Enduring Men

Enduring Men

enduring men• A college student’s Philosophy professor argued to the whole class that Christians made Satan and are therefore responsible for evil in the world.

• A cashier was screamed at being called a racist and threatened with a lawsuit simply because she made a mistake and charged a slightly higher price on an item.

• On his first day of school, a 12 year old boy’s class was asked about which pronoun each student wanted to be identified by.

All of those anecdotes are 100% true because they happened either to one of my children or a neighbor. 

But, the most outlandish story comes from Texas where The Temple of Satan is preparing to preserve their member’s right to an abortion by making the case that the “Satanic Abortion Ritual” is protected by religious liberty laws. These are alarming headlines. 

Battling Fear?

As a father of eight, I battle fear for how my children will fare in a an increasingly polarized and anti-Christian society. Will they stand firm and not abandon their faith in Jesus Christ? Will they be able to rise above fear and intimidation and provide an answer for the hope that is within them to the many people who are lost in all of this upheaval? 

Hebrews’ Example

My thoughts turn to the book of Hebrews where the Christians being written to were facing far worse circumstances. For example, some were jailed and some had their property taken away just because they were Christians.

The writer exhorts his audience to endure. But he does this in a way that might seem impractical and even tone deaf to us today.

What The Hebrews Did Not Hear

What they did NOT hear was a political strategy for fighting Rome to stop the persecution. Nor, did they hear a simple 5-Step plan (with alliteration) to deal with the troubles of persecution (not that those are not bad things to do but they certainly are not what he says).

What The Hebrews Heard

Instead, he pleads with them to, “pay close attention to what you have heard.” (Heb. 2:1). Then, he passionately reminds them of what they had heard. He goes into great detail about how much greater Jesus is than the angels, the prophets (even Moses!); he is the final sacrifice, the perfect high priest who continually intercedes for us in heaven. 

To disturbing practical problems, the writer gives a theology lesson. Who in these days would value that that?

Are We Listening?

If Hebrews were a Sunday school class, imagine the conversation on the ride home from church. A teenager pipes up: “Can you believe it?! Like, he spent like the whole Sunday School talking about Jesus as a sacrifice and high priest stuff. I mean, totes, but man, I am freaking about the friends I’m losing after liking that tweet.” 

Is Jesus Enough?

This gets right to the problem we have with our problems. We struggle to see how Jesus is the solution. We struggle to even take time to really look at Jesus; who he was and what he did for us. Doing that is often the overlooked key to enduring trials—says the author of Hebrews. Not because it works like a magic fu-fu, but because an intentionally faithful pursuit of the person and work of Jesus will increasingly fill us with joy and gratitude that causes us to more and more choose obedience (endurance) over sin (failure).

We always want something. We are always trying to get something from our experiences or other people. What are our problems other than things that get in the way of pursuing what we want? So, if what we constantly want is Jesus, then we can always have him, no matter what. Nothing can separate us from the love of God.

Jesus is superior in value to anything we gain, lose, or face in this life. Is it our aim to remember (and rediscover, if necessary) that and to faithfully proclaim it to ourselves and to our children every day?

NOTE: I am excited to announce a special teaching we have designed to encourage and equip men in this very pursuit. We call it, “Enduring Men in Troubled Times”. This is a simple look at keeping Jesus in view, why it is important, and how to actually do it in your home. There will be discussion and practical application. Please consider this for your men’s group. For more information click here.

Four Ways to Make your Home a Refuge from Fear

Four Ways to Make your Home a Refuge from Fear

Refuge from fearIf I were a fly on the wall in your kitchen, or if I scrolled through your texts, what would I learn about how you’re handling the news these days? Banter over the news might sound less like afternoon tea with the Queen and more like a barroom brawl.

It is easy for frustration over what we cannot control (namely, most news) to degenerate into fear. Fear is a powerful tool of the enemy of our souls. As parents, we are concerned for our children that disturbing news not lead to fear.

In these contentious and uncertain days, how do we keep from allowing fear to rule us? Following are four ideas.

