Are You Just Going Through the Motions?

For Men Only

I remember several years ago listening to a brother in Christ share his frustration over not having the sort of walk with Jesus that he felt he should be having. Finally, he summed up his feelings in a question: “Where is the power of Jesus Christ in my life?”

I speak regularly with men who voice a similarly worded question. As a matter of fact, it comes up so frequently that I want to address it in this article. These men have made a profession of faith, so why are they not seeing the power of God at work in their lives? Why is there still such a struggle with sin and an absence of joy and peace? Why does it feel like they are just going through the motions of Christianity without real life in Christ?

If God were satisfied with religion and us going through religious exercises, it would not have been necessary to send Jesus to earth to die on a cross for our sins. The Pharisees had a great religious system in place, and God needed to look no further. However, God desires a relationship with us, and to have that, He first had to deal with our sin. Salvation is the beginning, not the end. If we are expecting to “have arrived” just because we are saved, we are wrong. That would be like me thinking that since I had a marriage ceremony, I don’t need to cultivate closeness with my wife.

What if a friend told you he was just going through the motions in his marriage, and there was no joy and peace? You then would ask him some questions and soon realize that except for a few brief attempts, he had never made any significant effort to spend time with his wife and get to know her further. I’m confident you would tell him it was no wonder his marriage was empty and that if he wanted it to improve, he had better start investing in it.

Friend, is the power and reality of Jesus Christ alive in your life? If not, don’t be satisfied with it remaining that way. That is no way to live. The men I mentioned earlier would testify, if you talked to them, that this kind of empty Christian walk leads to great discouragement. I believe a man in this condition will likely lose his children to the world as well. If the children see a hypocritical, empty “Christian” life in Dad, they likely are going to be drawn toward what the world offers. Lot was a “good” example of this kind of life, and it cost him his family.

Does Scripture give us direction for this problem? Absolutely! First, do you know you are saved? If you aren’t sure, read the previous Corner where I have dealt with salvation at length. Get that settled. Know that you know that, you know you are saved. “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God” (1 John 5:13).

Next, draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded” (James 4:8). Set aside time first thing in the morning to be with your Lord in reading His Word and prayer. Love that time. Let nothing interrupt your time with your Savior.

If you were not emotionally close to your wife and decided you were going to spend more time together, you would have to make that a priority for it to happen. That is why time with Jesus first thing in the day is so important. Salvation is when we come into a relationship with Jesus, and I believe that our quiet times with Jesus are critical to develop close fellowship with Him.

If you desire Jesus Christ to be real in your life, then obey what you read and the leadings of the Holy Spirit. “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). As you obey the Lord, He will become real in your life.

Notice that next James said to cleanse your hands of sin. Is there unconfessed sin in your life? We men are especially prone to mental adultery. Are we allowing any of that in our minds? We can attempt to excuse lust by thinking that it isn’t hurting anyone, but it is sin against God. Jesus says it is no different from adultery. There is a host of other sins that we could be allowing. When we do, God’s Spirit is grieved, being then pulled back from us. God says that we are to cleanse ourselves of sin. Do we want a close, dynamic relationship with the Father? Then we must cleanse ourselves from sin.

It bears repeating again in this Corner. If we aren’t honoring our wives, we CANNOT have a close walk with Jesus and have His power in our lives. “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered” (1 Peter 3:7). This verse actually tells us clearly that it is impossible for a husband to have a close walk with Jesus at the same time he is not honoring his wife.

Honor in the Greek (timē) means to value and esteem. Dads, do we see our wives as precious and worthy of our love and devotion – a priceless gift from God? (A further audio resource is Manager of His Home where I share in depth about loving a wife per Ephesians 5.) So often we “observe” a man taking his wife for granted, having a bitter spirit toward her, and piling all manner of responsibilities on her as if she were the stronger one and he, the husband, the weaker vessel. This is serious, and I’m confident it is the reason many husbands have no walk with Jesus and are miserable in life. May each of us ask God to examine him, and when He is finished, then let’s ask our wives to honestly share with us as well.

When each of us married, we exchanged vows of love and devotion with our wives. Likely, every dad reading this Corner vowed before God and man to love his wife until death, whether in sickness or health – yet, do we love our wives? I know my vows did not say, “Teri, I will love and honor you as long as you obey and honor me.” Many a husband uses his wife’s lack of respect for him as a reason for not loving her or for justifying bitterness toward her. Do I honor and love the wife that I have vowed before God to honor and love? Deuteronomy 23:21 indicates a vow is very serious, but today it has become nothing to break one’s vow before God. “When thou shalt vow a vow unto the LORD thy God, thou shalt not slack to pay it: for the LORD thy God will surely require it of thee; and it would be sin in thee.” I’m confident that many dads’ problems are a result of God’s chastening them for not keeping their vows of loving and honoring their wives.

The final exhortation in James 4:8 is to purify our hearts of double-mindedness. What or who has preeminence in our life? Is it Jesus Christ? There can be none other. Jesus said, “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). I know you may think that is a strange verse to use after emphasizing our need to love our wives, but Jesus was using an exaggerated comparison to show how great our love for Him must be. Since we are told other places in Scripture that a husband is to love his wife, we know it doesn’t mean he is actually to hate his wife. Rather this verse is telling us that we are to love Jesus so much that, by comparison, our love for our families is like hate. If we have one eye on the world and one eye on Jesus, that isn’t enough. He wants both eyes and our hearts set upon Him. “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:1-2).

It seems pretty clear to me where we are to set our hearts’ affection. Some might be tempted to say, “That isn’t being practical. It is too radical.” James, by the Holy Spirit didn’t think so when he wrote, “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4). Now that is strong talk to say that even friendship with the world makes a person an enemy of God. That is why James goes on to say that to draw near to God we need to put away this double-mindedness.

