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Don’t rip your clothes to show your sorrow. Instead, turn back to me with broken hearts. I am merciful, kind, and caring. I don’t easily lose my temper, and I don’t like to punish. Joel 2:13 (CEV)

When I was in about sixth grade a couple of friends of mine decided to have an overnight campout in one of the guys backyard. The tent was only big enough for two guys but they said I could hang out with them if I wanted to sleep under the stars. I went home and asked permission from my mom. Problem was, she said no. I could go back to play, but had to be home by dark.

I never went home that night. I lied to my friends about the pseudo permission I received and had an absolutely miserable time. They didn’t know it of course. I kept it well hidden as we played cards, sat around the campfire and told stories.

I slept under the stars that night with nothing but my light jacket. I assured my friends it was by my choice to sleep that way. I was cold. I was scared. Every little sound awakened me from a fitful slumber.

The odd part was, I was within eyesight of home. Just a short walk to a warm bed. In spite of that I was determined to do things my way. Even when I saw my dad drive by at about dusk I ignored the guilt and pain associated with knowing I was wrong! I took the long way home late the next morning. I was hungry, cold, tired and guilty. When I got home the next morning I was grounded for my actions. Both of my parents reminded me of the rules and assured me of their love, but that didn’t change the consequences.

You may be living the same way today. You are determined to live life your way. You know what God requires. You know the path you should take. You know that what you are doing is displeasing to God. You may even do as I did that night and try to convince yourself that everything is fine and life is good.

When you do things your way and leave God out there is an emptiness that nothing can fill. Relationships won’t fill it. Religion won’t fill it. Money, toys and social status won’t fill it. The only thing that will fill that emptiness is living for Jesus.

The prophet Joel wrote to a stubborn, rebellious people. People who’d seen God work many times but refused to follow him. Through the prophet God sends the people ofIsraelthe same lesson he sends us. ‘Come home. Get serious about life and living. I don’t want your rituals. I want your heart. I don’t want words. I want a passionate relationship with you. I’m patient. I understand your plight. I won’t lose my temper with you.’

PRAYER: Father God I have tried so many things to fill this void in my life. I confess that I am afraid to come home to you. I’m so used to people responding to my failures with anger and hostility I expect the same from you. Thank you for your patience, love, mercy and grace. Forgive me for being stubborn. Empower me to live for you. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

Praise the LORD. Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who finds great delight in his commands. His children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed. Psalm 112:1-2

A tree is known by its fruit. If you walk up to an apple tree there is little chance you will find an orange! Peach trees will not deliver grapefruit! Cherry trees make lousy pear trees. It is both humbling and exciting to realize that according to scripture, just as trees produce fruit according to their heritage, fathers have a huge effect on the way their children turn out.

While it is true that there are some exceptions, in most cases the faith a father exhibits will eventually be shown in the lives of his children. A man that holds tightly to the word of God and builds a relationship with Jesus Christ will have a much better chance to see his children follow in the heritage of faith he leaves behind.

The Psalmist clearly states that the man who ‘finds great delight’ in what God has to say will see his children greatly bless the land. As fathers, each of us is responsible to make sure we are in God’s word daily and praying regularly and specifically for our families. Our children need male role models to show them the importance of daily communication with God. Healthy physical relationships will not happen unless we have first taken care of building a healthy spiritual relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

While Psalm 112 is clear about the necessity of following God’s word for the sake of our children, it is interesting to ‘see’ what isn’t mentioned. There is no mention of the importance of forcing our children to follow a certain set of religious dogmas and/or traditions. In fact, there is no mention of us forcing our children to do anything. The implication is that they learn the importance of walking with God by our example, by the words we speak and the way we treat others, especially their mother.

Another thing that isn’t mentioned here is that we as parents, especially fathers here, are not responsible for making sure our children conform to the mold we have determined they should follow. Our mission as fathers is to provide as many healthy experiences for our children as possible so that they can develop healthy, well rounded lives through diverse experiences.

Being a successful father has nothing to do with the job you have, the amount of money you make, the church you attend or the number of toys in your yard. Being a successful father is measured simply by the relationship you have with God and how that plays out in the lives of your children.

PRAYER: Father God. I thank you for being the ultimate example of fatherhood for me. I confess to you that I’ve let my relationship with you slip and as a result I’ve put my children in danger of spiritual harm. Forgive me for my apathy and distractions. Empower me to draw close to you so that my children will see an example of You in my life through love, grace and patience with them and others. In Jesus name, Amen.

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