First, restrain “conversation” about fearful news.

Note that I did not say to not talk about the news. These days our children often know the news before we do, and we must talk about it with them. Isn’t it hard at times to find the line between righteous indignation and angry outbursts? At times, it feels justified to just vent. Afterall, I should be able to say exactly what I think in my own home. Right?

Overwhelmingly negative emotions are often a warning about where our confidence really is. I am not suggesting that a right response is easy. It is a struggle as we all know. By being mindful and restraining discussion when needed, we model the godly leadership our children need and set up the second way we can stop fear from gripping our homes.

Remind your family where our confidence is.

In writing to persecuted Christians, the writer of Hebrews says in 10:23. “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” These believers were enduring far, far worse things than any bad news we have heard. The encouragement is to hold fast to Christ! We are not alone. God is with us. He is our confidence through to the end.

As the temperature rises, stop, and say something that breaks the emotional vortex and turns our attention back to God. “Wow, I am really struggling here. I/we need to remember that God is in control of all this.” Or “God is our refuge and strength.”

This morning as the conversation turned again to the news, I reminded my myself and my teenage son, that we are sojourners here on this earth. This is not our home. In the moment, it can be hard to say these things. My failure to say these things usually comes when I fear that saying them will sound preachy or out of touch. I have to be honest with myself and realize I also need to hear what I’m about to say. I will tell my kids, “I need to hear this too. I need you to help me remember what is true.” These are things we should be saying anyway! It is part of speaking the truth to one another in love.

Read the Word of God together.

The Word of God endures forever. It is unchanging Truth. It equips us for every good work. It is powerful. In it we find the accounts of many who have gone before us and overcome fearful challenges by faith in its promises.

Perfect love casts out fear. The word testifies to the perfect love of God. When we read it together out loud it brings calm to distressing situations. Developing a pattern of reading the word as a family prepares us for obedient living—especially in the next news cycle.

There are many Psalms that talk about God being our refuge. Over the next week, consider reading the following: Psalms 34, 62, 71, 91, 118, 142, 144 to your family. Each of these Psalms provide mental rest and emotional peace in the face of fear.

Pray for the salvation of our enemies.

It helps reorient our thinking away from people we don’t like by praying for them. This requires us to first remember our own place. We are sinners saved by grace. We need grace as much as the people we would otherwise hate in our hearts. Our sin is no less odious in God’s eyes and we have done nothing to earn anything but his judgement. Yet, we are undeserving recipients of his mercy and grace. This realization humbles us and fills us with compassion.

Last week there was a news article about a state law that would make it legal to deny care to babies that survived abortion. As I scrolled down and read the comments one particularly stood out to me:

…BABY KILLERS, DEMONIC, GOVERNMENT WORSHIPPING MARXISTS, AT LEAST WE WILL BE FREE OF THESE SOUL-LESS MONSTERS WHEN WE ARE ACCEPTED BY GOD’S GRACE INTO HEAVEN (All caps in the original post).

Certainly, a law like this is wrong and stirs righteous anger! But it’s hard to find anything redemptive in that comment. Its bitter and self-righteous. No grace there. Only judgement. God commands us to pray for our enemies. When we are humbled by our own debt and the mercy we have received, we see them differently and then we pray. Isn’t it harder to disparage someone we are praying for?

In many cases, they are afraid although that fear is masked by hostility. They act the way they do because they have no hope or feel that what their hope is in is being threatened.

This more than any other thing has helped me when I’ve wanted to stew or vent my frustrations about others. Would that I always remembered this. Pray for our enemies to come to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. I doubt that’s a newsflash. But are we doing it?

Remember who we are.

Because we are objects of mercy, we can be messengers of the hope we have in Christ. We will lose opportunities to bring that message of hope if we allow our conversations at home to be driven by frustration and fear. Hope is needed everywhere, beginning in our homes! Speaking hopefully in our home equips our children to be ambassadors of hope to their friends.

