Encouragement for Fathers

Encouragement for Fathers

dadboysMany fathers have concluded that God cannot use them to minister to their wives and children. Ironically, I have actually heard some men use the following as justification, “I’m not like the men God used in the Bible (suggesting that these men were much closer to perfect)!”  Oh, really? Were the men God used in the Bible really better?

Truth is, none of us are good enough. Since Adam ate the apple, we’re far too selfish. The men God used in the Bible, like us, are deeply flawed. But God is gracious and looks for the humble heart that is willing to move forward in faith remembering that his strength and his ability are not in himself but in Christ alone.

Jesus’ victory on the cross is our victory over the comfort idol that is often the real reason we don’t minister. His victory over sin’s power is also our victory over the guilt that Satan loves to use to beat us down.  As men, our union with Christ has given us what we need to lead.

Take a look at the list of some of the fathers (and their sins) God used in the Bible and be encouraged! No matter how dysfunctional your situation may be; no matter how deficient you think you are, no matter what you’ve done to mess it up, nothing is beyond the grace of God working in us.

Four Things That Will Greatly Bless your Wife

Four Things That Will Greatly Bless your Wife

My wife is not indestructible. Is yours?

Most men want to minister to their wives but struggle to know how best to do that. We think it is one of these complicated “Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus” things. I have good news. It really is easy to bless our wives. Thankfully, our wives are much better at seeing effort and appreciating heart than we probably are. So, a little effort goes a long way.

Pray for her, daily.

Leslee is the first person on my list to pray for each day. If you struggle to remember to pray for your wife, or struggle to know how to pray for her, simply write her name on a 3×5 card along with a few specific prayer requests and put it in your Bible as a bookmark for your daily devotions. Or put the card on the dash of your car and pray for her on your way in to work. Remind her regularly that you are praying for her and how you are praying for her.

Date her regularly.

Dating is not a nice-to- do. It is a must-do. The more kids you have or the more complicated and stressed out your lives are, the more necessary it is to do this. When we initiate dates, regularly, it demonstrates that we love our wives and that our marriage is a priority. Further, our wives are deep thinkers. For us to truly minister to them, we have to mine those depths. This requires time and intentionality that in these hyper-busy times is usually only possible when you break the routine and set aside time to just be together by yourselves.

Take notes—literally.

Perhaps this sounds weird, but consider starting a journal for your marriage. Purchase a simple notebook that you can write down the issues you discuss with your wife. Issues that are important to her (and you, too) and that you need to take time to think about, research the scriptures, and/or pray about. Doing this helps demonstrate that things that are important to her are also important to you.

Write her love notes.

You do not have to be Shakespeare to write a meaningful note to your wife. Writing a simple note that communicates your love and appreciation and leaving it for her to find will be a huge encouragement.

The marriage relationship is vital to the health of a Christ-honoring home and the church. How we love our wives sets an example that will likely be followed by our children—one way or another. Being intentional about developing and protecting the marriage relationship is an investment that will pay eternal dividends.

Dad, Does the Bible Contradict Itself?

Dad, Does the Bible Contradict Itself?

Does the Bible contradict“Dad, it seems like the Bible contradicts itself.”

This question, asked by one of my daughters was not the first time it had been asked. Some of my other children have asked similar questions as they’ve studied the Bible on their own.

She asked her question at morning devotions when we were together as a family. It came up almost in passing.

I reminded her that God doesn’t change (Malachi 3:6, James 1:17) and therefore His Word, the Bible, does not contradict itself; that the Bible is in fact true and completely reliable (Psalm 12:6, 2 Peter 1:20-21, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, and the Westminster Confession of Faith (i. 2, 8).

We looked at the passages in question. We discussed the meaning of the key words in each passage as well as the context and were able to quickly determine to her satisfaction that although the passages seemed contradictory, they actually were not.

After this rather startling episode, a rather horrifying thought entered my mind…what if I was not there at that moment to answer this question for her and she began to doubt God’s Word?

Now, God doesn’t “need” me. He could’ve worked differently. But He has put me in position to be a tool He normally uses in the life of my children. I am humbled and also grateful for such a calling. But I am just a man. I have divided interests and it is easy for me to weasel out of my responsibilities.

In today’s distracted world, we must fight to maintain an intentional focus on the gospel in our lives and relationships.

This is all the more reason then that we should seek to set and maintain a regular time when we are together as a family where we can read the Bible, pray, and have conversations.

It is during these conversations that we learn about what’s really going on in each another’s lives.

Care should be taken not to presume upon God to work around our own agendas. Rather, we should fully embrace our responsibilities to one another by making time to converse, read, pray, and answer questions!

How the Gospel Moves Us to the Frontlines of Ministry

How the Gospel Moves Us to the Frontlines of Ministry

family ministryThe gospel helps church leaders with one of their toughest challenges: that of moving people (husbands, wives, singles, youth, and children) from the sidelines to the front lines of ministry. Here’s how.

What is Ministry?

