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Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. – Psalm 119:105
Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds . . . .Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. – Deuteronomy 11:18,19
Father’s Day is this Sunday, June 19th. Some of you Dads are geographically separated from your children or from your parents due to military service. This may be a tough time—yet another tough time during deployment. But if there’s a way we can encourage you, we want to try. What if we said there’s a book which will inspire you to start a great adventure with your family which will change your whole life?
That’s a pretty tall order, we know. And it’s amazingly simple, so listen up to Rise Up! For Dads Who Want to Lead Boldly. Written by a (former) Army Ranger, Rob Otto, this book leads you to consider reading through the Bible, a chapter a day, with your family. Yep, that’s it. But the blessings are eternal, and Rob’s book spells them out clearly from a Dad’s point-of-view—one who has “been there.”
Right from the beginning you can tell that this book is well-researched and well-lived. Stu Weber wrote the introduction! The great author of many books, including Tender Warrior, Stu Weber writes: “. . . Robert points you to Christ and to the work He is ready to do in your family, a work that calls you up to lead. You can do it! What you will find on the pages of this book will both encourage and challenge you.” (p. 11)
There are four reasons (at least) that we like his book and recommend it to you this Father’s Day:
1. He gives great military illustrations. That’s something that we can relate to, and Rob Otto knows it and has lived it. He begins each chapter with a lesson straight from his Army Ranger training. For example, in chapter 8 he starts:
“Ranger School provided me a great opportunity to grow up. It also allowed me to fine-tune some very useful military skills. One of those skills is called land navigation. Put simply, that is how to use a map and a compass to get from point A to point B. Three important pieces of that process are knowing your current location, your destination, and your route. I walked many nights until the sun came up because whoever happened to be in charge of that patrol did not have a correct assessment of one of those three factors. Dad, it is essential for us to know these same three pieces of information regarding the spiritual dynamics in our homes. If we do not have a clear picture of the spiritual life of each member of our family, we will not be able to help them grow. If we do not have the same destination in mind that the Lord does regarding our sons’ and daughters’ spiritual maturity, we will not be working to shepherd them to a point of true fulfillment. Without a clear plan for the journey, each member of our families will wander aimlessly in a dark world. They may also miss the destination.” (p. 155,156)
Twelve stories from his experience in Ranger School become the skeleton upon which each lesson in the book is “fleshed out.” We could picture each event, each challenge about which he wrote—and that made Rob’s points come alive in our minds and in our hearts.
2. The truth he covers is clear and compelling. Here is some of his instruction to get you started thinking about the value in reading the Bible out loud to your family:
“If you have a Bible and can read it to your family, you have enough training to lead your family—the Holy Spirit is ultimately the one who is working, not you.” (p. 81)
“God never intended for the church to do the job that he created the family to do. Spiritual training needs to be a daily part of our homes.” (p. 18)
“If more fathers would lead their families to God’s Word, fewer children would turn their backs on the Lord when they leave home. Opening God’s Word with my family has become a passion in my life, the highlight of the last ten years for me. During this great adventure, I have seen the Lord work in my home and in other homes as well.” (p. 19)
“When we as families don’t open our Bibles together, our families suffer. As you search God’s Word from cover to cover, you will see the repeated theme of training that God intends to take place within the home. He will hold us accountable for how well we complete that task.” (p. 40)
3. The plan he lays out is easy. You may be asking, “Really? Reading the Bible a chapter at a time with my family is that important? How do you get started with that? How long does it take to read through the whole Bible? What do you do when you finish?” Here is what Rob says:
“We average one chapter a night, five nights a week. (Don’t worry—we’ll talk about deployment soon!) . . . . Some nights we read a chapter, have a five-minute discussion, and are finished. Other nights we talk around the table for an hour. . . . Those are the times when you begin to realize how powerful God’s Word is, and you sit in awe as you see the work He is doing in the lives of even your youngest child.” (p. 63)
“We began at the beginning, Genesis chapter 1. Four and a half years later, our children came to dinner and found a beautiful package sitting in the middle of the table. After we read Revelation chapter 22, our children opened the package to discover a framed certificate acknowledging the accomplishment. I had signed it as the leader of our home. We celebrated with a special dessert and made a really big deal about completing the first lap around the track.” (p. 22)
The Otto family is now on their second lap.