Bad news will continue. But praise be to God that we have an eternal hope in Christ! Do we really believe that? Does it impact how we discuss bad news? It must so our homes will be refuges from fear.

Four Encouragements to Read the Bible Together as a Family

Four Encouragements to Read the Bible Together as a Family

family worshipIf I asked you to list the five most important activities that a family could do together, what would you say?

A few highly rated articles about activities families should do together reveal some interesting answers—and non-answers. For example, one article said to visit museums, take a hot air balloon ride, have a picnic, go treasure hunting, or start a YouTube channel for its top ideas.

Another article, this one published by a popular Christian ministry, listed 30 ideas but did not include reading the Bible as a family. One idea was to read books together but didn’t mention the Bible as one of those books.

While the ideas presented in both articles were useful, the reading of God’s word was highly conspicuous by its absence. Was it just an oversight? Or was it representative of how families value the place of God’s Word in the home?

For me, this is a concern and not just because reading the Bible as a family is the right thing to do. It is a concern because reading the Word is such a joyful time together as a family to meet God and see his infinite greatness and unconditional love for his people. It saddens me to think that any family could miss out on such a blessed experience!

The Irreplaceable Value of God’s Word

Jesus said in Matthew 4, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Paul says in II Timothy 3:16, 17, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” The prophet Isaiah says in Isaiah 40:8, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.”

What can be a more valuable family activity than reading the Word of God together? On the plains of Moab before entering the Promised Land God commanded Israelite parents to teach the Word of God to their children… day and night. In Psalm 78, the second-longest Psalm, God commands fathers to teach their children and their children’s children the works of God.

God’s Word, not our word, is powerful. God’s Word, used by God’s Holy Spirit, is able to accomplish what we need and want the most: our families to know Jesus personally and to walk with him in a way that others come to know him, too.

Many families know they should read the Bible together, but struggle to make it a reality. Therefore, it is the first pattern of four that I write about in my book, Real Hope for Your Home.

Following are four encouragements to help you establish or re-establish family worship as a pattern in your home. (I use the term “family worship” to represent the activity when the family gathers to read the Bible and pray together.)

  1. The goal is to see God’s love for his people

The goal of spending time in God’s Word as a family is simply to learn about how much God loves us. In other words, it is about developing a relationship with God. When this is our guiding principle, we will read Genesis to Revelation in a whole new light. The Bible becomes intensely interesting void of the boredom that comes from looking at God’s word as an encyclopedia, a theological textbook, or onerous list of dos and don’ts. When we see God’s love for us, it compels us to live obediently to him and all that entails, confession and repentance.

  1. Take a long-term view

There will be bad days. You will not want to read. Your children will complain. The discussions will be very dry and forced. You will get stuck in a place in the Bible and become bored. You might even just hit a bad patch in the family calendar when you will miss meeting days or even weeks. Guess what? God knows this! Because you are in Christ, he still rejoices over you and your family. If you are faithful, the pattern will prevail and consume all the bad days and weeks. But you can’t allow the bad days or no days to stop you.

  1. Vary what you do

Be wide-open to trying new ways of doing family worship. Read a book of the Bible, then read a devotional or other Christian book. Have different people read the passage of the day or pray. Share what you learn in your personal devotions. Or, have a family member share what they learned. Meet in a different room in the house. Meet at a different time of the day. There is no right or wrong way to do this.

Family Worship Podcast Season

To build on those three points, we offer a four-part podcast season on how families can establish time together around God’s word. Topics include: “The How and Why of Family Worship”. “How to Read the Bible with Young Children”, “How to Read the Bible with Older Children”, “Your Family in Worship at the Church”. Each podcast is only about 25 minutes long.

We are excited to provide this encouragement and equipping to families especially today as biblical foundations are under relentless attack. We need the solid foundation of God’s word in our homes now more than ever.

  1. Don’t give up!

The final point of encouragement is this: if you fail, remember that your righteousness is complete in Christ! His love for you has not changed. You have no reason to give up! Stay on the path! Believe what is true about you in Christ and let that compel you to keep seeking to be faithful.

