All posts by Steve Maxwell

Steve, husband to Teri for over 40 years, dad to eight and grandpa to eight, desires to encourage homeschool dads to spend time in the Word, disciple their children in the ways of the Lord, use their time wisely, and be men of God. His five home-school graduate sons are now wage-earning adults, and three have purchased their homes debt-free before marriage. He has been writing e-mails for Christian dads since 1990. Steve is co-author of of a number of books, including Managers of Their Homes, and Keeping Our Children’s Hearts. Steve also wrote Buying a House Debt-Free: Equipping Your Son, Preparing Sons to Provide for a Single-Income Family and Redeeming the Time. Find out more information on Steve Maxwell and his books.

Guarding Their Hearts

It was the night of our local homeschool moms’ meeting that we had decided to have in our home because of a scheduling difficulty with our normal location. I had been looking forward to taking the five little ones to Wal-Mart to enjoy a fun evening out.

After some shopping, I decided to buy the children a treat at the snack bar. All six of us were crowded into a small booth, while they enjoyed nachos and Icees. My heart was very happy as I was enjoying my little gifts from my Lord and Savior. Unfortunately, in an instant, like a light switch, my joy turned into a heavy, sad heart.

Our booth was on the edge of the nearly deserted eating area. Right next to us, a young woman of maybe seventeen years had pulled her shopping cart up and stopped. She had a wedding ring on her left hand and a baby in the cart. She had short hair, a stud piercing her right nostril, and she was somewhat unattractive. She was just staring into the snack bar area with the most sullen, sad expression I can remember seeing. Her eyes screamed of the hurt that she was experiencing. Her blank stare was periodically interrupted as her hand came to first one eye and then the next, wiping away what appeared to be tears.

When I had purchased the children’s snacks, a young man had stood behind me in line buying a hot dog and soda. He was scruffy and unkempt. His clothes were mostly black, and he wore a black ball cap. The cap had caught my eye as the bill was bent so it had a ridge in the center, and was pulled down far enough that I couldn’t see his eyes. All I could see was a nose, mouth, and cheeks with a two- or three-day-old beard covering them.

Now I realized that she was standing there waiting for him. “No, God, surely not!” After several minutes of silence, he got up and came out to her. There was no greeting between them, only what appeared to be a few dagger-tipped words exchanged. Then as if the two faced a meal of poison, they reluctantly walked off. It was terrible to watch.

I looked down at my two bright-eyed, happy little girls and thought, “Lord, there goes some daddy’s little girl, but where is he now?” How did a father ever let this happen to his little girl?

Some might wonder if the stud protruding from her nose hinted she had a rebellious history, and if she was the one to desert her father. Certainly, children have their own wills, and we cannot force them to be godly, but as long as there is a God in heaven that answers prayers, fathers must not give up.

I love the example Jesus shares with us in John 10. “Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep” (John 10:7). The shepherd used to sleep in the doorway to the sheepfold. The sheep were in there for their protection and could not walk out without the shepherd letting them go. In the same way, wolves or thieves could not enter without first having to confront the shepherd. This section is a perfect picture of a father’s calling. The father is to be the shepherd of the flock that God gives him. This chapter has many wonderful encouragements for us dads.

“I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). Dads, are we so committed to our calling that we will give our life for our family? We are the door to our family. Our children don’t go out, and others don’t come into their lives unless we allow it. There are no excuses; we are responsible before the Lord in leading and protecting our family.

I don’t believe this teaches the father is a dictator; otherwise, Jesus would have used some other example. A shepherd does not drive the sheep like a cowboy drives a herd of cows. The shepherd leads the sheep with love and gentleness.

With the gentleness of our Savior, we are to protect our family. We must, with great tenderness, guide them to safe pastures. If we have chosen certain goals and paths for our family, we must be on guard for those who would draw them away. Often a family is doing many things right, but then they will allow wrong influences to pull their children away. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen it, and it always leads to grief unless something drastic is done.

For example, if parents have chosen to homeschool a child who is less than thrilled about it, they have to be careful of other influences that will feed and reinforce the child’s dislike of the idea. It might be a close friend who is not homeschooled, a youth group, or an outside activity that prevents the child from coming to peace with the father’s decision. If the bond between the father and each child is not stronger than any other outside influence, he will lose his child, or children, to that influence.

These can present very challenging situations, and it may take a tremendous amount of prayer on the father’s part to know how best to resolve them. It may be the only solution is to sever an influence, but whatever the Lord reveals, it must be done. If not, the parent will lose the child.

