Tag Archives: Family Goals

Are You on Track?

How many red Toyota Tacomas did you see today? You don’t know? The reason you can’t tell me is that you weren’t looking for them. If we aren’t watching for something, it is unlikely we will see it. A dad with his heart not turned toward his children, but focused on other things, will not see threats to his children nor the beginning symptoms of losing his children. Because of the place a man’s vehicle has in his life, he is far more likely to be aware of a slight noise in the car’s engine than he is to notice his children’s hearts drifting. On the other hand, I believe Mom is usually aware of the warning signs in the children because she is around her children all day and pouring out her life into their lives as she homeschools them.

I have never met a dad who was purposing to ruin his children. Yet, by the decisions he makes and the way he spends his time, the “storm-warning flags” are blowing in a very stiff wind indeed. It all begins with a father’s heart not being turned toward his children. “And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse” (Malachi 4:6). Yet, I’m confident, if you asked each one reading this Corner if his heart is turned to his children, most would say “yes.”

The diet we feed our families can have such impact on shaping their futures. Dad is the one who sets much of the direction for the appetites of the family. Since Dad is the spiritual head of the family, he is the one who will be held responsible by the Lord Jesus for the direction of the family. “Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is” (1 Corinthians 3:13).

There is a day coming when each of us will give account to the Lord Jesus for the time He has given us on this earth. Next to our souls, our time is the most precious thing we have. How will we spend our time while raising our children? When standing before the Lord, it will be too late to reverse years of bad decisions. Many dads’ primary focus and identity is in providing for their families. Yes, our families need to eat, but Jesus put that into perspective when He said in John 6:27, “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.”

God has called us to pour our lives out as an offering. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1-2). So often, however, the world and its pleasures have Dad’s focus, while the children are left to drift. Dads, may our hearts be turned to the serious work of building up our families in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Few men will attempt to build anything of value without a blueprint. Why? Because any significant project will take a large amount of investment of both time and resources. If a good design isn’t followed, there will be a great amount of waste due to false starts and changes. If someone had unlimited resources, maybe a change of direction and wasted material wouldn’t matter, but on every project I’ve worked on, it did matter!

What could be more valuable than building the lives of our children? Buildings burn and fall down over time, but the souls of our children will last for eternity. How we build in their lives can have great impact as to where they will spend eternity. The project manager of the largest, most glorious building on this earth is FAR less important than the lowliest dad with a single child. You can easily tell the dad who believes this by how much time he spends with his children and how much of a focus they have in his thoughts. For more information on keeping your children’s hearts, please see our book, Keeping Our Children’s Hearts.

That is why I’m encouraging each Dad reading this article to write out a vision statement for his family. This vision statement is one that he can be committed to before the Lord Jesus. As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we are to follow Jesus’ direction via the Holy Spirit. We know that the leading of the Holy Spirit will be consistent with Scripture. That is where the benefits of a family vision statement lie. It becomes a condensed blueprint of Dad’s understanding of how to follow God’s calling for his family. It is an ongoing reminder that helps to keep us on track and to verify that we are truly following the Holy Spirit’s direction.

First, it may seem totally obvious, but I believe for the sake of unity, it is very important that Dad and Mom agree that they want the mind of Christ and are committed to following His leading. Is this something you desire? “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). If so, it would be extremely beneficial if Dad and Mom would simply write out their commitment to obey Jesus as He reveals His will for the family. Isn’t that where it all begins?

I believe many families have quenched the Spirit of God working in their family by disobeying the light that has been shown them. The Lord Jesus has been telling them to do something, and they have continued to say “No!” Finally, the Lord pulls His Spirit back, and the family just drifts. The family’s spiritual walk becomes futile, hypocritical, and lukewarm. Finally, the children turn to the world because that really was where the dad’s heart was turned and what was causing him not to follow Jesus’ direction.

Next, begin asking the Father what His calling is for your family. Consider all the areas of life and child rearing that a vision might encompass in response to God’s calling. For example, what level of spiritual growth, holiness, and commitment does God desire for your children? What verses come to mind that apply to each area? If you draw a blank, that’s okay. Just begin reading in your personal devotions through the New Testament, and write down verses that you see apply to God’s calling for your family. There’s no hurry as long as you are making progress.

For example, currently my family vision statement is the following:

Maxwell Family Vision Statement

  • By God’s grace, each member of the family would have a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ and serve Him (John 3:16, Romans 10:9-10, Hebrews 9:14) and:
  • Joyfully serve others (Galatians 5:13, Colossians 3:17, Romans 12:1)
  • Be obedient (John 14:15)
  • Respect others (Romans 12:10)
  • Be self-disciplined (Galatians 5:23)
  • Love children (Matthew 19:14)
  • Pursue holiness (Romans 12:1, Titus 1:8, 1 Peter 1:15-16)
  • Court and not date (Romans 12:1)
  • Love His Word, have a good understanding of the Bible and church doctrine (2 Tim 2:15)
  • Give their hearts to us as long as they are living in our home (Proverbs 23:26)
  • Live as ambassadors for Christ, including:
  • Speaking, writing, and dressing appropriately (Colossians 3:17)
  • Praising others rather than criticize them (Ephesians 4:6, 1 Thessalonians 5:11-13)
  • Being content (Philippians 4:11)

 

The vision statement is not to become “our god,” causing us to ignore the leading of the Holy Spirit. That would be similar to the way the Pharisees followed the tradition of men. Remember that our vision statement is like a blueprint. That is also why it is critical that everything in our vision is justified by Scripture. We know the Holy Spirit will lead our hearts consistently with God’s Word. When you share your vision statement with the family, it is like the airline pilot announcing where the ultimate destination is. Let’s make it easy for our family to stay on board for the entire flight.

