Some Specific Tips On Leading Your Family


I promise, I am not writing this as an expert.  I am no expert.  But a friend suggested the other day that I write a post on fathering and being a husband.  A practical post.  A post filled with some specifics.  

And I didn’t have a sermon to work on this week, so I spent my lunch break on this.  

Just so you know where I’m coming from, I’ve been married about 8 years.  I have 3 children already born, 1 who’s in Heaven, and 1 due, Lord willing, in November.  I’ve also been shaped by being a pastor/elder for about 5 years.  So there we are.  

I hope these can be of help and be adapted to your situation. 

Some tips on leading your family in Christ:

  • Say Sorry When You’ve Sinned Against Them

It kind of surprised me that this was a novel concept to some of my acquaintances and co-workers.  When in passing I’ve mentioned that I’ve apologized to my children for sinful anger towards them and asked their forgiveness, it’s at times seemed to take them aback.  I would’ve thought that adult human beings would understand that if we can do wrong to our neighbors or friends then we can do wrong to our children (and wives).  Sin is sin, and Scripture is clear that it needs to be confessed to God and to the party that we’ve sinned against.  

Plus, if I want my kids to confess and repent of their sins, I need to do it, too. 

  • Worship God As A Family Daily

Have family worship.  Have family worship.  Please, please, please have family worship.  

My kids are 5, 3, and 1, so this is a season of worship being fairly short.  But the fact that it’s daily, rain or shine, busy day or not, has yielded tremendous fruit.  Seriously.  As a family, we’ve gone through Jude, Revelation, Mark, Acts, Genesis, Exodus, and now Leviticus, and my two older ones have a pretty good understanding of the story God is telling in creation, history, and Jesus.  Just because of that.  There’s no magic.  It’s just because they hear the Bible and its stories in context every day.  

The way it works for us is very simple:  

  1. 3-5 minutes of reading or summarizing a section of the book of the Bible we’re in (usually about a chapter).
  2. Singing a song together.
  3. One or more of the kids praying to God for a family request as I lead and nudge them in the right direction.  
  4. We’ll typically end with a little bit of a Christian fictional book (we finished Pilgrim’s Progress last year and are reading through The Chronicles of Narnia now) or a short animation or video of the Bible story we’re in.  The Bible Project videos have been helpful for that second option.  

That’s it.  Bible, song, prayer, story/video.  The whole thing is 10-15 minutes tops.  And we’re flexible.  I often lead it at the dinner table, but not always.  At least once a week we end up doing it on the van, on the way to the store or small group or Grandma’s and Grandpa’s house.  
Again, what I’d commend to you with all my heart, if you hear nothing else I’m saying, is that you do worship God as a family daily.  No matter how you’re feeling, no matter how bad the day is.  5 minutes every day for 2 years adds up.  We know this with exercise, and I believe it’s no less true for taming our family’s hearts.  I’ve witnessed it.  I wholeheartedly encourage you to have short (or long, if you can handle it) family worship every single day.  It’ll yield precious fruit if it’s regular, even if it’s not always breathtaking or particularly moving in the individual moment or instance.  

  • Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

This kind of goes along with family worship being daily, but for kids this is so key that it deserves its own point.  Repeat truth in your home.  Find phrasing that is Biblically faithful and then use it as often as you can.  Here are a few examples of phrases my kids can say in their sleep, now, just because of my repeating them for 2-3 years:

“Sin brings death, Jesus brings life!”

“God saves bad people.”

“God will throw Satan in the deep, deep hole” (from when we read through Revelation). 

“We honor mother and father, because it keeps us safe and makes God happy.”

“Jesus teaches people, Jesus helps people, Jesus heals people, and Jesus loves people.”

“The church has a story to tell, and that story is about Jesus!”

We make it fun.  We say them loud and smiling and sometimes in silly voices, but above all my kids know that those things they’re saying are true and good and important.  And they know that those are the 3 reasons Daddy repeats them to them and to himself.  

  • Don’t Fear Saying “I Don’t Know”

God already knows you’re a human, Dad/Husband.  He knows that you have ignorances.  Yes, you’re the head of your wife and of your family as a whole, but you’re also frail and sinful and growing in grace and truth. 

I have to fight this fear all the time.  I want people to think I’m the perfect husband or father or pastor, that I know the most or am the Godliest.  I’m often terrified of having myself doubted in any of those capacities.  So I have to remind myself (like right now) that God already knows my weaknesses, and has called me to this family anyway.  I can be transparent about the things I don’t know or can’t do, and in the process teach my kids to rely on the One who does know all things.  

