Scripture is clear, if you are the “man of the house”, you are called to be the spiritual leader of your family (Ephesians 5:23). Unfortunately, too many times we fall into Adam’s sin – passivity. Eve was the one who ate the apple, but Adam was with her, and he did absolutely nothing to stop what was happening. He was passive and didn’t take responsibility for his family’s obedience to God.
God has really been convicting me of this lately, and this post has been a long time coming. Before I get into it, though, I want to make it clear that I do not speak to you as one who has this all figured out and has been leading my family well for years. I’m writing this post because God has been calling me to step up in this area big time, and to lead my family as intentionally as I would lead my church. I have also talked with several guys lately who are experiencing the same conviction, but unsure where to begin. And sadly, I’ve heard way too many women wish in vain that their husbands would step up and lead.
Our families are our first ministry. As several of my wise mentors have told me, “Churches [jobs] come and go, but you are the only husband your wife has and the only father your kids have.” That puts things in the right perspective for me.
So if you have noticed your kids lacking in their love for God or your wife crying out for help (like I have), then this post is for you. You may not know what to do, and you may feel like you’re treading water and failing half the time, but doing something is better than doing nothing. God will direct your steps, but only if you’re walking somewhere. So without further a due, here’s what I’ve learned so far about how to lead your family…
1. It Takes HUMILITY
If you are going to lead your family, you are going to have to learn how to eat humble pie and like it.
Your wife will let you know when you are failing, and she will tell you when she needs something you’re not providing for her, and she will be right. And if your marriage will survive, it will take a ton of humility to NOT defend yourself and admit your failure so that you can learn from it.
Your will have to apologize to your kids. This is a very humbling experience. But also one that teaches them that a true man of God knows how to admit failure and long for reconciliation. Your humble transparency will create greater intimacy. This goes for your relationship with your spouse as well.
2. Pray with your wife every day
This is the single greatest way to keep your relationship on track and to help her in her walk with Christ. Praying with your wife will create greater intimacy and trust in your marriage. It will also give you insight into her spiritual life so you can better know how to help her grow in Christ and how you can serve her. My uncle, who is a minister, once told me, “Aron, Jesus said, ‘Where two people are gathered, there I am with you, and whatever you agree on in prayer I will give you.’ You have that with your wife.” This commitment will also help keep you in spiritual shape and protect your hearts from drifting too far apart.
3. Kids Need a Structured, Consistent Spiritual Training Environment
Because of their immaturity and inability to “feed” themselves spiritually, children need structured, direct spiritual leadership. The best way I’ve found to do this is to create a daily devotional routine with the family. My kids are all ages 6 and under, so we have found the best way to do this is part of the bedtime routine, where we take a significant amount of time to read a Bible story together (from a Kid’s Bible, so they are abbreviated and easier to understand) and ask one or two simple questions about the story. Then we go over that week’s memory verse (you can start this with kids as young as 2). We end with a short prayer time where we help them thank God for something and to ask God to help them or someone else in some way. Then we pray over them. It only takes about 15-20 minutes start to finish, and you wouldn’t believe some of the conversations it will start, or how your kids will bring up stuff you’ve talked about days or even months later.
Some families with older kids continue a family devotion, usually reading a chapter from the Bible after dinner followed by prayer. Older children (ages 10 and up) may not need as much structure for their personal devotions. For teenagers, help them create a weekly devotion plan or give them assigned Bible reading or prayer time to do on their own. Make sure you hold them accountable though, because they won’t follow through if you don’t follow up. Make the accountability a scheduled meeting so they know every Wednesday at 7:00pm I’m meeting with mom and dad for a short prayer time and to talk about God, but make it a conversation (a.k.a. ask a lot of questions) so they don’t feel like its a trip to the principle’s office.
4. To Lead Your Wife, Serve Her
While your kids might need more of an authoritarian leader, leading your wife by telling her what to do will only push her farther away. Leading adults as an authoritarian creates an elitist mentality – “I’m better than you, and I know what’s best, so do what I say.” If, like me, your wife is a mature believer in Christ, she doesn’t need you to facilitate a Bible lesson for her or schedule her devotions – she can feed herself. What she needs from you is to proactively serve her, which is the opposite of Adam’s sin of passivity. You do this by learning to anticipate her needs. If you are not good at this, have the courage to sit down and ask her this: “How can I better serve you as a husband? Where am I not meeting your needs?” (note: this will take a lot of humility – see #1)
5. The two things your kids need the most…
A lot of discipline and a lot of loving affirmation.