First, what is the “ministry” that we want them to be engaged in? Ministry is much more than merely teaching a Sunday school class, or showing up for a project. Ministry is the application of the gospel to life, in life. This is in fact what we see in Jesus’ example and it is the overwhelming picture of ministry that we glean from most of the New Testament. We may not all be called to teach a class, but we are all called “to speak the truth to one another in love” (Eph. 4:15-17).

Our Ministry Confidence is in the Gospel Itself, Not Our Abilities, Plans or Programs

We begin with Paul’s words in 1 Cor. 1:17+18; 2:4-5.

 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ, be emptied of its power.

 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

 My speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

Paul’s message was the gospel and his confidence was in the gospel message itself, not his skills and abilities, to bring about the desired goal – the transformation of people’s lives to God’s glory. In other words, Paul believed in a fully sufficient gospel.

Christians are on the Ministry Sidelines Because They are not Placing Their Confidence in the Gospel

Because so much ministry is centered on Sunday and people with teaching gifts (Sermons, Sunday School, Programs), rather than every day life, people have completed their self analysis and concluded that they have nothing to offer…and sit in exile on the ministry sidelines as a result.

Such cases reveal a dependence on their own abilities (or lack thereof) for ministry effectiveness. But  God calls us to minister. We are a kingdom of priests (1Pet. 2:9)! We are to speak the truth to one another in love (Eph. 4:16). We are a house of living stones (1 Pet. 2:5)! And Paul reminds us in Romans 1:16 that the gospel is, “the power of God for salvation” (justification, sanctification, and glorification). We are all, A-L-L,  gospel ministers.

A heart that truly believes the all-sufficient, powerful gospel and that seeks to help people apply the riches of our redemption in Christ to life will minister effectively because it is the Holy Spirit who actually takes our applications of the gospel truths and makes them efficacious in the life of the believer.

How to Move People’s Confidence From Self to the Gospel

1. Teach people what ministry really is: It is not merely teaching a class (something which they may never do), etc., but it is proclaiming the gospel to one another in life so that we grow up into Christ as individuals and as a local body. This ministry is everyone’s responsibility.

2.  Equip people to do number one above. Teach them how to apply the gospel to the heart by faith in life.

3. Teach and remind people—often—that it is the gospel that makes them sufficient to minister. The gospel calls them, the gospel equips them, the Holy Spirit uses the gospel to bring transformation in His time.

4. Publically highlight and develop a greater emphasis on the everyday life ministry that is taking place. Most people view “real ministry” as that which is done by professionals, not what THEY do in their relationships. This is a hard change for people to understand and act on. It takes a very intentional effort to make the change.

5. Examine your own example as a leader. Is your example one that clearly demonstrates that you believe that “the little guy” can do real, effective ministry? Are you always in the spotlight? Do people see you minister through your own weaknesses that find strength in the gospel? Or are you always seen as the guy for whom ministry is effortless and the guy who never struggles?

6. Begin to graciously and patiently hold people accountable for doing this ministry.

7. Remind them that the gospel is their strength.

Four Ways Small Group is a Catalyst for Relationship Building

Four Ways Small Group is a Catalyst for Relationship Building

small groupDo you have a small group ministry?

If you have small groups, great! Consider the following points as a way to evaluate and perhaps improve their effectiveness.

If you do not have small groups, please consider the following 4 ways that small groups foster relationships.
1. Small groups help build relationships by connecting people who would not otherwise connect. 

The church is God’s household. It is made up of people at different stages of life including nuclear families, singles, youth, children, and seniors. Effective small groups reflect this diversity and provide a natural way for all of these gifts, needs, abilities and interests to connect for mutual benefit. Without small groups (especially in churches with a fair number of individually-focused programs) these connections would scarcely be made.

2. Small groups provide a natural way for elders to equip household leaders.

God’s ministry blueprint puts a significant emphasis on the leadership of elders and heads of household. Small group ministry provides a natural context for elders to establish relationships with the heads of household for the purpose of equipping, encouragement, and accountability for leadership in his home.

3. Small groups provide a way for the elders to ensure that each person is being cared for.

With all of the individualized activities taking place it’s easy to assume that everyone is connected and being nurtured. But this often leaves us with a false sense of security. Something bad happens with a particular person. Yes, he was involved in programs, but apparently out of relationship and thus on his own. Tragically, people in this situation just slip through the cracks. Small group ministry provides a way to faithfully oversee the entire body. For regular discipleship and when a person is facing a challenge, everyone, most especially the other leaders, know which elder is responsible for helping the person or being sure that the person is getting the help they need.

4. Small groups increase full participation.

Small groups should not be just another program on the ministry buffet that people can take or leave. Given their purpose, participation should be expected by everyone. On this point, Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer PCA in New York City once said, “Small groups are not a program of the church. They are the church (emphasis added).” Keller understands what’s at stake: real transformation in the life of the believer to the glory of God. This requires relationships. There is no way around it. Note: when the culture of the church prizes and emphasizes relationships like we see in the Bible, participation becomes a natural decision.