How does one evaluate whether he is double-minded? It isn’t a matter of how much time we have spent in a church building, how religious we are, or even if we have we been born again by the Spirit of God. I think it is similar to how a potential Supreme Court justice is evaluated. Questions are asked about what he believes about the law, and then his previous decisions are evaluated for consistency with regard to those beliefs. Are our decisions consistent with our profession to make Jesus the Lord of our life? Please understand, I’m only speaking in general terms. If Jesus is our Lord, that will be reflected in the choices we make. A single focus will show forth the fruit of repentance, works that demonstrate the reality of our faith, a heart focus on Jesus. Works won’t save us, but they are a good indicator of a changed heart. “They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate” (Titus 1:16). How well do our decisions line up with what we profess? May we be single-minded.

Are you just going through empty motions in both your marriage and your walk with Jesus? Is so, are you willing to repent and make things right? A real walk with Jesus is the best of the best. Don’t miss a minute of it. Our families will forever be impacted when they see Dad in love with Jesus.

Teaching Daughters to Sew

One skill I want my daughters to take from home with them is the ability to sew. As it becomes more and more difficult to find modest clothing, sewing almost becomes a necessity. Whether or not they ever sew their own clothes, they will at least find they need to be able to mend.

Sarah, now twenty-four, makes all of our custom-made clothing. I didn’t teach her how to sew so that she would become the family seamstress. However, now she has time to sew, likes to sew, and is willing to do the sewing so that I can invest my time in other areas of the family. I think Sarah was thirteen or fourteen when she learned to sew. I scheduled a half hour in the school afternoon for her to sew while I was with her. I would check schoolwork or do another project that I could work on while still being available to direct her and answer questions as needed.

My qualifications as a sewing instructor were minimal. I took one year of home economics in high school. One semester of that class was sewing. We made a skirt and a blouse over the course of those weeks. While I remember loving the pattern we were using and picking out beautiful material, I don’t think I ever wore what I made. I learned the skills, though, to read a pattern and follow the directions. In addition, I have done some simple sewing through the years. It was never anything complicated or fancy, but instead easy and functional.

At the time Sarah began sewing, we were finding it more difficult to buy store-bought, modest clothes. Plus, with three girls in the family, I had begun to make matching outfits for the girls. This became a task Sarah picked up and has carried on for us. In our sewing experiences, we have tears, failures, ripping out, re-sewing, and occasionally the thought of never sewing again. However, we also have many outfits in each of the girls’ closets to show for our sewing efforts. Even Grandma and our daughter-in-law have benefited.

Anna, at age thirteen, has also begun to sew. When we started, she was anxious to learn, but before long she discovered that it wasn’t as easy as it looked. Soon when I asked her if she wanted to sew, she would say she didn’t and tell me what she was planning to do instead. After a few months of hit-and-miss sewing time, I realized we needed to make sewing a scheduled, weekly mother-daughter project. Steve asked her recently if she enjoyed her sewing, and her response was that she did.

With Sarah and Anna, I had no idea how to teach them to sew other than starting with a pattern for a simple jumper and working our way through it. While this might not be the best way, it has seemed to work for us. After about three projects with me sitting beside the daughter through her sewing time, she would move to more independent work. At that point, she would come to me with particular questions.
Mary, at age nine, also wanted to learn to sew. We were concerned about safety issues with a sewing machine, so we decided to start with hand-sewing projects. I ordered three hand-sewing kits – a pencil pouch, a glasses case, and a penny purse – from a company called SewKits (800-882-5487 – You can request a catalog.), which is owned by a homeschool family. The three projects were inexpensive, gave us all the materials we needed for the projects, and included directions for making them. The projects were almost identical, but they had different uses and provided good experience for Mary. By the time she was at the last project, Mary needed almost no help from me at all.

In researching where to go next with her sewing, I found a learn-to-sew book for girls written by a homeschool mom. The book is called Stitches & Pins, A Beginning Sewing Book for Girls. In the book, they start girls sewing on a machine at age seven. Each family must decide safety issues for their daughter’s use of a sewing machine, but the book gave us the confidence to let Mary try the machine at age nine. The book begins with information Sarah probably picked up through her sewing years but which I didn’t specifically teach, such as the names of the parts of the sewing machine. It has the girls practice stitching on paper before fabric. In addition, it has fourteen projects to make, each building on skills learned in previous projects. I was pleased with the projects in the book because they were practical ones. I had looked at another learn-to-sew book where the children made a collection of stuffed animals. That book did not lend itself to our goals.

Two afternoons a week, after school, Mary and I have our sewing time for just half an hour. Because it is in the schedule, it now happens and is no longer merely a good idea floating around in my head. She is happily learning basic sewing skills. With great excitement, she shows every family member what she has made and begins using it as well.

Mary’s first project was a pillowcase. It was challenging enough for her because of her age, and she needed enough help that we decided she should make some more pillowcases until she could do most of it on her own. She made a second pillowcase as a Christmas gift for a brother and a third one as a birthday present for another brother. She has one more practice pillowcase to make. Now she is taking a sewing detour because she wanted to make pockets for several of her jumpers so she can carry witnessing tracts with her when she is out.

I would encourage you to consider having sewing time with your daughters to teach them to sew. You might be surprised at how quickly they are able to take off, work on their own, and soon be making their own and perhaps siblings’ clothes as well. If you don’t know how to sew, I think you could learn alongside your daughter with the book I am using with Mary. One of the biggest keys is to get sewing time into the schedule. I believe sewing skills will be blessings to our girls’ throughout their lives and that it is worth the investment of my time. Could I encourage you to begin sewing with your daughters who are old enough to learn to sew?