You kids have to know that if they do anything wrong, there are consequences, and they have to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you love them more than anything. Too much love and not enough discipline, and their integrity will suffer. Too much discipline and not enough love, and their soul will die of thirst. It’s not an either/or, nor is it keeping a good “balance”. They need a lot of discipline all the time, and they need a lot of love all the time.
For discipline, the younger and more immature they are, the more they need. Be consistent, and tailor the discipline to the child. I find that time-outs and spankings work the best for our young children. When spanking, I don’t use my own hand, but rather a wooden kitchen spoon or something similar (the time it takes to go get the object assures I don’t do it in anger or frustration). Obviously, spanking and timeouts will not work as well with older kids. Grounding, taking away priviledges, or working can all be effective for older kids.
For loving affirmation, no matter what age, do at least these three things… tell them you love them. Physically hug them. Do something special with them or for them. Do a variety of these and do it all the time. Also, compliment them about things that are completely unique to them.
In conclusion, if God has given you a wife and/or kids, then he has given you followers and you are a leader. As Christ is our Shepherd and leader, we are called to shepherd and lead those with whom he has bless and entrusted us. Ask God to guide you in leading your family and to give you ideas for what to do. As the leader, their spiritual training and accountability is your responsibility. Initiate the conversations, formulate a plan, and trust God as you put it into practice.
Check out this great song by Sanctus Real called “Lead Me” that pretty much sums it up:
“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.”
- Zechariah 4:10
Two weeks ago we had our first official weekly meeting with our new church.
While this was an exciting milestone, it was definitely less grand than what many people would consider “church”. There was no big building or auditorium or classrooms. There were no flashy lights or guitars or coffee bars. It wasn’t even on a Sunday morning.
It was a humble Bible study in someone’s living room.
Eight young adults, eight kids (age 6 and under), and two babysitters. We ate, read and discussed some Scripture, and prayed together, often over a chorus of crying kids!
On the drive home, I found myself thinking, “This is such a far cry from the world changing mission God has called us to…”
But then again, where do you start when you have such a monumental task in front of you?
Well, you start at the beginning.
That’s where Zerubbabel had to start when God called him to be the leader of the immense project of rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem. The people of Israel had returned from exile to find Jerusalem in ruins and the Temple a pile of rubble. After a failed attempt to rebuild, God sent a few prophets (Haggai & Zecharaiah) to encourage Zerubbabel not to give up.
In the face of a task of Biblical proportions – literally – Zerubbabel had to start by taking a few measurements with a plumb line, which was a sort of ancient leveling tool. It’s a pretty simple task, really, to take a few measurements, but God counseled him not to despise the small beginnings, because God knew the small start was the beginning of something great.
We often stand in awe of people who have accomplished great things, wondering how they have come to accomplish something so grand. But if you were to walk a mile in their shoes, you would realize that any journey, no matter how far, begins with a single step.
What is the grand task God is calling you to?
Don’t think about how massive the journey is… just focus on the next step you need to take.
So we had a humble Bible study in someone’s living room.
Some people might think that seems a far cry from a world changing church movement reconciling thousands of people to God. I think its the first step in a grand adventure beyond what we could imagine.
“…he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” - Philippians 1:6
The following post is from Mike Edmisten’s blog (mikeedmisten.com). Mike is the Lead Pastor of Amelia Church Of Christ in Amelia, OH (soon to be Connect Christian Church in Eastgate), and also happens to be a good friend and mentor of mine. When I read his post on “Shibboleth” and how he applied it to the church culture we create as leaders, I was compelled to share it here in its entirety:
“The Gileadites captured the fords of the Jordan leading to Ephraim, and whenever a survivor of Ephraim said, “Let me cross over,” the men of Gilead asked him, “Are you an Ephraimite?” If he replied, “No,” they said, “All right, say ‘Shibboleth.’” If he said, “Sibboleth,” because he could not pronounce the word correctly, they seized him and killed him at the fords of the Jordan. Forty-two thousand Ephraimites were killed at that time.“ – Judges 12:5-6
This little story that is buried in the Old Testament has always fascinated me. 42,000 people died because of their inability to pronounce a certain word.
