Faith of a Father

"Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; for he is faithful that promised; – Hebrews 10:23


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How Strong Are You Making Your Arrows?

As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. — Psalm 127:4 

This verse is the theme of a new venture that I am embarking on.  As I have read a number of commentaries, articles and comments about this verse, the overriding theme seems to be what the arrows (children) mean to the parents in their old age.

Before we get to this topic, I want to first discuss the topic of our children as arrows.  When my oldest daughter graduated from high school, on the night of her graduation party, I spoke a few words on this topic.  I explained that she was the first of 5 arrows being launched out into the world.  I went on to describe a few of the qualities needed in an arrow.  In the next couple of posts I would like to take some of those comments and expound on them, followed up with how Psalm 127:4 has spoken to my heart regarding the future.

Let me preface my comments with letting the readers know that I am not an archer and therefore my reflection on this topic is from my readings and observations on the topic.

As I look at an arrow, the first thing that I see is the shaft.

The shaft.  Today, the shaft can be made up of a number of materials, both natural and man-made.  “Back in the day” the arrow shaft was made from a number of woods and the selection of material by the fletcher (arrow maker) was dependent on what was available.  Just as we find diversity in the shafts of arrows, so is the diversity between, and in families.

The shaft of an arrow needs to be strong, firm but flexible, and straight in order to fly true and accurate to hit its mark.  What a tree takes in as nutrients, and how much, determines how well rooted or grounded it is and will ultimately affect the overall strength of the tree, including the density / strength of its branches.  A tree flooded regularly with water, or one that does not get enough water will be severely affected.  The same can be said of a tree that received too little or is overwhelmed with nutrients.  Our children’s spiritual strength will be determined by the kind, how much, or how little spiritual food they are given systematically.  Dumping fertilizer at the base of a fruit tree a few days before harvest time is useless and can very likely cause damage.  The same goes with our children, we can’t expect to ground them in the Word of God their senior year in high school in anticipation of launching them into the world and expect wonderful results, the cultivating, pruning and nurturing must be done over time.

It is our responsibilities as parents to learn and understand our children, and with God’s grace and wisdom, design a plan to systematically “water and fertilize” our children with the Word of God so that they can grow to be strong in the Lord.  The Bible tells us to

“stand fast in faith…and be strong” –I Corinthians 16:13

“be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.” – Ephesians 6:10

and we are to be “strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” – II Timothy 2:1

If we expect our children to grow up to be strong in the Lord, we cannot relegate their primary biblical instruction to others.  Sadly, too often Christian parents think that because their children are involved in Christian School or in an active youth group at church, their responsibility somehow is fulfilled.  These godly resources are wonderful supplements and can be of great value to a family, but God’s plan is for the parents to be the primary instructors of righteousness to their children.  As parents, we are to carefully recognize the grain of our children, in other words, the way God has made them and get to know and understand each child individually as we nurture and instruct their lives for the future.  I know of many families that homeschool their children because they recognize that even within families, children learn differently.  Yet how often do we, do I, use a one size fits all when it comes to training our children spiritually?  Sadly, in most cases, we as fathers tend to not do as well in this area as our wives.

Have you ever seen someone try to shoot an arrow made from a very green shoot from a reed of some kind?  The moment the string is drawn back and pressure is applied to the arrow, it bends and fails in its purpose.  The world is a dark and evil place and Satan is a roaring lion, waiting to consume our children.  If we as parent fail to encourage our children and teach them to stand strong in the Lord and in His Word, when we release our children into the world their lack of spiritual strength to stand will cause them to buckle either when we release them or when they hit a target.  Parents, how are we teaching our children to stand strong?  Are we presuming that somehow our own spiritual growth is going to rub off on them?  Our influence as parents is critical, but their faith has to be their own.