  • Keep Your Wife First

I am one flesh with her, not my children. 

I made vows to her that I made to no one else, including my children.  

Men, our kids will leave us someday and, Lord willing, cling to their own spouses.  That’s His design.  And it’s therefore it’s also His design that in marriage, and not in parenthood, we have promised to care for another human being into old age and until we die.  

I pledged before God to cherish this woman in a very special way, a way unique to her and a way that is made, by its very nature, to be exclusive.  

My marriage is glorious and deserves to be prized above all other human relationships He forms for me.  That’s the design.  

  • Have Fun

This is the one I struggle with the most, but it’s so key.  These are blessings, these wives and children we’ve been given. We should enjoy them to His glory! 

So specifics.  Right.  

Take them to Chuck E. Cheese’s.  Even on a school night, once in a while.  Don’t be afraid to break an unspoken rule from some hidden curriculum in your mind.  Go get ice cream at 9 o’clock on a school night once in a blue moon.  These are children given to you to raise in fear and love of God, to cherish and enjoy and give memories to.  They weren’t given to the local school board or to your neighbor or to that judgmental relative you want to impress.  

And if it’s not rules that keep you from having fun but your own silly hobbies or pleasures, then throw them out.  Seriously.  If Call of Duty or BW3’s or golf is standing between you and ever playing Uno with your daughter or ever wrestling with your little boy or ever having playful and flirtatious conversations with your wife, toss the hobby aside.  Pare it back or quit it altogether.  These are souls given as blessings to you, little eternal people He has populated your life with, or in the case of your wife, a friend and lover He has united you to for life.  They are more important than video games or fantasy football leagues, and having fun with them is more valuable than having fun with a work buddy you won’t know in 12 years.  

  • Love Jesus

I’m ending here.  Christian husbands and dads, stay personally connected to your God.  The more you love Christ, the more you’ll love what He loves.  Those who truly love Him walk in obedience to Him, and the more you love the more you obey.  Being a good husband and a good father best flow from a love we’ve already tasted.  

Specifics.  

Read at least a chapter of the Bible daily by yourself.  Pray by yourself every single day. Ask God to help you love His Son.  Pray daily for your children’s salvations, or if they’re already born again, then pray daily for their spiritual growth.  

But however you apply this, walk daily in worship of King Jesus.  The days I am a deficient father and husband are the days I am a legalist or an unrepentant, hardhearted man or a doubter in my Savior.  Worship is the wellspring that good fatherhood and good love for my wife come from, and idolatry and sin are the poison that make the bad days insufferable.  For them and for me.  

All right, that’s it for today.  

I hope this helps your family, or, if you are single, helps to frame some of your thinking about family.  The friend who texted me to write this is himself single, so I suppose all different stripes of Christian (and non-Christian) are curious about this sort of thing.  And that’s healthy, I think.  

We worship a good God.  And He is a Father.  And a Husband.  

And He is the best of both.  

So I want to live in that light.  

Redemptive Manhood


Because it imitates the Lord, Godly manhood is inherently redemptive.   It reclaims.  It protects.  It builds.  It spends itself and risks itself on others.

It will, if you don’t mind my saying so, carry a cross. 

A Godly man will use himself for the good of others.  A fleshly man will use others for the good of himself.

And so, and this is key, Godly manhood is costly to the man himself.  Because he is purchasing something.  Procuring something.  Redeeming something.

When it comes to fatherhood, for instance, a man shouldn’t expect to reap the later rewards of fatherhood if it isn’t costing him anything when the kids are young.  A smarter man than me (Doug Wilson) said that a dad shouldn’t be surprised if he isn’t able to cash checks from an account he never made any deposits to.  Even if his name is on that account.

When it comes to marriage, a Godly man should expect to exhaust himself in prayer and devotion to his bride.  The Boazes of the world wear themselves out for their beloveds.

For the church, for his family, for the lost, a man who is living out the creative, protective, glorious work God designed men to do will trade some of his comforts, spend from his strengths and his time.  He will think and pray and act on behalf of others.  He will leverage himself for the wellbeing of other people and mortgage his abilities for the glory of God.  He will spend himself.  He’ll gladly pay that redemption price.

And so a Godly man will resemble Christ.  

He said, ‘Who are you?’  And she answered, ‘I am Ruth, your servant.  Spread your wings over your servant, for you are a redeemer.’  And he said, ‘May you be blessed by the Lord, my daughter.  You have made this last kindness greater than the first in that you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich.  And now, my daughter, do not fear.  I will do for you all that you ask, for all my fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman.  And now it is true that I am a redeemer.  Yet there is a redeemer nearer than I.  Remain tonight, and in the morning, if he will redeem you, good; let him do it.  But if he is not willing to redeem you, then, as the Lord lives, I will redeem you. Lie down until the morning.’