A lot of us have words that just won’t come out of our mouths correctly. I have a friend who can’t pronounce the word “prerequisite.” My dad always stumbles over the word“hippopotamus.”
Personally, I can’t say the word “rural.” This past Sunday, I used a quote from Tullian Tchividjian in my message. I spent half my week learning how to pronounce his last name so I wouldn’t stumble over it in the message. It still didn’t come out quite right.
There are some words that just don’t roll off the tongue. The death penalty is a pretty severe punishment for not pronouncing something correctly, but that’s exactly what happened at the Jordan River in Judges 12. Due to their dialect, the Ephraimites could not pronounce the “sh” in the word shibboleth. That gave away their idenity, and they were slaughtered by the Gileadites.
Here’s the tragic part…people are still dying because of our shibboleths.
In many churches, part of being welcome is the ability to speak the language. You have to fit into the culture that a particular church has created. Fitting in means, “You talk like me. You dress like me. You have the same political views as me. You honor the same traditions as me. You are just like me.”
As our church prepares to adopt a new name and a new location, I’ve been doing a lot of prayerful thinking about who we are. What we are. What our core values are. The driving force behind everything we do.
It all comes back to connecting people to Jesus. Not connecting people to our shibboleths.
The Gileadites used their shibboleth to identify people who weren’t like them, aka their enemies. Churches use shibboleths all the time to do the same thing. If you’re not like me, then you’re the enemy. You’re not welcome here.
People are dying outside of Christ because of the shibboleths in the Body of Christ.
Our church is intentionally different, because we realize this simple truth: we’re all in the same boat. We all have the same identity. We’re all sinners in need of a Savior. We’ve all made a mess of things in our lives. We are broken people who need to be healed. We need Jesus.
Sibboleth. Shibboleth. It doesn’t matter. What matters is connecting people to Jesus.
And everyone can pronounce that.
“As Paul discoursed on righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, “That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.” – Acts 24:25
Making a needed change in your life is rarely convenient. In fact, making an intentional change in your life usually takes discipline and hard work. That’s why we so often avoid making needed changes as long as possible. Most of the time, we know exactly what we need to do, but we just don’t want to do it. So we tell ourselves, “I’ll make the change when the time is more convenient.” Right. I’ll start the diet on Monday. I’ll start the daily devotion time next month. I’ll have that difficult conversation after the holidays… when I find it convenient.
This is exactly what Governor Felix said when the Apostle Paul preached to him. Felix was obviously convicted about the sin in his life, but instead of taking action to make the needed changes in his life (a.k.a. repentance) he tells Paul… “I’ll listen to God’s Word when it’s more convenient.” Scripture has no record of Felix ever finding a time when repentance was convenient, and chances are he never did, because making a needed change is not convenient.
Once God convicts you that change is needed, seek his guidance for the action plan you need to make then change. Then go Nike on it – just do it. Don’t put off a needed change in your life until its convenient, because it never will be.
“When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, ‘The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.’” – Judges 6:12
At the moment when God called Gideon a “mighty warrior,” Gideon was a young farmhand, doing his work while hiding in fear from his enemies. Doesn’t sound very “mighty” or warrior-like to me. But God does not call us by what we currently are, but rather he calls us by what we can become. Therefore, by giving us a new name, God literally opens up the ability for us to live a new life. Here’s how Robert Quinn explains it in his book “Building The Bridge As You Walk On It”:
“When we accept the world as it is, we deny our ability to see something better, and hence our ability to be something better. We become what we behold.”
We become what we behold. This is why we are exhorted in Hebrews 12 to “fix our eyes on Jesus,” that we might become like our beholden.
“Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith…” - Hebrews 12:1-2
Let us cast down the lies we have been told about who we are,
Let us reject the unreached potential of the present,
And let us press on to become that which our God has called us.
“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” – Philippians 3:12
I am in the meantime. I just finished an entire 5 -year chapter of my life. I am about to begin a journey that very well may last the rest of my life. I am about to do the most important thing I’ve ever done, and quite possibly the most important thing anyone has ever done – start a new church for the Glory of God.