No one can serve two masters. They will either be drawn to you or to someone/something else. Obviously, dads, we need to be sure we are following the path of God’s calling. At all costs, the father must maintain that bond of love and respect with his children. Once the other influence “wins,” it is then only a matter of where it pulls them.

Over the last twenty years, we have had to make three very major decisions to correct the pull of outside influences. None of these influences were “bad” in themselves, but after much prayer, it was clear that the direction was contrary to that of God’s leading for our family. They had a different heart thrust and thereby were dangerous to our staying on the course and not raising up discontented hearts in the family. Since making those changes, we have not regretted them at all. Rather, we have praised God that He gave us the grace to persevere and follow through once the decision was made.

The good Shepherd is careful to lead His sheep to safe, healthy pastures, and so must we. However, what if a sheep strays anyway? Do we label that sheep as stubborn and rebellious, and let it go? A hundred times no! “How think ye? if a man have a hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?” (Matthew 18:12).

I find a most interesting reaction in my heart. When I have a child who is struggling with obedience, my flesh wants to pull back from that child. I have even justified this in my mind by telling myself, “When I sin, doesn’t that separate me from my Lord? My child’s sin is causing a separation between him and me.” That sort of rationalization will only result in my losing the child. This is a most crucial time, and it is critical we don’t draw away. It is imperative that we build our relationship with the child. Just like the shepherd who has left the ninety-nine on the hills and gone after the lost one, we must as well.

Our world expects us to blame someone else for our troubles. The shepherd didn’t blame it on that stubborn, rebellious sheep or perhaps a clever wolf. He knew he was responsible for the life of the sheep and would risk his life to protect it, whether it was from an external threat or the sheep’s own doing. “Lord Jesus, please give us the gentle, loving, determined hearts we need to lead, love, and protect our family.”

Modesty

A while ago, we had a Christian family over for dinner. It had been a most enjoyable evening. After dinner, we gathered in the living room to sing and listen to Christopher play a few hymns on the piano. I was sitting on the floor by the fireplace, looking across the room to the hallway opening, where the piano was located. The wife of the other family was sitting on the edge of the loveseat, putting her almost directly in my line of sight to see Christopher.

She was rather conservatively dressed except for a loose fitting top with a medium neckline. She was sitting with her baby on her lap, and then she bent over to set the child on the floor in front of her. She was now directly in my line of sight. As she set the child down, she looked across at me. To my horror her top hung open, and it could have appeared to her I was inappropriately looking at her. I immediately closed my eyes and turned away, but I was never so humbled in all my life. I honestly could have wept right there.

After the fall, Adam and Eve immediately were aware that their nakedness was to be covered. “And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons” (Genesis 3:7). Adam and Eve had been in close fellowship with God, and even though they had just disobeyed Him, they knew they needed to cover their nakedness. Think about it. There was no one else around other than their God Who created them, and they still felt shame and the need to cover up.

Why don’t many Christians feel shame and grasp the need to be modest in dress? Why is it that all seem to have a different idea of what is an acceptable level of dress (or undress)? What influences a person to come to the opinion they have about it? How can someone decide? Who is right? Does anyone have the right to say that someone else’s clothing is inappropriate or immodest? Why do some consider it “okay” to wear a revealing swimming suit to the lake or pool, but not to church? Everyone draws the line of modesty somewhere, but why do some draw it where they do? One thing I’m confident of, few if any of those who choose to dress immodestly have ever earnestly sought the Lord for His will in the matter.

Some churches have dress standards that are more or less enforced, whether overtly or through subtle pressure. Forget all of that. I encourage dads to put away all outside factors as you consider the subject of modesty.

Dad, what is your role in this, or is it a personal matter for you and your wife to decide separately? What Scripture would you base your answer on? Unfortunately, my experience has been that the more immersed a family is in the world, the more their values will reflect the world’s. If they have a frequent diet of TV, even with the more acceptable shows, the family will still be sitting there for commercials. Fifteen years ago the Diet Coke and yogurt commercials would display scantily clothed women’s figures to sell their product. I only shudder to think how things are advertised today.

A frequent exposure to this type of visual conscience-searing will affect how a couple views what is modest. Also, the amount of time spent in God’s Word will have a great effect on one’s attitude about modesty. What Scripture would a husband use in reference to this whole issue?