From Ruth 3

Why My Family Won’t Celebrate Halloween

  

A couple of days ago my family and I were walking through Home Depot.
 Towards the front of the store were some cartoonish inflatable Halloween decorations for a front lawn.  You probably know the type:  Graves, skeletons, tombstones with humorous inscriptions.  And as we walked away from them I felt strongly that I needed to tell my oldest (5) that our family doesn’t celebrate death.  And then she started to tell me all the things that we’ve talked about as a family that are from God’s stories of Creation and Consummation in Genesis and Reveation:  That death is bad, that it came from sin, and that someday Jesus will come back.  And when He does, she said, “No more death, and no more tears, and no more boo boos.”  These are the truths we’ve tried to communicate to our 3 little children.  

And so while I don’t think there’s anything sinful in dressing up or in giving away candy, we won’t go door-to-door on Halloween this year because so much of what my kids would see would be a playful or morbidly curious attitude towards death.  At least 1 of my kids heard us sing “Laid Death In His Grave” this Sunday at our church gathering.  I don’t want us to sing joyfully that Jesus conquered something on Sunday and then playfully observe it a few weeks later. 

God grieves death.  And He hates it.  He gave up His own Son to defeat it.  He will someday cast it into the Lake of Fire with Satan and all his demons and the (finally) unrepentant.  And because of all that, my family shouldn’t view death as a game or a joke.  I love games, and I love jokes, but the goodness of each comes in knowing what’s fun and what’s funny.  And death is neither.  

God built this world without death, and it is sin that unleashed it upon His beautiful work.  Death distorts and deteriorates God’s marvelous creation, and He allows it to for a time.  But while I wait for His Son to return and put this enemy under His feet, I want to have the same posture towards it He has.  

Death is nothing to play about.  It is not natural.  It is not something to entertain a morbid fascination for.  Death is the outworkings of an awful rebellion.  I don’t want to celebrate it any more than I celebrate idolatry or adultery.  

One of the best gifts I can give my kids is the awareness of what is good and beautiful as opposed to what is ugly and passing away.  And so for me, this isn’t about forbidding something just to forbid it, and it isn’t about laying down some sort of distinctive Thomas family law.  It is about preparing my kids’ hearts for the beauty of Jesus’ return, and teaching them to grieve what God grieves, hate what God hates, and hope for what Jesus is bringing. 

Death is monstrous.  I don’t want us to celebrate it.  I want us to celebrate its defeat at the hands of the greatest of Kings.  

Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.  The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 

1 Corinthians 15:24-26

60 Seconds On Men and Women

  
You honor neither women nor their Maker by treating them as if they are identical to men.  Men and women are both made in the image of God, both reflect His beauty and glory, and (if believers in Jesus) are both co-heirs of eternal life.  

But they are not identical.  

A husband is called to honor his wife as the weaker vessel.  He is called to love her as her head as Christ loved the church, for whom He is head.  He is to manage the household of which she is a (vital) part.

He is called to these things.  

And he will not do them, will not even understand them, if he has been deceived into thinking his wife is exactly the same as he is, and that she is called to exactly the same purposes.  

I think the cultural confusion and deceit on what men and women are has spun out in a few different ways.  For instance, a man who knows (and loves) the truth about what he is and should be and what a woman is and should be is a man more likely to hold the door for a woman and a man more likely to lead his wife and daughters in prayer.  But a man who does not know (or hates) those truths is a man who has made himself primed and ready to watch strange women be debased on the  internet or to passively observe the disintegration of his marriage.  “Women are the same as men, remember?” Satan can whisper.  “No need to protect them and no need to step up to the plate at home.”  

Gender lies are not the only cause of the rampant pornography use in American men or of American divorce (obviously), but I think that they are, for many, a cause.  Our culture should call men to be men, hold them accountable to it, and then hold them in honor when they behave as men should.  But at the moment it seems to have a problem at that very first level:  It doesn’t really know (or want to admit) what men are to be.  

Men and women are not identical.  It does not honor a porcelain vase to call it a dining room table and then take a handsaw to it.  

Men and women are designed, and their designs reflect the good purposes of a great God.  

Here’s hoping (and praying) our culture recovers a sense of wonder at just how good.  

30 Seconds for Father’s Day

  
My Heavenly Father, the One who sent His Son Jesus to save selfish people like me, is slow to anger and abounding in rock-steady love.  He always tells the truth.  He forgives the wrongs done against Him.  He gives profoundly beautiful gifts, chief among them His Holy Spirit.  He disciplines me in order to make me the kind of man I’d want to be if I had a heart as good as His.  