When your work involves the eternity of other people, you tend to feel the weight of it now and then. The weight crushes any hope of me doing any of this in my own intellect, charisma, or talent, and drives me beg God for his help. I’m reminded of a quote by a wise minister of the gospel: “Ministry without prayer is the highest form of arrogance.” I am dependent upon his Spirit. Apart from Him, I can do nothing. It is “not by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit of the Lord.”
The meantime is a weird place to be. You’re not where you once were, and you’re not where you want to be. It’s a place of waiting. And so, today, in the meantime, in this waiting room where I feel the weight, I do the only thing I can: I pray and prepare. And I realize that it’s in the meantime, the places of waiting and seeking, that God gives us direction. These small hours are where God sets the course for months and years worth of work. This is Jesus praying all night before calling his disciples. This is Peter praying on the roof and God giving him a vision of Gentiles and Jews being made clean in Christ.
2012 is a memory and fading fast, and 2013 will soon be upon us. Take some time in the meantime to seek God on what he would have you focus on in 2013. What would he have you do? Who would he have you help? How can you stay in tune to his Spirit on a daily basis this coming year?
Don’t underestimate the meantime. And don’t waste it. Turn your waiting room into a work room. Prepare for the journey ahead.
So I watched Extreme Home Makeover again the other night. That show is so addicting, and even though you KNOW what’s going to happen, you still can’t help but watch. You would think the predictability of the format would suck all the enjoyment out of it, but for some reason, I can’t help but be fully engaged each and every time.
The episode the other night was no different. Like every other episode, the Makeover Team picked a family in a desperate situation. They sent them away on a dream vacation, and proceeded to build a ridiculous mansion where the family’s former humble home once stood. When the Makeover Team yelled “MOVE THAT BUS!”, awe and wonder manifested in tears and sobs as the family tried to comprehend what was taking place… THIS is OURS?! Mom collapsed on the pavement.
After picking mom up off the ground, they walked inside for the grand tour. More tears and sobs. The Makeover Team had personalized everything from the functionality of the space to the decor of each and every room down to the last detail. Throughout the whole tour of their new home, the hosts asked over and over again, “Do you love it? We personalized this room just for you. Do you love it?” Do they love it? They can’t even answer you through their convulsions of joy. Overwhelmed, the dad of the family finally exclaimed, “It’s… it’s so much greater than anything we could have ever imagined!”
As I watched all of this unfold, Scriptures echoed in my mind as the Holy Spirit hinted that something here was oh so True.
“In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.” - John 14:2
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” - 1 Corinthians 2:9
I finally got the hint – this is what our homecoming to heaven will be like. I felt the lump rise in my throat and my eyes were begging to water, though I didn’t let them.
It only took The Extreme Home Makeover Team a week to build an amazing home here on earth. Can you imagine how amazing your home will be that Jesus has been preparing for over 2000 years now?! No, you can’t imagine. It is beyond you. But when Jesus comes back, this world is going to get an Extreme Home Makeover that will make Ty Pennington look like a 3 year old messing around with Legos. Don’t even try to conceive it in your mind, because Scripture says you can’t, but just know this: our Dad has a big house with a lot of rooms, and Jesus is preparing one specifically for you that will be more detailed and personalized and amazing than anything you could ever hope for.
But there is one thing about that Day that I can imagine… Jesus giving me the grand tour and pointing out every last detail while asking over and over again, “Do you love it? I personalized it just for you! Do you love it?!”
Neither do I. We don’t pray enough, either. And when we pray, we don’t do it right.
Thankfully, our standing with God and success in following Jesus do not depend on us.
I tend to drift toward trying to achieve my way into God’s favor. Let’s be honest, sometimes the drift is not so much about God’s favor as it is just being successful. Achieving something… anything. So people will like me. So I can validate my own faith and rub it in the face of people who don’t like me.
In the moments in my life when this senseless striving shows itself, the Holy Spirit gently reminds me of the 12 Disciples of Jesus on the night he was betrayed…
“Then he [Jesus] returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”
He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”
When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy.”
