stay awake. Get ready and prepare!”  What better time to build disciples, especially in our families?

A key word defining Advent is preparation, and preparation requires intentionality.  It takes careful thought, planning, creativity, and intentionality to lead our families in the path of following Jesus, the Christ–child.

A few years ago, I was dismayed to learn of a church near where we lived in southern California, advertising their Christmas Eve services with the following, attention–grabbing bullet points:

  • Experience live animals in our nativity scene.
  • Capture the moment in our photo booth.
  • Enjoy cookies & hot chocolate.
  • Hop on board the Christmas train.
  • Test your skills at the “snowball” toss.
  • Dash through the water in a giant bubble–roller.

Wow! … Really?! … It sounded more like a carnival at the county fair, than ways to prepare to meet Emmanuel.  Is this what it takes in our culture to prepare our families to receive “God with us”?

Intentionally building disciples in our families during this month of anticipation and preparation … in a “counter–cultural” way … will be aided by the following online resources.  Click on each link to be directed to another website, or to download a printable document.

The Advent ProjectBiola University produces this daily, content–rich, media–filled resource incorporating devotionals, artwork, music, and videos.  Begins December 2 and continues through January 7.

Good News of Great Joy … John Piper wrote these daily readings for Advent in the form of a printable document.  It can also be read online at Desiring God’s website.

The Glory of the One & Only Son … Denver Seminary compiles these daily devotions into a printable document.  This can also be read online at Denver Seminary’s website.

Family Advent Guide … Lifeway Christian Resources created this printable document including devotions, activities, and discussion questions that will help us celebrate the birth of Jesus with our kids.

Christmas Flash Mob … Enjoy this video filmed by Journey of Faith Church at a busy shopping center in southern California!

Share these resources with family and friends.  Post a comment on this blog about how you used one of these resources to build disciples during Advent.

  • “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  John 1:14

Peace & Joy!

~ tr

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Celebrating Thanksgiving as an Opportunity for Intentional Disciple–Building

Have you noticed how our culture forgets Thanksgiving in the mad dash from Halloween to Christmas? … even in the church.  We counter the culture’s obsession with Halloween by scheduling a “Harvest Festival.”  Once October ends, we quickly begin preparations for Advent, culminating in Christmas celebrations and traditions.

The fourth Thursday in November gets relegated to the day before “Black Friday” sales events, rather than a national day set aside to remember God’s goodness and thank Him for His provision.  When President Abraham Lincoln officially proclaimed a national holiday on October 3, 1863, he penned these amazing words:

  • “No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the most high God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy … I do, therefore, invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday in November next as a day of Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in heaven.”

This handout … Thanksgiving Resources … provides resources to help turn this holiday into an intentional disciple–building opportunity with those who will join you around the Thanksgiving dinner table.  Before enjoying the meal, consider these options:

  • Invest several minutes reading aloud some of the historical narratives and Scripture passages.
  • Ask members of your family to participate in the readings.
  • Incorporate a time of corporate praise and prayer between the meal and dessert.

Praise God from Whom ALL blessings flow!

Peace & Joy!

~ tr

November Psalter Challenge

The Psalter, also known as the Old Testament book of Psalms, was ancient Israel’s song book.  Since Thanksgiving is celebrated in the U.S. during the month of November, what better way to prepare ourselves for this significant national holiday than to read through this book of praise and worship?

To encourage your participation during November, I propose that we read through Psalms in a slightly different way than normal.

 

  • On November 1, read these five Psalms:  1, 31, 61, 91, 121.
  • On November 2, read these five Psalms:  2, 32, 62, 92, 122.
  • Continue in this daily sequence until November 30, when we will read:  30, 60, 90, 120, 150.

Since the Psalter is packed with symmetry, be on the lookout for connections between the five separate psalms that will be read each day.

Join in the conversation by posting comments on this blog so we can all learn from each other what God is teaching us as we collectively read our way through the Psalms.

Click on this link to download and print a handout to carry in your Bible … November Psalter Challenge … divide into three parts for handy bookmarks to share with others.

“Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.”

Peace & Joy!

~ tr

What exactly were Martin Luther’s “95 Theses”?

Today is “Reformation Day” commemorating Martin Luther nailing his “95 Theses” to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany 500 years ago.  His action provoked a debate that culminated finally in what we now call the Protestant Reformation.

In a blog post made yesterday at Ligonier Ministries, the significance of Luther’s action may be summed up in this way:

“Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone … good works result from our faith, they are not added to it as the grounds for our right standing in the Lord’s eyes (Ephesians 2:8–10).  Justification – God’s declaration that we are not guilty, forgiven of sin, and righteous in His sight – comes because through our faith alone the Father imputes, or reckons to our account, the perfect righteousness of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21).  Martin Luther’s rediscovery of this truth led to a whole host of other church and societal reforms and much of what we take for granted in the West would have likely been impossible had he never graced the scene.”

Click on this link … Martin-Luther-95-Theses … to see what he staked his life and ministry on, as he nailed them to the door.

Peace & Joy!

~ tr

Celebrating 500 Years of the Protestant Reformation

October 31, 1517 marks the day that Martin Luther wrote a document – “Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences” – then nailed it to the front door of the Wittenberg Castle church, sparking the Protestant Reformation.

Born in Eisleben, Germany, in 1483, Martin Luther went on to become one of Western history’s most significant figures. He spent his early years in relative anonymity as a monk and scholar. But his 95 Theses attacked the Roman Catholic Church’s corrupt practice of selling “indulgences” to absolve sin.  He emphasized two central beliefs … that the Bible is the central religious authority, and that humans may reach salvation only by their faith in God’s grace, and not by their own deeds.

A valuable online resource has been created that will aid in remembering and celebrating this historic event … Here We Stand is a 31–day journey chronicling heroes of the Reformation.  You may read and/or listen to each day’s entry this month.

An ongoing challenge for any man or woman who claims to follow Jesus is to remember that we are now standing on the shoulders of men and women who have followed in His footsteps long before us.  The introduction to this online resource states:

  • “The Reformation was not about one or two big names — Luther, Calvin, Zwingli — but about a massive movement of Christian conviction, boldness, and joy that cost many men and women their lives — and scattered the seeds that are still bearing fruit in the twenty-first century.  Not only was Luther surrounded by many Reformers in Germany, but lesser–known heroes of the faith rose up all over Europe … heroes like Heinrich Bullinger, Hugh Latimer, Lady Jane Grey, Theodere Beza, and Johannes Oecolampadius.”

Click on these two links to access these resources:

Peace & Joy!

~ tr