I Just Don’t Understand It

We were on a trip one time when Teri noticed this big mustard-colored stain on my shirt. I had been out of the van getting gas, and the stain would have been very obvious to everyone I encountered. However, I was totally unaware of it. When Teri later saw the stain, we were quite perplexed as to how I might have acquired it because I had eaten nothing that resembled mustard. Upon closer examination, we found that it was actually a bug. We remembered there had been something that had deflected off of my side mirror through the open window, but we hadn’t known where it went. Now we knew that my shirt was the final resting place for a yellow-filled bug. Are there aspects of our lives that might resemble that—something of which we aren’t aware but others can easily see?

Recently a dad told me that for over five years he has been having his own personal time every morning reading the Bible and praying. He said that during that time Jesus has changed him into a new man. Additionally, the Lord has used his devotional time to springboard changes in the entire family. He said the transformation has been wonderful. “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

Teri tells people that she saw the most incredible difference in my life when I began reading the Bible and praying every morning. There is real, life-changing power as the Holy Spirit strengthens and convicts a man when he reads the Word and prays. I wonder if that isn’t the single most significant factor that makes the difference between a man who grows in his faith and a lukewarm Christian. That is the main reason why, when someone writes us with a question, I generally respond by asking whether they are reading their Bible and praying daily.

I expect pastors are keenly aware of, by outward evidence, those dads who are daily in the Word and those who aren’t. Maybe they can see the mustard-colored stain in lives void of the Word. Could it be that pastors would have far fewer problems to deal with if men were in the Word? Could it be Christian marriages would have fewer difficulties if Dad (and Mom) were feeding daily on the sweet and precious Word of God? I believe the answer is a resounding “YES”! If this is true, then why is it that fewer than one out of ten dads (based on unofficial polling) will get up at least half an hour earlier in the morning to fellowship with Jesus? I can’t really answer that for other dads, but I know what hindered me in earlier years.

In truth, personal Bible reading and prayer just wasn’t important enough, and I didn’t see it as the lifeline that it is. That is another way of saying it was my pride. It was as if I was saying, “Jesus, I really don’t love You and Your Word enough to spend time with You. I have more important things to do, one of which is sleep. If I need You, I will definitely cry out to You.”

I’m convinced that if every man in a church would begin his day with Bible reading and prayer, pastors would be delighted. Their counseling times would be almost nonexistent. We would see churches on fire for Jesus Christ because Jesus would be daily fanning the flames of purifying and strengthening hearts. I believe we would also see marriages transformed and being true examples of Christ and His bride. Husbands would have hearts turned toward their wives and children. The lost would be saved in record numbers because they would finally be seeing Jesus Christ at work in lives.

Some might say, “Wait a minute, just because a man reads the Bible every day doesn’t mean he will live it out.” That may be true of any old book, and this Book is an old one, but it isn’t true of the Bible. Just this week a brother shared how he was drawn out of a false church into fellowship with Jesus. It all began when he started reading the Word every day. It changes the soul of a person.

I have struggled to keep my weight where it should be for a long time. There is one thing that makes a difference as to how successful I am in controlling my eating. That is whether I weigh myself consistently. If I have been eating too much and gaining weight, I don’t want to weigh myself. I don’t want to see the reality of my decisions reflected in the scale.

That is the way it is with the Bible and the Holy Spirit. As we read God’s Word every day, it speaks to our hearts. It builds us up and also convicts us of areas that don’t line up with Scripture. It gives us direction. It provides an “Amen” to what the Holy Spirit is telling our hearts. Then the Holy Spirit works in us to bring about the changes He desires.

When Paul, by the Holy Spirit, commands us to “. . . put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth” (Colossians 3:8), I don’t want to be angry ever again. Then when I am, I confess, repent, and cry out to Jesus to work in my heart.

When I read, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15), I am struck in my heart that as a Christian, I am called to obey—period. Then I am encouraged to read, “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him” (John 14:21). I see that obedience isn’t simply to avoid God disciplining me, but that in obedience Jesus manifests more of Himself to me. That means that somehow He reveals more of Himself to me as my walk deepens and gets sweeter. I can testify that has been my experience and the experience of others with whom I have discussed this.

Then why is it that as brothers in Christ, we don’t hold each other accountable? Here is something very simple to do, and it could dramatically change a man’s life, his marriage, his family, and ultimately the church. If we love our brothers, why don’t we take those with whom we have a relationship aside and discuss this issue with them? Why is it that we don’t then ask them, or plead with them, that they let us hold them accountable for having a time with Jesus every morning?