A vision statement is a visual, consolidated reminder of the general path God is calling our family to walk down that will help us stay on track. As dads with the responsibility of spiritually leading our families, may we become convinced of the importance of knowing where we are headed, why we are headed there, and how our daily decisions affect whether we will reach our destination. It is my heart’s desire that each of us will take time to write a vision statement and then to allow the Lord Jesus to use it to help us toward His purposes for our lives and our families’ lives as well.

The Shepherd Was Asleep

I have been reminded again how critical it is for the father to be the shepherd at the gate of the sheep pen. In the same way that the pastor is responsible for protecting the flock, the father must always be on the lookout to protect those God has given him.

A number of months ago my two adult sons told me about a new fiction novel they had read about the end-times, and they thought it was great. It sounded interesting and even a little tempting, but for quite a few years now, I’ve been able to avoid recreational reading. The issue is not whether the books are bad (some are and some aren’t), but whether there is a better use of my time.

My heart’s desire is that I would spend my time as the Lord Jesus would have me spend it. I know there is a world of fun things out there that might not be classified as sin, but the question is, are they profitable? I truly want to use my time obediently, doing God’s best and not settling for anything less. I don’t share that arrogantly, but as the sincere desire of my heart.

Paul said, “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any” (1 Corinthians 6:12). The word expedient means profitable. Even if something was not sin to Paul, it might not have been profitable for him and his walk with the Lord Jesus. That is what I want for my life, to discern what is chaff and avoid it. Even if something is not technically sin, if it is not profitable for my walk, then I might as well consider it sin. So, if it isn’t profitable, I really don’t want to spend my time and attention on it.

As I share about this experience, please understand that my intention is not to be critical of someone else’s writing. However, as I write of my failure in this area and what Scripture has to say about it, I don’t know how else to explain without some reference to the books.

When Teri and I were leaving on our twenty-fifth anniversary trip last fall, one of the children sent along a CD version of the book. That was all it took. We were “hooked,” and over time, Teri and I read the series. (This is the man who doesn’t take time for recreational reading!) Did we have cautions? Yes. Did I rationalize ignoring them? Obviously.

The first book begins with a man’s adulterous thoughts. That was a red flag to Teri and me. We felt that if a compromise like that were used to get the audience’s attention, there would be other areas we would have difficulty with as well. Did we stop reading? No. When I read the detail about the anti-Christ and focus on him, that was another red flag. Comparing what the Bible has to say about the anti-Christ, we do not see the detail and glorifying of the man that is to be everything “anti” to what we believe. In Scripture, Jesus Christ is always preeminent.

I am greatly humbled by admitting this to you, brothers, but I feel God compelling me to share this. Unfortunately, it goes on. In each book we read, there were the red flags and promptings of the Spirit that it was not edifying, although greatly entertaining. Next, there was increasing gory and violent detail that, again, I knew was not profitable.

I once discussed the subject of graphic detail with the head of a Christian missionary organization. His newsletters would describe in detail the terrible things that were perpetrated on Christians around the world. He defended his writing style by referring me to Hebrews 11 that describes how many Christians have been martyred. “Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented” (Hebrews 11:35-37). However, notice the total lack of detail in those verses. Even when reading the Old Testament about violent things taking place, the degree of detail is slight compared to what I was reading in his newsletter. Paul exhorts us in Romans 16:19 to be wise unto that which is good, and simple in regard to our knowledge of evil. Finally, in Ephesians 5:12 we are told not even to speak of the evil deeds done in secret.

Reading accounts such as Ehud in Judges 3 still do not hold a candle to the graphic descriptions the presses are turning out these days. Have you noticed how little detail God gives when it comes to the suffering of His saints in the New Testament? Is this possibly an omission by God, or maybe He didn’t have the details to include? Certainly not! No one but God could explain the minute details of what someone suffered as they were being sawn in two, stoned, or crucified. Yet, He did not choose to tell us. Why? There may be many reasons, but I believe one reason is that “man” struggles with fear, and He did not want to hand Satan any instruments to use in tormenting us. It is so easy for men, women, and children to be fearful, and the more detail used in describing the atrocities that happen to mankind, the easier it is to be concerned that they will happen to our wives, our children, and us. In God’s mercy, He is sparing us, even though our sinful, depraved nature cries out for the detail.