4. He asks and answers great questions. We’ll just pick two:
a. You might want to know “How did the Ottos get started on this?” In Rob’s words:
“The first few years (of marriage) were a challenge. As an Infantry officer in the Army, I spent days at a time on firing ranges and was regularly deployed on training missions. . . . My early efforts to provide spiritual direction for our family covered the basics. I made sure we went to church each week. We held hands, and I prayed before our meals. . . . We did not develop a pattern of studying God’s Word together as a couple. I never gave much thought to taking responsibility for the spiritual well-being of my family . . . . Then in a matter of three years, the Lord gave us three precious children. . . . We had seen one family sit with their children, and ours, in the evening and read God’s Word together. I was amazed to see children who were two, two, three, four, and seven years old sitting still and listening as my friend read a chapter from his Bible, not a children’s picture Bible. Is sharing God’s Word with my children this easy? I wondered. We longed for it but didn’t know how to start. Months later, when it was almost the beginning of a new year, my wife came to me and asked if I could read one chapter in my Bible out loud every evening at dinner.” (p. 21)
Rob goes on to tell of their “rough start” due to his work schedule and his own inconsistent quiet time with the Lord. But that one simple picture in his mind of his friend reading to the children was imprinted on his heart—and he began to experience the impact of the reading of God’s Word with his family on a regular basis.
b. A common question for the Ottos has been “how old do your children have to be to begin reading the Bible out loud as a family?” Rob has a definite answer:
“Parents have been programmed to believe that young children will not sit through the reading of the Bible. All too often, our perspective is that little children are a distraction to the rest of the family. Also we are told that teenagers aren’t interested in biblical wisdom. Many people think the Bible is too confusing even for adults! So how can children understand it? Friend, those are some of the biggest lies that confuse and undermine the church in America.” (p. 55)
He goes on to state: “What can a four-year-old learn from listening to her father reading the Bible? Perhaps not much deep theology, but she will pick up one nugget each time. At the very least, she is developing an attention span.” (p. 55)
There’s more, much more, in this book: lots of practical advice (what to do with the Song of Solomon, how to get through the genealogies); lots of good questions (Why should we instruct our children? Are you training your children to see life through the grid of Scripture?) ; plenty of encouragement, even from saints of the 1800s (“The daily regular and solemn reading of God’s holy word, by a parent before his children, is one of the most powerful agencies of a Christian life. We are prone to undervalue this cause.” J.W. Alexander, 1858, p. 43).
What about deployment? What if you are geographically separated from your family and you see no way that you could implement this plan—even if you wanted to? We have read the book and also spoken to Rob and here are our thoughts based on his advice. First, it’s never too late to start. So even if now is not the right time you can plan ahead. Second, depending on which spouse is at home with the kids, have them start with your blessing. Then if Dad is deployed he can encourage from a distance by asking, “How is your Bible reading going? What have you learned?” or “I’m reading right along with you. Let me share what I thought from yesterday!” And here’s another idea—what if you record some of the Bible readings before deployment or even during? Be creative—this is not an impossible task. In fact, having a plan like this will keep your family tuned in to the things of God in ways you cannot imagine right now.
Rob closes by saying, “My prayer is that you have heard in this book a call to usher your family into the presence of the Lord, to proclaim His commands and His mighty deeds to them.” (p. 206)
The book is available through www.riseupdad.com
Otto, Dr. Robert, Rise Up! For Dads Who Want to Lead Boldly (Boca Raton: Eternal Matters, LLC, 2011)
Questions to Share:
1. Does taking years with your family to read through the Bible sound impossible? Would you be willing to pray about what the Lord would have you do to lead, or help lead, your family spiritually?
2. Obviously this plan will not work unless both spouses are willing. Talk about the value which you can see in reading the Bible together.