What does God say is appropriate? How does He want us to dress? Is there a different set of modesty standards for going to church, shopping, the beach, and elsewhere? Before the fall, there was no shame, but after the fall, the response was shame regarding nakedness. Note, Adam and Eve weren’t naked by today’s standards; in fact, I expect they would have been considered clothed. Remember, they had sewn fig leaf aprons to cover themselves. However, in Genesis 3:10, Adam said he hid because he was naked. God must have agreed that Adam was naked, because God killed animals and made coats to cover them. The Hebrew word used for coats means to cover. This would appear to be a large covering for their nakedness since Adam’s fig leaf apron was insufficient in God’s sight. It is possible that the aprons were even more of a covering than many swimsuits worn by Christians today.

The husband is responsible before God for his wife and for her purity. “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself” (Ephesians 5:23-28). Could Scripture be plainer about the husband’s role in guarding the purity of his wife?

We read in Luke 8:27 that the demoniac wore no clothes. Once the demons were cast out, he was clothed and sitting at Jesus’ feet. Then in 1 Timothy 2:9 we read, “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel,” where modest means “well arranged, seemly, and modest.” Remember that the word naked was used to describe Adam and Eve after they had “covered” themselves with fig leaf aprons.

I find this topic similar to tithing. I have known people who will attempt to argue that the Bible does not command Christians to tithe, and others who will argue it does. I find the subject of Christians drinking alcohol in the same light. I believe God has given us a number of topics like these to test the heart. My question regarding these issues is, “Am I looking for the line of sin, or for how close to my Jesus I can draw?” When there is a question whose answer I’m not totally clear on, it is the desire of my heart to choose the side of holiness and the side closest to my Lord.

Have you ever seen something interesting out the side window while you were driving? The tendency is to inadvertently steer in the direction you are looking. If we keep our eyes on Christ, we will move closer to Him. If our focus is on the world, we will be drawn to it and agree with what the world deems as acceptable.

Is anyone in the family wearing clothing that is seductive, tight, revealing, and exposing? Which side do you want to err on? Your Lord’s or the world’s? The world wants to show as much skin and body parts as possible, whether visibly or through tight clothing. Vine’s Expository Dictionary lists Matthew 25:36, 38, 43, 44; Acts 19:16; and James 2:15, where “naked” means “scantily, or poorly, clad.” This being the case, how many churches on Sunday morning have members fitting this description?

I’m not advocating wearing black trash bags with holes cut out for the eyes. What I am pleading is for dads to be the heads of their Christian homes. Our calling as parents is to raise up godly seed (Malachi 2:15), and that is why many choose to homeschool. We are to carefully guard the purity of our wives and children. Each dad should take this issue before the Lord, and study the Bible until he knows for sure what is pleasing to his Lord. Remember, it is not a matter of what we feel is okay, but what is pleasing to our Lord Jesus. We should never try to see how close to the line of sin we can come without stepping over, but rather how close we can draw to our Lord Jesus.

May we be men of God and lead the way for our family in setting the example of modesty. After having studied the subject, dads may be convicted that not wearing a shirt or wearing cut-offs or shorts is immodest. If so, I encourage you to be strong and courageous and demonstrate to your family that you are more concerned about what God thinks about you than you are about your own personal comfort.

We need to communicate what we have learned to our family and our desire that they dress as the Lord would have them. We could help them evaluate their clothing and retire anything that is deemed unsuitable.

It blesses my heart to have my wife and daughters bring me their new clothing for my opinion. I have not mandated that they must; it is because they want their clothing to be pleasing both to the Lord Jesus and to me. I know this whole subject is a personal and sensitive issue. It is my desire that no one feels judged or condemned by this, but I pray that I may spur each dad to own this area of responsibility, to study the matter, take it before his Lord, and then to present it to his family.

Posted in: Dad's Corner

In Pursuit of Those Things That Matter

As usual, we have received the yearly missives from family and friends across the country. One dear woman handwrites her multiple-page letter to us, and it is a celebration of life in a family serving the Lord Jesus. Others, like ours, are mass produced and get the message out to a large number quite effectively.

As a letter is read, the family is presented through the eyes of the writer, usually Mom or Dad. The family’s events and accomplishments of the previous year that are considered important to the parents are condensed down to a page or two. So in just a couple of minutes of reading, we are updated on the noteworthy accomplishments of a family.

However, I’m grieved by most of the letters we receive from Christian families. What is being shared generally shows such a worldly focus in the homes. There is mostly entertainment and trivial pursuits, versus serving and life preparation, that rule. Is the Lord’s bride in love with Him or the world? Sadly, the proof is on the paper.