I’ll end with this illustration.  With my father being pastor, I never knew anything but living in a Christian home.  I received Christ as my Savior at a very early age and never really had many doubts about it.  I went to a Christian School for grade school, was homeschooled for middle school and attended a very small Christian school for my high school years.  Upon graduation, I went off to a very small, very conservative Bible College.  Being in a Christian environment all my life it seemed like I knew all the answers to all the Bible questions.  I served in various ministries started at about the fourth grade from bus routes to a music group in college.   I transferred to a different college / university my senior year causing me to have to go an extra semester.  In that summer between my second and third semester of my senior year I moved out of the dorms and into an apartment above a little old couple.  I shared the apartment with another Christian young man (maybe five years older than me) who was working at the university.  This summer was truly a turning point in my Christian walk.  This young man named Terry played the organ at a large Presbyterian church in town and immediately I could tell his standards and mine were very different.  I think the first time I met him he was holding a wine cooler.    Obviously he didn’t come from the Fundamental, Independent, Bible Believing, KJV only, hell fire preaching, no TV, Baptist circles that I grew up in.  God knew that he was just the roommate that I needed that summer.  If you know the Schnarrs, I grew up on good lively debates.  And so that summer, Terry and I had some good lively debates about our differences.  During one of these debates, he said to me, “Don’t tell me what your parents believe, tell me what YOU believe.”  And that was a new beginning for me.  I had all the answers memorized but I didn’t know the Whys.  Why did I believe what I believe?  Over the next few years as I began to study and understand why I believed what I did, based on Scripture, some legalistic convictions I held for many years turned to preferences and some preferences became convictions.  My faith began to grow deeper.  As I began to absorb God’s Word into my life for myself, my faith grew stronger.  I learned not to take what a preacher said at face value, but to search the Scriptures for myself.  Oh, if I had only learned these things earlier in life.

Parents, are your children following your faith because it is something that is expected, or are you teaching them to learn and develop their own faith?  When the winds come, and the enemy attacks, and they will, will your children be able to stand firm on the Word of God or will they parrot only what you have told them and bend like a young green branch?  Faith is not inherited, it is planted and cultivated, one life at a time.

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Remembering Dad

I posted this blog about my father 3 years ago on Father’s Day.  He passed away the following April after a battle with cancer but I am so glad that I was able to share my admiration with him prior to his passing.  I’m also glad that my kids were able to get to know him better the last few years of his life.  Yes, some days were “better” than other days due to his pain and his frustration that he couldn’t do some things on his own or not at all, but even to the end he was an example of someone with a deep desire to learn.

Thanks Dad for your love and godly example.

June 22, 2010

As I was reading Proverbs chapter one on the plane last night and when I got to verse five it reminded me of my dad. The verse reads: “ A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels:”

My dad has always been a learner. I can remember way back even as a little boy my dad always trying something new. If he didn’t know the answer, he sought out the answer. If he couldn’t find the answer on his own he would find someone who knew the answer or he got a book and read until he found the answer. I remember him tell us when we were young kids about how he used to work with a friend by the name of Ken Gull during the summers of his college days. Dad said that they used to do odd jobs and home repairs for people. He said that even if they didn’t know how to do the work they would accept the job. He said one time they were asked if they could repair a slate roof. Of course they didn’t have a clue but accepted the job anyhow. Once the deal was made they sought out some old-timers who knew about slate roofs and they asked them how it needed to be done. I don’t recall ever hearing if the customer was pleased with the finished job or not but Dad always did it right so I’m sure it got done to the customer’s satisfaction. Over the years dad could do about anything, hang wallpaper, paint inside and out on a house, build churches, and do electrical and plumbing work. He learned how to be successful as a door to door sales man selling encyclopedias and he learned how to start a church with just his family. He learned how work with computer, how to make the world’s largest milkshake, burger and popcorn bags, he learned all the facets of the Jewish Seder and how it all points to Christ. Dad has always been a constant reader and pursuer of information and knowledge. Even over the past number of months as he struggles with stage four cancer, he has been getting books and reading about gardening. He continues to gets books out on CDs from the library and learns more about American history and great men of the past.

This is one of the many things that I have learned from my dad but don’t do very well. Continued learning is something that I continue daily to struggle with in my life. Oh if I would learn to be a better learner, to broaden my knowledge, to learn more about the things of God and His love for me, to have a broader knowledge of His Creation, to have a real hunger rather than a passing interest in learning.

I am thankful for the opportunity we have to homeschool our children and see their growing desire to read and learn. I’m thankful for the tender hearts that my children have for God and how they are faithful to have their own quiet time with God each day. It’s my heart’s desire that my kids would grow even deeper and in their desire to know God and then to have a desire for learning all that God wants then to know for the future He has prepared for them. My desire is that each one of them could talk with a king but also with the beggar. Not to be a stuck up know it all but a person diverse in the wisdom of God.

Thanks Dad for teaching me the importance of always learning. You truly are a man that exemplifies what it means to hear, and will increase in learning.


