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.  

30 Seconds On Idols

  
One of the duties of a child of God is to call the people of his day, of his nation, to stop worshiping their idols.  
Their idols, mind you.  Not somebody else’s.  It wouldn’t do any good for me to tell 21st century Cincinnatians to stop falling down before a golden calf, and it wouldn’t do any good for me to have told Moses’ brothers and sisters to stop worshiping their smartphones and square footage.  

But to stand here, in this day and place, and to magnify Jesus for the people around me who put their identity and emotional weight into gadgets or political battles or job successes or social media following, that is a Christian calling on my life.  

We have idolatry in America.  We worship many false gods.  We seek meaning and ultimate hope in many, many things which we were not made to seek them in.  

And no idol, Egyptian or American, can do what God can do.  

The Republican or Democratic party cannot bear the weight of your soul.  

Your Facebook likes cannot truly and throughly satisfy you.  

Success at work cannot give you deep, abiding peace.  

All of the things of Eden that we seek, restored relationships and contentment and perfect love, can only be had through the Cross of Jesus Christ.  

And so, if you have never come to Jesus empty handed, looking for what only He can give, my word to you is this:  His Father is seeking worshippers.  He is adopting many sons and daughters.  He has much to give away.  

Come to His altar.  

He can deliver on all of His promises.  

Love and Hate


A Christian should have many loves, because the God He sees and knows as beautiful is the God who made this world.  And, like everybody, all of his hatreds flow from his loves.  But with the healthy  Christian, this principle works out for the benefit of the wider world.

The Christian whose heart is in rhythm with God’s hates lies because they obscure truth. He hates death because it assaults life.  He hates suffering and injustice and idolatry because he loves men and God.  He has holy hatreds.  They are like a good knight defending a sacred castle, or a good husband defending his beloved.

A person who is still living in the flesh will have things, maybe many things, that look like deep loves, but when they’re fully unraveled will be shallower than they might’ve been, because they had something other than the Father and Son and Spirit for their center.  And so when those loves are assaulted, the hatred that defends them is anxious or bitter or self-righteous or joyless.  It’s hollower than the full-throated hatred for death and Hell and false gods that the saint who’s in the grip of the Holy Spirit has.  His are hatreds that say, “Come, join me in fleeing the wrath to come!  God is good, and He will wipe every last scar and tear away!  Come meet Him!”  The carnal man’s hatreds say, “Away from my beloved thing!  I will fight you tooth and nail to protect it!  Because I know, see, deep down, how frail a god it is…”

A Christian should love the sunset and summer and marriage and Gospel songs because the God who spoke light and love and song into being is His adopted Father.  He loves them because he loves Him.  

His loves are deeper, his hatreds are holier, and his heart is open and hopeful.

And so he has a good message to give his neighbor.

His Good Authority

  
It’s surprisingly easy to fall in to what Proverbs calls “folly.”  Foolishness.  A lack of wisdom.  Incorrect thinking and feeling and behavior.  The heart and the flesh love folly, and I know from experience that my own flesh is no different from anyone else’s in that respect.  

One of the marks of folly is to mock good things while defending twisted ones.  Unbelievers do it all the time, and even Spirit-wrought Christians can fall into it.

For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you.

1 Peter 4:3-4

O foolish Galatians!  Who has bewitched you?  It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 
Galatians 3:1

Last night I saw something on Facebook.  

I know, I know, how many positive things start with that sentence?  Subtle rebuke taken.  

But nonetheless, here’s what it was:  A graphic from some supposed Christians (I can only take them at their word) mocking what they perceived as the Bible’s inconsistencies on the teaching of marriage.  They apparently believe that while they are “Christian,” they are not obliged to follow the Bible’s teaching on marriage because it is, in their minds, hopelessly inconsistent.  To them, the Bible is written by people making their best efforts to talk about God, not by men as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit (which is what I believe, because it’s what Peter tells us in the New Testament).  They laid down this slick, well-made, intended-to-be-witty graphic/chart in the context of an interchange about the sinfulness of homosexual activity.  They, as Christians, were defending the goodness of same sex activity and same sex “marriage,” and thought the graphic playfully exposed the Bible as a slightly  misguided book just like any old slightly misguided book.  
I’ve seen that sort of approach before, and you might’ve seen it, too.  I’ve seen it from unbelievers and, sadly, I’ve seen it from those who claim faith in Christ:  Playfully ribbing the Bible in the defense of some thing the God of the Bible calls sinful.  

It’s a mark of spiritual blindness.  It is a sign of a prideful and foolish heart.  

And in this context, in the conversation about same-sex intercourse and romance, I want to be as clear as I can be:  The Word of God is a sure hope of truth and salvation, while sodomy kills souls, wounds hearts, and damages bodies.  Christ gives life, sexual immorality brings death.  Mocking the Bible to defend homosexuality is like mocking a doctor to defend pancreatic cancer.  

We have only one certain authority to rest morality on.  If we doubt or disdain God’s Word, we have nothing higher to appeal to.   Nothing stronger than human reason or speech to ground our ethics in.  Person A says God told him homosexual activity is good and permissible, Person B says God told him it is sinful and deadly.  Who’s right?  Does majority vote decide morality?  If so, how can we say Nazi Germany or the Antebellum South were sinful?  The majority vote in both cases was in, and Jewish persecution and African slavery were deemed ethically acceptable.  If we say the Word of Christ isn’t the moral appeal court, how do we say those cultures and governments were doing anything objectively evil?  We could say we don’t like what we did, but how do we authoritatively stand in judgment against it?  How do stand your intellectually consistent ground against any evil if you’ve said the final definer of “evil” is human judgment?  The guy you’re trying to stand against will just tell you his judgment landed him in a different spot than yours.  So out of the way, please.  He has a TV to steal.  And God told him it was OK.  