After nearly 3 years of training from Jesus himself, the Disciples still didn’t get it right, in the moment when Jesus needed them the most. After Jesus chastises them for it and tells them to pray, he returns only to find they fell asleep… again. (They probably didn’t read their Bibles enough, either, and obviously couldn’t pray right, even after having been taught to pray by Jesus himself)
But, thankfully, the Disciples’ merit was not based on their own achievements or capacity for getting things right. Their merit and qualification was based on Jesus. In other words, Jesus didn’t pick them because they were special. They were special because Jesus picked them.
It is the same for you and I. We are the Chosen. We are not special because we know how to do all the right things or that we can do those things flawlessly. We are special because Jesus saved us. He chose us. He called us to be witnesses of who he is. And sometimes the best witness is someone who gets it wrong and can testify to God’s grace. We are special because of God’s Spirit who lives within us and works everything to the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose.
I wrote this because I didn’t read my Bible today and was feeling really guilty. Then I started feeling really guilty because of all the days when I haven’t read the Bible or prayed enough. Then I started to worry that perhaps the new church I’m planning to start might not do so well because I don’t read my Bible enough or pray enough.
Then I heard a gentle Whisper in my spirit… “Thankfully, it doesn’t depend on you.”
“‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.” – Zechariah 4:6
“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:18
In her book, “The Hiding Place”, Corrie Ten Boom tells the story of how her and her family suffered as prisoners in a German concentration camp as a result of helping Jews during World War II. When they arrived in the camp, they quickly realized just how deplorable the conditions were, surpassed only by the oppressive hatred of the German guards. Upon bedding down their first night in a severely overcrowded bunk area, they became painfully aware that their beds were filled with fleas! As Corrie complained to her sister Betsie, her sister quickly reminded her that, as Christians, they were supposed to “Give thanks in all circumstances.” Corrie marveled at her sister’s faith and wondered how it was possible to “give thanks” in such awful conditions. She just couldn’t give thanks for fleas!
They had smuggled a Bible into the camp, and began sharing Christ’s hope and love with people who so desperately needed it. Had they been caught having their Bible study and prayer times, they would have been executed, and yet they ministered to their fellow inmates night after night without detection. The guards were meticulously observant, but for some reason they never entered the bunk room, allowing Corrie and her sister to shine God’s light in a very dark place. After several months of this effective ministry, Betsie excitedly shared with Corrie one day that she had discovered how God had protected them all this time. Earlier that day, she had overheard two German guards talking and one of them exclaimed why they never went into the bunk room: they feared getting the FLEAS!
A concentration camp prisoner being thankful for fleas certainly puts my life into perspective. Often times we can become so focused on all the negative things in our lives that they overshadow God’s goodness to us in the midst of it all. The darkness strengthens it’s grip when we can’t see how things are going to turn out. We can’t see the big picture. Corrie Ten Boom couldn’t see how she might one day be thankful for fleas. In the same way, we can’t see that God is using the hardships we are currently facing to grow our faith and solidify our character.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” - James 1:2-4
The trials are never joyful. But we can be joyful knowing what the trials produce in us. The key to our joy in all circumstances is our gratitude, and the power of gratitude is unleashed when we take a step back to look at the big picture. In the midst of our struggles, giving thanks helps us focus on what really matters, and the darkness of discouragement cannot overcome the light of a grateful heart, no matter what the circumstances.
Note: The following true story is a follow up to my previous post - “Hope Against Hope“.
Jeff and Cheryl Scruggs’ marriage was over. After a few years and a few kids, Cheryl was unfulfilled. Unbeknownst to Jeff, she found comfort in the arms of another, and divorce soon followed. Jeff was devastated and was so angry with Cheryl that for 3 years after the divorce he couldn’t even look her in the eye while dropping off the kids for a weekend visit.
If there were ever a hopeless situation for reconciliation, this was it. But that was before Jesus entered the picture.
Cheryl began attending church and through her belief in Jesus, she became incredibly remorseful for all the pain and hurt she had caused. She began to seek forgiveness and reconciliation with Jeff.
Against all hope, after SEVEN YEARS of being divorced, Cheryl and Jeff were remarried on October 3, 1999.
Below is their story in their own words. Watch and be encouraged that, with God, we can have hope in any situation!
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
- Matthew 19:26