I know one reason is that if a dad isn’t in the Word and praying himself, it will prevent him from discussing this with someone else. It may be like the mustard-colored stain on my shirt—something of which the person wearing the shirt isn’t even aware but others can observe. We may think no one would know whether we spend time with Jesus each day or not, but perhaps it really is evident. If dads would realize how critical personal time reading the Bible and praying is, they would do it. If we love Jesus, we must do it. If our love for Jesus isn’t enough to motivate us to spend time with Him, may we do it because we love our families and how it will affect our ability to love and lead them. If we don’t love them enough, could we do it because we love ourselves and want the best for ourselves? Whatever it takes, may we spend time with Jesus and encourage everyone we know to do the same out of our love for Jesus and our love and concern for our families.

Benefiting from Summer Chores

This week seven-year-old Mary, eleven-year-old Anna, and I spent fifteen minutes each day polishing kitchen cabinets. That is a task that looked daunting to me, although I am serious about trying to tackle it at least once a year. My engineer husband has convinced me that if I want my kitchen cabinets to stay nice, I need to take care of them properly. As we evaluated this need and my time, we realized that this was the perfect opportunity to include the girls in a job where they could work with Mom. Each day it seemed that our fifteen minutes was up almost as soon as we started. Our time was filled with happy chatter, typical of mommies and their little girls.

After two days, our nine-year-old son said he would like to join us in our project. At that point, I headed to the store to purchase two more bottles of furniture polish. As we polished and buffed, I asked the children if they could explain the purpose of what we were doing. They did well in knowing that the polish cleaned and protected the wood. Next I questioned them on why we wanted to take care of the cabinets. They decided it was so that they would stay in good condition and look pretty. I presented them with a third question, asking why we wouldn’t just let them get messed up and then replace them. That question was a stumper for them. In their minds, it sounded reasonable just to have Daddy buy new cabinets when they no longer looked acceptable. This headed us into a discussion of being good stewards of what Jesus has given to us. That evening in our family Bible time, stewardship came up. Jesse piped in with, “Oh, yes, Mommy talked to us about being good stewards this morning when we were working on the cabinets.”

15-Minute-Chore-Time Nets Results

A simple fifteen minutes of time with my children for several days has netted our family many positive benefits. (For further information, see Managers of Their Homes.) The girls have learned a skill they may need in their own homes one day. They are being taught in one of the areas that Titus 2:4-5 tells the older women to teach the younger women, and that is in being a keeper at home. My son experienced the pleasure found in volunteering to give of his time to help another—to take joy in serving rather than having to be served. We enjoyed fellowship and spiritual discussions. In addition, the cabinets will all be polished with just a few more days of work.

Summer, if you don’t school through it, is the perfect time to dig into household cleaning and organizing tasks that don’t fit into normal homeschooling days and weeks. Rather than dreading these jobs, we can enlist the help of the children and discover benefits similar to those our family found in our cabinet-polishing. My girls didn’t complain at all when I explained to them what we were going to do—not on the first day or on subsequent days. They now look at the cabinets with a sense of accomplishment in their eyes. I expect they will be even more careful in the future to have dry hands when they open the cabinet doors and to use the handles. They have seen firsthand how much work it takes to keep up the cabinets. They don’t want to make more work.

Consider jobs in your home that need to be done and figure out how to work with your children. Our thirteen-year-old and fifteen-year-old sons are taking over the boys’ bathroom cleaning from their twenty-five-year-old brother, who will add one more sibling to the two he is already teaching piano to this year in lieu of extra cleaning chores. The boys will trade off weeks to do the bathroom cleaning. This week I cleaned their bathroom, explaining step by step what I was doing. For several weeks, I plan to be an observer of the bathroom cleaning until I feel they are consistently doing a good, thorough job. The boys are motivated to learn to maintain their bathroom well because, if they do, Daddy may consider it for a needed remodeling.

Here are some verses that have helped Steve and me to see that teaching our children to work will be helpful to them as they grow up. “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest. How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man” (Proverbs 6:6-11). “The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat” (Proverbs 13:4). “The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing” (Proverbs 20:4).

Steve and I know how much more we enjoy a work project when we can do it together. We have some fond memories of painting rooms in houses we lived in when first married. Steve did the rolling; I did the trim. We worked until we collapsed at night and talked the whole time. The same would be true for our children. Doing a project with Dad or Mom helps the time pass quickly while experiencing the joy of fellowship.

For many homeschoolers, we have several more weeks of summer left before beginning our new school year. I encourage you to target a bit of this time for working on cleaning and organizing tasks with your children. It is also a prime opportunity to teach them how to do new chores. Working together makes the children more willing participants. May we be moms who help our children toward diligence and away from the curse of being a sluggard.