Certainly, these letters reveal the hearts of dads. Let’s “talk” Christian “man to man” for a little bit as we reflect back on this year and look forward to a new millennium. The return of our Lord Jesus draws closer each day. Will He find us busy? If so, busy doing what?

Will the Lord Jesus say to us, “. . . Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matthew 25:21). After reading the majority of the letters we received, I wonder whether it really won’t be, “. . . Thou wicked and slothful servant. . .” (Matthew 25:26).

How can a family know whether they are spending their time harvesting chaff or spending their time as the Lord desires? As usual, it begins with the father’s daily, personal, quiet time with the Lord Jesus. Dad must be “plugged into” the Vine if there is to be a chance of knowing what God wants his family to do. It may even be something that is good, but if the Lord hasn’t told us to do it, we must not.

Next, don’t seek a ministry, but seek Jesus. Frankly, it may be that the dad and mom with young children do little, if any, “ministry” by themselves outside the home. I’ve seen churches so hungry for male leadership they will take a father away from the home when the mother desperately needs him. There are seasons in life, and raising little ones may demand the full attention of Mom and Dad for several years. That is how the family strengthens their testimony for future years. Later, when they have succeeded in raising up godly children, the seeds and credentials for a strong ministry have been planted.

Dads, we must understand that a “need” is not a call. Only when the Lord clearly says, “Go!” and it does not impede our responsibilities, should we do it. It may be that the Lord has someone else He wants to fill the position (or if it is unprofitable, He doesn’t want it filled at all), and it really wasn’t for us. So if you have little children and are asked to do something that requires even an hour away from your family (few things ever really take only an hour anyway), and you can’t take your children with you each time, then this might not be the time to say “yes.”

A few years back, a friend greatly surprised me by nominating me for a statewide position I should never have accepted. I had a lot of interest in helping the “cause,” but it really wasn’t the season for me. After limping along under the conviction it wasn’t God’s will, I finally had to resign. So the need, a friend’s counsel, and a hurried prayer led to a wrong action. Something that required my time should have had serious prayer. Since my decision to agree to the nomination was needed right then and time would not allow for sufficient prayer time, it was clearly not God’s will for me.

Last evening I heard a radio interview with a retired Navy Blue Angels pilot. He said he felt it was a wonderful career opportunity to show that a Christian could do the job. However, he went on to say he had really struggled with the conviction that he should be home with his children instead of traveling three hundred days a year. I had to turn the radio off! Why wasn’t he man enough to quit and do what God had called him to do first?

The pressing need of our day is for fathers to turn their hearts to their children. Even those of us who think we are involved in our children’s lives need to constantly be on guard to be sure we are looking to their hearts. Taking children to Boy Scouts, T-Ball, and soccer is not turning our hearts to our children. These may be entertaining and fun, but they have little, if any, eternal benefit. Do we want to raise up men and women of God, or worldly, pleasure-seeking children who never mature? Even if some may argue the above is not chaff, no one should argue that if we are not doing what Jesus wants us to do, it is chaff. That is all that matters.

Most of those letters were such an indictment of the modern “Christian” family. Dads, may we hold each other accountable. May we challenge and exhort each other to good works. Are you willing to pour out your life for your family and your Lord, to cherish your wife and delight in her, to count every activity and commitment as chaff unless the Lord directs you to do it?

I would challenge every one of us in this matter. Why not, as husband and wife, agree to eliminate EVERY activity and pursuit? (This includes TV, books, sports, clubs, etc.) Now, prayerfully add back in only those that the Lord clearly says He wants the family and individual to be involved with. Don’t add it back until you can look your wife in the eye and say, “God has told me that we are to do this.” May our Lord welcome us with, “Well done my good and faithful servant,” on His return.

Posted in: Dad's Corner

Dads, Are You the Head of a Christian Home? – Part 8

(Read the previous parts of the series here.) What if a dad wants desperately to have personal and family devotions, but does not know where to begin? Since there are few things more important than this in a Christian home, it warrants making the subject as practical as possible.

Due to the critical nature of consistent, quality devotions, I recommend that a dad find another man to hold him accountable if he has difficulty in having a daily, quality time with the Lord. First, pray about whom God would have you ask. He should be someone who cares about your soul and would take the request for an accountability partner very seriously. It can be discouraging to have someone agree to help and then stop asking how you are doing. I suggest that you not ask your wife. This arrangement may work occasionally, but I believe it is more likely to not be successful.