 

The Second-Most Important Thing a Father can Pray

The Second-Most Important Thing a Father can Pray

May I suggest that after our children’s salvation in Jesus Christ, the second-most important prayer we can pray for our children is actually… a prayer for ourselves: “God, please turn my heart toward my children.”

We need to pray this prayer for at least four reasons.

#1. Our identity is one of being ambassadors of Jesus Christ to our children(Deut. 6, Eph. 6:1-4, 2 Cor. 5:20). God’s clearly revealed will is to use us as the primary evangelizers and disciplers of “our” children. To do this well, our hearts need to embrace what is already true about us: that we have been given this calling. God’s callings are His enablings.

#2. We are easily distracted by everything going on around us.Technology has made our attention spans like that of gnats on espresso. Instant gratification is just milliseconds away. Consequently, we’d rather lick the icing than make the cake. Priorities? What are those? Everything seems equal in importance. We complain about the tyranny of the urgent but in our worst moments we use it is a convenient excuse for why we rarely engage our children on a deeper, spiritual level. What do we really value most? Our hearts must change.
#3. We would rather pursue things that bring us glory.Let’s be honest. Discipling children, even with its joys, is still what sometimes feels like an odyssey into the paranormal that does more to humble us than shower us with accolades of success. We find it easier to give our time to pursuits that we find much more affirming, immediately rewarding and fun. Our hearts must change.

#4. God is conforming our children into his image, not our image.Our children were created in God’s image, not our own. Jesus’ death and resurrection ensures the transformation of his children into his image. Yet, how often do we find ourselves trying to conform them to an identity that wehave planned out for them? God has a plan for “our” children that usually looks different than our own. We have to stop the tug-of-war with God. God’s dream needs to become our dream. Our hearts need to change.

Time is short. It seems to go by ever so slowly until you wake up and realize that you’ve been at it ten years and the things you wanted to do “tomorrow” you didn’t do. Regret is hard to live with. I already regret things I should have done but didn’t because in key moments, my heart was somewhere else.

Good fathers are not perfect (as if that were even possible). Instead, good fathers are weak fathers who have hearts that are increasingly mastered not by guilt, fear, or self-righteousness but by the overwhelming, compelling love of Jesus Christ for us—in our weakness.

His love for us becomes compelling when each day we realize ALL that he has done for us in making us new creations and giving us every spiritual blessing. We have been given a new identity that is rocket fuel for us fathers.

What are you praying for as a father? Is it for God to change your heart toward your children? If so, seeing all that God has already given you in Jesus is a powerful tool he will use to answer your prayer.

Take a look at what Jesus has done for you!

Please consider the following two resources. First, my 38 minute webinar, Three Wounds Fathers Face and How Our Identity in Christ Helps us Overcome Them, and then second, our 25 page booklet, Who ARE You? For Men!
Four Ways for Parents to Seize More Moments

Four Ways for Parents to Seize More Moments

A high school graduation. A marriage. Or perhaps more likely the death of a friend or family member. All are occasions to reflect on how wisely we have invested our time in the people most precious to us. As I graduated my first child, Abigail, from high school this year I was slapped across the face once again with the reality that her days left under my roof are likely very few.

Over the last few months, I have waxed misty-eyed nostalgic about my “little girl” as cherished moments fly through my mind to the sappy chorus of Memories sung by Barbara Streisand. Wow. Did I do enough? Did I accomplish everything I should have accomplished? Perhaps I missed too many moments?