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E-Book Release: Lessons Learned From A Heart Attack

https://faithofafather.com/free-ebook/

New E-Book Release, to get your free PDF file click here or on the ad to the right.  Feel free to share this link with your friends and family and let me know what you think.  Don’t forget to submit your reviews to Amazon.com or barnesandnoble.com


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#11 Running the Race: The Finish Line

                                                                                                  Finish line

11. A goal is set – the finish line. Every race has a finish line. I remember running in the 4 miler and I started to see signs indicating the finish line was “just” ahead, so I was inspired to press on. I’d go around the corner and see another sign indicating the finish line was “just” ahead, so on I struggled. Finally, I could see the finish line, it was in sight! I was hurting and exhausted but once I actually saw it I was encouraged again. It didn’t matter that hundreds had crossed the line before me, I made it. I finished my first race. I was satisfied.

The goal of all runners is to finish their course. To finish the course set before them. Depending on the runner the goal may be to just finish the course and to have a feeling of personal accomplishment while for others it may be to finish in a specific time or in a specific placing such as in first place or top ten. Some run for the fame or the endorsements, but whatever the reason, completion is the goal.

I Corinthians 9 Paul talks about how as a free man he became a servant to have an audience with the slave, he became a Jew that he might witness to the Jews, and he became as weak to have opportunity to minister to the weak. In verse 23 he says he does all this, he denies himself of what is rightfully his position and station in life so that he might be a partner with whom he writes and that they might share in the winning of souls to Christ to the honoring and glory of Christ. From this Paul moves in to the passage that states:                                                                                                

“Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring [it] into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”

In my 4 miler, while many received a prize, only one received “the prize”. Not so in our Christian race, God is no respecter of persons. Everyone that runs His race receives an incorruptible crown, the crown of everlasting life. What more could we every want or need, a reward that will never perish. A reward of eternity in heaven with the God of the universe, how great is that?

In Philippians chapter 3 Paul tells of his background, his pedigree, a man of means and station but he says he counts it all loss for Christ. He calls it all dung. What he had, the fame, the position as part of the Sanhedrin, the revered name, the success, and no doubt the fortune, he gave it all up for Christ. In verse 13 he says that he hasn’t “arrived”, nor is he some great man in society because of what he had accomplished in his past. Paul willingly put all these things, all these worldly successes behind him so that he might reach forth to those things which God has before him. He said he presses toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Reader, are you willing to leave those things behind that are hindering you from moving forward with Christ? Many people pursue fame and fortune, they strive for status and position in life, they seek recognition and accolades above all else. Some are even willing to put their struggle for material success above even their family and worse, their faith, to obtain a perishable crown. Is there anything wrong with success and striving for excellence? Of course not, as Christians we are commanded to do our best in whatever our hand finds to do. The question is how do you define success? Is it defined by things and position or in a relationship with Christ? As we see in the passages previously mentioned Paul didn’t define his success in his pedigree or in his status with the religious leaders of the day, he defined his success by his relationship with Christ.

What is your life’s goal? Yes we all want to live a comfortable life but what is driving you to live each day? How do you want to finish your course? Are you, am I seek a corruptible crown or an incorruptible crown? When your life comes to an end how will you be remembered? Will your life be summed up by the dash between two dates or will your life have eternal significance? Will your friends remember you for a brief period of time or are you striving to leave a lasting legacy?

“Two little lines I heard one day, 
Traveling along life’s busy way;
 
Bringing conviction to my heart,
 
And from my mind would not depart;
 
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
 
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, yes only one, 
Soon will its fleeting hours be done;
 
Then, in ‘that day’ my Lord to meet,
 
And stand before His Judgement seat;
 
Only one life,’twill soon be past,
 
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, the still small voice, 
Gently pleads for a better choice
 
Bidding me selfish aims to leave,
 
And to God’s holy will to cleave;
 
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
 
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, a few brief years, 
Each with its burdens, hopes, and fears;
 
Each with its clays I must fulfill,
 
living for self or in His will;
 
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
 
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

When this bright world would tempt me sore, 
When Satan would a victory score;
 
When self would seek to have its way,
 
Then help me Lord with joy to say;
 
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
 
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Give me Father, a purpose deep, 
In joy or sorrow Thy word to keep;
 
Faithful and true what e’er the strife,
 
Pleasing Thee in my daily life;
 
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
 
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Oh let my love with fervor burn, 
And from the world now let me turn;
 
Living for Thee, and Thee alone,
 
Bringing Thee pleasure on Thy throne;
 
Only one life, “twill soon be past,
 
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, yes only one, 
Now let me say,”Thy will be done”;
 
And when at last I’ll hear the call,
 
I know I’ll say “twas worth it all”;
 
Only one life,’twill soon be past,
 
Only what’s done for Christ will last. ”

Only one life, ’twill soon be past, 
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
 
And when I am dying, how happy I’ll be,
 
If the lamp of my life has been burned out for Thee.”