But the truth is that there is an objective reality to good and evil.  Some things are truly beautiful and good and others are truly detestable and harmful.  And they are defined by the One through whom all things were created:  Jesus.  He has revealed them in the Old Testament He quoted and called Scripture and in the New Testament that records His words and those of His chosen apostles.  Those words, all of them, are theopneustos, or “God-breathed,” according to the Apostle Paul. They tell us who God is, what He blesses, what He loves, and what He wants for us.  

The Bible is God’s good authority given to a world made to reflect His beauty and glory.  

We mock it, and so mock Him, at our own peril.

After all, He tells us woe to those who call good “evil” and evil “good” for a reason. 

He’s told us what they are.   

The Lord said to Moses, ‘Speak to the people of Israel, and tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a cord of blue on the tassel of each corner.  And it shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the Lord, to do them, not to follow after your own heart and your own eyes, which you are inclined to whore after.  So you shall remember and do all my commandments, and be holy to your God.’

Numbers 15:37-40

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.  And such were some of you.  But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God,  for he will abundantly pardon.  For my thoughts are not your thoughts,neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.  For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

Isaiah 55:6-11

Augustine:  Better Hopes

  
I want to share one of the most beautiful descriptions of a conversion I’ve ever read, from Augustine’s Confessions.  It’s his brief account of 2 young men who were born again while reading as visiting guests in the house of a Christian.  

16 centuries between us and these 2 guys.  But there’s a common thread, stretching across that time.  The same Spirit who could breathe eternal life into their sinful souls offers to regenerate us.  

Here’s to better hopes.  

Happy Monday!

He spoke these words, and in anguish during this birth of a new life, he turned his eyes upon those pages.  He read on and was changed within himself, where Your eye could see.  His mind was stripped of this world, as soon became apparent.  For as he read, and turned about on the waves of his heart, he raged at himself for a while, but then discerned better things and determined upon them.  Already belonging to You, he said to his friend, ‘I have broken away from our former hopes, and I have determined to serve God, and from this very hour and in this very place I make my start.  If it is too much for you to imitate me, do not oppose me.’  The other answered that he would join him as a comrade for so great a reward and in so great a service.  Both of them, being now Yours, began to build a tower at that due cost of leaving all that they had and following You.


  

Sentences

   
One of the classic medieval Christian texts was a book called Sentences.  It was by Peter Lombard, and is, I’m sure, available right now on Amazon.  As best as I can understand, having read only about it (and even then, not very much), it’s a collection of theological statements.  

  

Well, I had a couple of thoughtful holiday days off work and a series of trips to Dunkin’ Donuts, and so I jotted down a collection of caffeine-aided theological and/or ethical statements myself over the last week or so.  Some are just restatements of smarter and older Christians, and at least one came while watching How to Train Your Dragon with my oldest daughter.

Happy 2017, all!

Good is when you love the right thing and then act upon it.   

Nothing that we envy (if we envy something on Earth) is trouble-free.  

Jesus Christ did not see through my screw-ups and foibles to the real, good-at-heart me; He saw through my good deeds and pretended righteousness to the real, self-loving and idolatrous me.  

A Christian, of all people, is able to grieve simultaneously with deep sadness and abiding hope.  

Faith is the means of our justification, but it is not the grounds; the righteousness of Jesus Christ is the grounds.  

One of the best things the Holy Spirit does for a man is changing what he does by changing what he loves.  

There is almost no less Christian of an attitude than that of complaining.  

I don’t want to neglect doctrine and theology and I don’t want to love them for their own sake; I want to treasure them because I treasure Christ.  

There is a kind of person who constantly points his finger at others and then complains about being marginalized, who will describe his own vocal disagreement as necessary but another person’s towards him as an attack, and this type of person is difficult to win over through argument alone.  

One of the most surprising ways you can learn about the character of a man is by finding out what he enjoys.  

Undoing Babel

  

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 

Ephesians 4:1-7

A long time ago humanity, or at least a lot of us, tried to build a tower.  We wanted to be big and remarkable and lofty.  We wanted to be powerful.  We wanted to be like God.  And pride, just like it always does, killed and destroyed what it touched.  God sentenced sin to death.  

Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.’ And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the Lord said, ‘Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.’ So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.

Genesis 11:4-8

Earth was subjected to confusion because of the pride and sin of men.  Just like Earth was subjected to death and pain because of the pride and sin of Adam.  

But God had a way to make things right.  Through His perfect Son, God would restore what our sin had wrecked.  And one of the things He’d do in resurrecting the dead souls of sinful men is to bring family from what had been fractured.  To unwind the confusion He’d sentenced on us.  Where our pride yielded a planet of warring factions and disparate peoples moving away from the deserted ghost town of Babel, God would bring all sorts of men from all kinds of tribes together through His Good News.  

Centuries after Babel, this happened, just days removed from Jesus’ death on a Roman cross:

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.’ And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ But others mocking said, ‘They are filled with new wine.’ But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: ‘Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: And in the last days it shall be, God declares,that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. For David says concerning him, I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence. Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool. Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.’ Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.’

Acts 2:1-39

This God is bringing many back to Himself.

This is not a god of chaos or confusion.  Those are Satan’s tunes.  This Jesus Christ has offered men a better destiny.  He has purchased for them a brotherhood of thicker blood than their family trees, a brotherhood who will sing in the same choir at the same wedding banquet to the same beautiful Savior with the bond of a common joy forever and ever and ever.  

Our God is making a new people.  

We are not told there should be one body.  We are told that now there is one.  

The God of Jesus Christ is doing something unsearchably wonderful.  He is bringing thousands from dissimilar tribes and tongues together through faith in Him.  God is drawing many different and despicable men to Himself.  

He is undoing Babel.