Most moments are just that, moments. Often unscripted. Pure. Vapor. In a day of endless distraction with Lilliputian matters that add little positive value to our lives we would do well to more carpe diem, or to “seize more of the day”. Following are four ways to do that:

  1. Ask God to give you a heart for your children. The prophet Malachi wrote that the coming of the Lord would be heralded by the hearts of fathers being turned to their children. Fathers tend to be more easily disposed to work, not relationships. Asking God to give us hearts for our children is a prayer he loves to answer.
  2. Have a weekly planning time where you review what is happening in your family. As part of this time, start a journal where you write a sentence or two about what you notice going on in the life of each child. This forces you to think about each person at least once per week in a way that will alert you if you are in fact needing to make more relational opportunities.
  3. Be intentional about making time with your children. Since we actually do 90% of what we write down in our calendars, schedule a time in your week to spend time with a child.
  4. Ask your spouse to alert you when they observe you “zone out”, miss a que, or make wrong choices. Speaking personally, I can be sitting right next to one of my children and never hear a word they say. Why? I’m thinking about something else. A problem at work. Or begrudging why the Washington Redskins are such a poorly run football franchise. Since we are often blind to some of our interpersonal failures, asking to be informed while sometimes difficult to hear, is really necessary if we are serious about doing better.

When we are on our death bed we will not wish that we had spent more time at the office. There is a lot of wisdom in this statement but it is still moralism. In fact, my four suggestions by themselves are moralism. They still don’t provide a motivation to want to set aside the facebook timeline or a game of golf and seize the moments with our kids. We are often motivated to do right things for the wrong reasons. This is convicting as a parent. It is much easier to do what we want to do.

I am reminded that the backdrop for Deuteronomy 6:4-9 is Deuteronomy 5:6, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” Before we were parents, we were slaves. But God has redeemed us from that slavery by the blood of his own dear Son. Jesus has bought for us redemption which includes a new identity that is not dependent upon our performance as parents. It also means that our parenting has an eternal and God-glorifying mission to it. Remembering these things and more motivates us differently. It is the only power great enough to compel us to be more intentional when it is hard—and it is often harder than it is easier. Imagine actually wanting to seize moments?!

Freedom for Frustrated Fathers

Freedom for Frustrated Fathers

Maybe it’s a Saturday. You are busy doing any number of things all at once: entering receipts into Quicken, squeezing in a three and a half minute conversation with your wife, or trying to fix the leaky faucet in the kitchen… and then it happens. Like a bolt of lightning screeching from a cumulonimbus cloud, one of your kids rushes in, “Dad! Will you please do something about (insert sibling’s name)?! I am SO SICK AND TIRED of how he doesn’t listen to me!”

It is in those encounters that as fathers we might close our eyes and ask, “WHY is this happening to me—again?!” At worst, we might think, “Why did I ever think it was a good idea to have children?!”

Those are revealing moments. Thankfully, our righteousness is not in our performance as fathers, but irrevocably in Jesus Christ. We can confess such thoughts and our angry, frustrated, or disinterested responses as sin and be forgiven. But wouldn’t it be better to simply have a good response in the first place? Wouldn’t it be better to quit viewing such events as pesky distractions and instead embrace them with a completely different perspective?

Consider the following quote: These guys who fear becoming fathers don’t understand that fathering is not something perfect men do, but something that perfects the man. The end product of childrearing is not the child but the parent.

I do not endorse that statement as a philosophy for parenting. But there is a powerful string of truth in it that is insightful and even biblical. Romans 8:28-29 talks about how God uses “all things” in our lives to conform us to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. For fathers, this includes those situations where we struggle with our kids’ behavior. We should ask God to show us how he is using these situations to reveal how—we—need to change!

I confess that I am often wrapped up in my own issues to the extent that I sometimes don’t see that there are other people—even my own kids who are standing right in front of me—who need/want my help. In fact, I often see those moments as the burdensome requirements of parenting rather than providentially orchestrated opportunities for greater redemption in my own life.

If God is trying to show us something about ourselves, and we refuse to listen, we are kicking against the goads. Often, he uses our spouses and children as his sanctifying tool. We can conquer these tests by asking God, “Ok. What are you teaching ME here?” When we know we’re struggling with our own attitude, asking this question helps position us not only to minister to our children, but to do so in a way that allows us to see God’s redemptive intention for us as well.

When the lightning strikes and we remember that God intends to refine us, too, it humbles and comforts us and then compels us to minister in a truly redemptive way. This provides an entirely different perspective on the otherwise frustrating situations we often encounter with our kids.