C.T Studd


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Endurance to Finish Your Race

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9.   The race requires endurance to complete it successfully.  Being able to withstand the pressures of the race both physically and spiritually is critical for no one wins a race by skipping their training and taking a blasé attitude.  

Hebrews 12:1  “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience (endurance) the race that is set before us,”

I am reminded of when I was a freshman in collage I helped coach a high school soccer team that went all the way to the state championships.  We weren’t an overly talented team but we were a team that had a dedicated head coach and players that were willing to work harder than the other teams.   During practices the head coach pushed his players hard to build their stamina.  He would run them around the field over and over again requiring the last runner to sprint to the front of the line, when he got there he yelled and now the new last runner sprinted to the front of the line.   This training, along with other endurance skills enabled the out players to play hard throughout the entire game.  While other teams played hard, part-way through the second half they would start to drag.  Our players on the other hand had a second wind and were able to push past the other team and win.  The point of this story is that it is not always about being the best and the most skilled at something but having the endurance to outlast your opponent.  It is the same in our Christian life, while it is important to hone our “skills”, continue to learn and do our best ( I Corinthians 10:31), like a tortoise, plodding along, being consistent and developing the needed endurance is what gets us to the finish line.  

Physical conditioning is not easy.  It is tough, you want to quit, it hurts and often it is just plan no fun.  So it is with our spiritual conditioning, it is tough, there is often pain, and at times you just want to quit.  But like a runner in training, they press on.  We are reminded in II Corinthians 12:9 that His grace is sufficient for us.  When the pain seems to become overwhelming and we think of giving up, it is HIS grace that is sufficient, not our works.

So how do you want to cross the finish line?  Will you be a casualty in the race and have to be carried across the line on stretcher, will you allow the things of this world, the heartaches of life take your breath away or will you strengthen yourself in the Word of God and recognize that His grace is sufficient for you to finish your course? 

Oh let us not become distracted by the world, let us not give up but press toward that mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14) .


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Preventing another Newtown tragedy

Friday, December 14th, 2012 was a tragic day.  Twenty-eight individuals lost their lives due to a lone gunman at an elementary school in Newtown, CT.  Since then the families and friends of these individuals have been in our prayers continuously.  This act of terror will change the lives of so many people forever.  As a parent of five children I can only begin to imagine and yet even then fail to grasp the brokenness that comes to a parent’s heart when such devastation hits a family and community.

Over the past week we have heard from many people proclaiming what needs to be done to prevent such a tragedy from ever occurring again.  From arming teachers and placing armed guards and police officers in schools to stricter gun control laws and a re-implementation of the “assault rifle” ban.  Gun sales and accessories are skyrocketing and concealed weapons permits are on the rise.  As a concerned citizen and parent, I support an open and honest discussion on these topics.  I have heard politicians such as our President, House Representatives and Senators on both sides of the aisle seek to politicize this tragedy and have taken the popular position of never letting “a serious crisis go to waste.”  I am saddened that selfish goals and agendas have gotten in the way of the real issue.  In an effort to promote their agenda many politicians and influential organizations are attempting to treat this tragic incident like a cancerous disease that is spreading wildly throughout the body with only an aspirin.  It may make them feel like they are doing something to affect the cancer but in reality they are only covering symptoms of the bigger problem.

Our President, in a recent speech said, “We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end.  And to end them we must change.”  I agree one hundred percent.  Change is necessary.  The answer to the tragedy in CT and similar attacks across our country is not that difficult to figure out but it will be a difficult “fix” because many, if not most, will lack the courage and fortitude to make the necessary changes.

Tragedies of this kind don’t happen just because someone had access to a gun, and the answer is not just to have armed guards in assault garb roaming the schools.  Tragedies of this nature don’t happen because of lax gun laws, access to “assault rifles” or because our mental health system failed us.  This tragedy and others like it happen because we as a society have devalued life itself.  The teaching and training of righteous morals, values and absolute truth have been replaced by situational ethics, relative truth and “live and let live”.