Think about how much detail God gave us about the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus. Most of us have heard descriptions of what Christ suffered, but we didn’t “hear” that from the Bible. Rather, it came from sermons or articles. God does not want us to fill our mind with the details of a person’s suffering. Some justify the details as being necessary to move people to prayer and involvement. Unfortunately, wrong methods never justify the means, as there will always be consequences.

Finally, I could not ignore God’s promptings any longer when we began reading another book in the series. The whole focus was on Satan’s man. The last straw was when it related the words of praise that little children were singing of the anti-Christ. Teri and I were in a motel room in a city where we were giving workshops and had a little time before bed. We would take turns reading. Teri happened to be reading and came to those words. My heart ached when she started to read them and quickly said she would skip that part. But it was too late. She had already read enough of it to know it was not healthy. Here God has called me to protect my wife, and I let her fill her mind with words of praise to the anti-Christ. There is certainly no profit to our walk with Christ in that.

Can you see the absolute absurdity of the whole situation? Here were two believers, bought with the precious blood of the Lord Jesus, being entertained reading about the anti-Christ. I knew it was not profitable from the first book, yet I was weak and continued reading. Teri and I take great joy in praying together, and that would have been a joyful, profitable use of our time.

Remember it isn’t that I don’t enjoy recreational reading; in fact, I do enjoy it very much. The problem is that at the very least, it isn’t profitable, and in this case, I believe harmful to my walk with the Lord.

A short time ago, Teri and I had a couple days away at a bed and breakfast, and that time was spent wisely. We discussed goals for the children, evaluated their progress, prayed, and watched five wonderful preaching videos. We came away filled with love for the Lord Jesus, each other, and a renewed vision for our family. What a stark contrast to how we spent that other time.

I have repented of my attitude of compromise and slothfulness, and as a family we have committed not to read any more of these books (which were written for the lost anyway). Even after all of this, it will no doubt be tempting. It was hard to share this with you, but it is my prayer that God may use my failure for good in your life.

God’s Direction Through the Dad

What are your goals for your family? Have you written them down? Are they your goals or the Lord’s goals? Without a rudder and compass, not many boats would ever reach the harbor. I think a reasonable analogy would be that our compass should be the Lord’s direction. A good example of this is found with Noah.

In Genesis 6:22, “Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he.” Now look at Genesis 7:5, “And Noah did according unto all that the LORD commanded him.” First, we see that Noah had to have a relationship with God to receive instruction from Him. Do you know the Lord Jesus as your Lord and Savior? The initial step is having Jesus as Savior and, unfortunately, many men never go beyond this point. The second step is for Christ to be our Lord. He must be our boss and commander. His precious blood has bought us, and we are His. That means we do what He tells us to. He will instruct us in how to lead our family.

God gave instruction prior to the flood on how Noah could save his family. God did not tell Noah’s family, but He told Noah what to do. Think about the absurdity of what God said to Noah, and then Noah had to tell his family. They were going to build a boat, and it was going to rain and drown everyone. Does your family love and respect you enough to follow your leadership even when they don’t understand? Noah had many years to prove himself to his family prior to this unique direction from the Lord. Dads, are we leading our family in ways of righteousness, as God would have us? “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD” (Genesis 6:8). We can’t walk in the ways of the world and expect our family to follow us when, all of the sudden, we interject an occasional righteous direction.

In Genesis 8:13-14, we see that Noah waited for almost sixty days, from the time he saw dry ground, before he left the ark. They had been in the ark roughly ten months when they first saw the ground was dry, and it is incredible that he waited another two months. WHY?

It is the secret of Noah’s success, and it shall be the key to ours as well. Such a simple thing, really, and our success as parents depends on it. It isn’t a matter of how much money we have or how smart we are. The key is revealed in verses 15 and 16, “And God spake unto Noah, saying, Go forth of the ark. . . .”

After being cooped up, under less than optimum circumstances, Noah was waiting on God to tell him when to leave. I expect Noah’s family might have had many suggestions as to when the proper time was to leave! However, he waited on the Lord. Dads, that is exactly what we must do! We should get a word from the Lord for every aspect of raising our children. Dads are the rudders. There will be much pressure, from within and without the family, for the father to change course. The father must know what the heading is and stay true, or there are great possibilities for shipwreck.

Dads must be sure that what the family does is consistent with his goals for them, goals given by the Lord. If God has given you the goal of:

Serving–Do your children know what it is like to serve others? How are you demonstrating serving and training them to serve?

Working–Are they learning how to enjoy working, or do they only know how to be entertained? Must everything be fun, or are they learning some real skills? Are sports, friends, and activities the focus? If so, isn’t that teaching them that life must always be fun, and can’t we expect a generation of couch potatoes and thrill seekers? Was Jesus a “Man of Sorrows” because there was nothing fun to do, or because there were more important things to do?

Worship–Do they know how to worship, or must our children be sent away to Children’s Church? Often Children’s Church is just entertainment with a few Bible stories thrown in. Children aren’t expected to sit still and listen to God’s Word being preached. At what special age does preaching automatically become interesting?

We need to examine where God has called us to go and weed out those things that are distractions from the course. There is great joy in working, ministering, and serving together, and our family will be prepared to face life as God has intended.