Gracious, honest, forgiving, generous, and ready to discipline.  That is my Abba Father.  

And so I have a template for what to be for my three little ones.  

Happy Father’s Day, guys.  

Father.  

The word has meaning because a Father made the world.  My prayer, as I sit outside my house just about ready to go in and give the kids lunch, is that I can, more and more, have the posture towards my children that He has towards His. 

Way Down Deep

  
One of the things my wife has illustrated for me is that mere talk about love isn’t love. If I FaceBook about how people need to be more loving but spend all my time and money and energy on myself, I’m not really a loving man.  I’m a talking man.  

Better to be both. 

And so one of the greatest blessings of my life is that the woman God gave me is a living example of fuller, more layered love.  The sort of love our Savior modeled.  Love that costs you things.  Sleep, free time, hobbies:  When you love well, it all gets put on the table for the good of another.  Prayers and thoughts and affections are spent on the souls of the ones you’re loving. 

Love is measured in personal sacrifice.  

But motherhood isn’t mere martyrdom.  Something I’ve never though to articulate until now is that Christlike motherhood both costs a woman herself and restores to her herself.  My wife has given of her hours, her energy, her heart, and her mind for several years to our three children, but rather than the well of her self being drained, it has actually been dug deeper.  It’s tapped larger springs.  My wife is more herself after 5 years of Christlike motherly sacrifice, not less.  

Our Savior doesn’t just kill our flesh, He brings it back to life. He doesn’t just rescue us, He re-makes us.  

God-ordained callings make a Christian more Christian, but they also make her more human.  More the human she was made to be, anyway.  

Parenthood, like work and church and all of the Creator’s mandates, makes us bear out more fully the Imago Dei.  In Eden, God designed marriage and parenthood and work and the people of God, and while creation is groaning under the weight of sin and death these things are still powerfully beautiful, Godly, and human.  

God can use any number of His instruments to sanctify a soul.  His Son, His Spirit, and His Word are necessary, but beyond them He may use creation, vocation, marriage, singleness, Christian brothers and sisters, education.  But in our lives, I’ve seen parenthood profoundly widen our hearts.  And for me, watching a woman who loves Jesus more than her family and so who is then able to come back to them with a full and generous heart, has helped me love others better.  It’s helped me live life better.  Her Christ-generated sacrifice has spurred me on towards better, more self-forgetful love.  And together, as we slowly (too slowly) become more like our Jesus, we both become more like the selves we were created by Him to be.  

I’m grateful on Mother’s Day for a Christian wife who loves her children and adores her Savior.  

And each day the well is dug deeper, our family is blessed by what God brings out.

Bloody Words

  

I didn’t have a college degree. I didn’t have an income. I didn’t have a marriage. I didn’t have anything a child needs. And I didn’t want it.

Actress Amy Brenneman, quoted in a New York Times article yesterday about abortion

I cringe.  Few things I’ve read recently have made me as sad, perplexed, and disgusted as Ms. Brenneman’s words (and much of the rest of the Times article that frames them).  Disgusted with where we are.  Disgusted with what we value.  

“I didn’t want it.”

A tiny, God-authored human.  More valuable than many sparrows, Jesus would say.  

The Times article quotes Amy Brenneman as calling the murder of this baby, whose lifeless body was probably thrown into a dumpster, “reproductive justice.”

“Justice.”  I wonder if anyone could find the gall to speak that word while the baby was, in inexplicable terror, being vacuumed out of her womb.  

I don’t know Ms. Brenneman’s heart or her motivations.  Maybe she is actually broken-hearted over her abortion but hiding it.  Maybe she’s in denial.  Perhaps repentance is calling her.  But what I do know for sure is that her words, carried in our country’s paper of record and delivered (according to the article) to the Supreme Court carry weight.  

So her stature makes them even sadder.  And, to be quite frank, bloodier.  

I hope someday another generation wonders why we tolerated tens of millions of homicides, done for the sake of convenience, done because we didn’t want the humans we murdered.  I hope they see what we shut our eyes to.  

I hope they see what we did, and why, and are revolted, so that infanticide-on-demand is never again inflicted on humanity.

What we value can reveal deep things about our hearts.  And our culture appears to value convenience over the lives of the smallest children. 

But the One who offers forgiveness for us and real justice for them is wonderfully different.  

“I didn’t want it.”

I’m afraid you might just mean that Ms. Brenneman.  But I am comforted to know that Jesus does.