 I’m not implying that we as a nation condone such murderous actions that happened in Newton or in any other area of the country, but what I am saying is that we as a nation are sending mixed messages about how we value life itself. 

 We all love the occasional heart-warming story of a life saved from the clutches of certain death yet in our entertainment, general media consumption and even in our political speech we allow ourselves to feast at the table of distain, anger, hatred, violence, all slathered with the au jus of depravity.

Why are we surprised when such a murderous terror act occurs in a small town like Newtown when saving the black footed ferret or the Mississippi gopher frog is more important to us than millions of unborn babies?  Why are we surprised when a horrific act occurs like what happened at Columbine, when violence and murder are popular movie and computer games themes?  Yes, some would say that videogames, TV programs, movies and music violence don’t affect societal actions, but go ask those who spend billions of dollars each year in advertising how medium affect societal actions..  Why are we surprised when such horrors like 9/11 happen, when we teach our children we are only accountable to our societal rules?  A society whose morals and values change almost annually based in large part on its emotions and feelings.  Why are we surprised when a 16 year old shoots and kills someone over a pair of tennis shoes, when we view ourselves and teach our children that we are nothing more than a higher form of life in the animal kingdom which evolved through the process of survival of the fittest? 

We will spend millions if not billions of our taxpayer dollars debating, posturing, politicizing and defaming one another over the symptoms of these violent attacks in our country while most will ignore the root cause; the devaluation of life due to the depravity of man by the ignoring of our need for absolutes (truth, morals and values) that are unchanging. We give ourselves too much credit when we make ourselves the authority over what is right and wrong.  Left to our own devices and a lack of these absolutes as our compass, chaos would abound.  We don’t need laws and rules because we are so good, it’s because we are not as good as we think we are.  Until we as a nation are willing to come together and address the root cause of our problems, like the cancer patient taking only aspirin, the President, Congress and “We the People” are fooling ourselves.  

So yes Mr. President, we must change.  But it is not our rhetoric or even our laws, but our hearts.


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Legacy

Mom and Dad.bmp

Sorry for the delay in posting. These past few months have been pretty hectic leading up to the death of my father 3.5 weeks ago on April 6th. Dad passed peacefully after a long bout with cancer. Ashley, my daughter, was able to sing with my sister and her cousin for about the last half hour of dad’s life here on earth. Dad left this life listening to “I Can Only Imagine” being played on an I-pod and I can imagine him entering singing, “I want to See Jesus, the one who died for me” ( title: “I bowed On My Knees”). Mom and Dad both wanted me to read the post that I put here on my blog about Dad and his continued desire to learn June 22, 2010. It was a pleasure to do so. Dad’s Memorial Service was a celebration of his life well lived.
I saw my Mom as she walked through this valley with such grace and faith. Yes she had tears and it is obvious that she misses Dad, but she taught me how to go through life’s most difficult struggles hand in hand with her Savior. I was amazed with my Mom. After Dad passed away shortly after mid-night, we called hospice to come and to officially pronounce his death. After the nurse came and completed her tasks, we were all waiting for the funeral home to come and take Dad’s body for funeral preparations, and what did we all see? Mom sitting and witnessing to the nurse in the corner!
I am so thankful for the legacy that my parents have left me. Dad was in full time ministry for over 42 years and Mom was his helpmate. They partnered together in life to spread the gospel and minister to others. The number of lives that both Mom and Dad touched over the years for the Lord is innumerable. There are men and their families, now in full time ministry. There are countless people across this nation and even the world that are much stronger Christians in part due to the ministry of these two faithful servants of God.
This is the legacy I and my siblings are being left. I am so thankful that my children have been able to get to know my parents more fully over the past few years since they moved to town in September of 2009. I want my children to be left with a strong faithful legacy as well from both Sherry and I. This leaves me with the question that I ask myself, that I ask of you. What am I doing, what are you doing to leave a godly and faithful legacy? Are we living our lives each day to the fullest for the Lord or is service to our King, our Lord, our Savior an afterthought? Do we compartmentalize our faith? This question leads us into our next study in Ephesians chapter four. What is our vocation?
I trust that you will come back and continue with me in my study of the book of Ephesians.