It might be good if your accountability partner would ask you the following questions each week:

  • How many days did you have devotions last week?
  • How long were they?
  • Where are you reading?
  • Did God reveal any new truths?
  • Did God show any areas of struggle that I could pray for you on?

 

I suggest that you don’t try to do anything else while you have your devotion, such as exercising, driving, or bathing. Would you be pleased if on a date with your wife, she spent her time reading a book? There have been times when I was late for an early morning appointment and decided to have my prayer time in the car, while driving. I can assure you that driving and praying may allow one to check off prayer time technically, but it is not the way to build a relationship! Should we ever give the Lord less than our best?

Here are some suggestions for implementing a personal time with the Lord:

  • Have a set time each day. The days you are off work may require a different time, but pick one that will work for each day.
  • Find someplace where you can be alone. Remember this is time for just you and the Lord.
  • May I encourage you not to use some of the little devotional booklets that are someone else’s thoughts, a touching story, and a few verses. Rather, make it just you, your Lord, and His Word.
  • Concentrate on the application of His Word to your life. Ask yourself how you can apply to your life what you are reading. Learn from the mistakes made by people in the Bible. God recorded those events for our teaching.
  • Ask yourself many questions about the passage. Why did he do that? What should he have done? What priorities are shown in this person’s life? Did he seek God’s direction before making this decision? What are the consequences encountered in a wrong choice? And so on.
  • Don’t try to tackle difficult sections until God leads. Read the four Gospels, Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, and 1 and 2 Kings.

 

Many of these same points are applicable for family devotion. Have no distractions, a set time, accountability, and the Bible as the source. Ask tons of questions of the family and don’t worry about having the answers beforehand. One of the most exciting things I do is to ask the family a very difficult question about a passage. I may have wondered about this question for a long time and then have it answered by one of the children, or by God. God gives new insight on the spot! I could not begin to tell you of all the incredible things God has revealed to us during our family altar time. Other books are fine for additional reading, but this is a time to be focused on God and His Word.

It is okay to feel weak and inadequate. God will give His grace and enable you to lead your family. Your children will respect you, and your wife will be thrilled. I have yet to meet a Christian mom who did not yearn to have her husband be the spiritual leader of the home. Dads, do we truly desire to be the head of a Christian home?

Dads, Are You the Head of a Christian Home? – Part 7

(Read the previous parts of the series here.) “And Noah builded an altar unto the LORD; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And the LORD smelled a sweet savour; and the LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done . . . And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth. . .” (Genesis 8:20-21, 9:1). Following Noah’s exit from the ark, while his family watched, he immediately was led to offer up the first burnt offering recorded in Scripture. God’s response was one of compassion, mercy, and blessing.

Dads, do we want to intimately know and commune with the holy, righteous, living God Almighty? Do we love Jesus? Do we want God’s blessing on our lives and families? Here is a test to see if our answer is from our heart (a committed way of life) or our head (the way we know it should be, but we don’t live it).

What has it taken in the past for us to neglect our personal and family devotions? If the answer was from our heart, it would have taken a crisis, but if it was from the head, it hasn’t taken much. Also worth noting, some will confuse the consequences of not having devotions as the crisis causing them to be missed.

Of course we don’t have a real “altar” in our home as found in the Old Testament. The altar was the place to meet with and get right with the Lord. It was where sin was dealt with. It was a place of repentance and sacrifice. It was also where Abraham proved that God was first in his life. Just how easy is it for you and me to make something else a higher priority than meeting with our Lord?

This time with the Lord is not an outward religious act of seeking to appease an angry God. Rather, it is a time of meeting and of laying hearts bare before the Living Word. It is an opportunity to “present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God” (Romans 12:1). How can I say I love my Lord and want Him to vibrantly live through me, if I don’t cherish time with Him? Wouldn’t you question my sincerity if I claimed to be a Christian and yet didn’t love to spend time with the One I say is my Lord? Wouldn’t you doubt that I had a Christian home if I were not daily bringing my family before the “altar” of the Lord to examine Scripture together?

We read in Leviticus 6:12-13 that the altar fire was never to go out. Someone had to cut and carry the wood, then place it on the fire before it went out. It took effort and diligence. One could not wait until he felt like checking on the fire or for a convenient time, but he had to devote willful, constant attention. I see that as a perfect picture that the cleansing, purifying work of the altar is to be a continual process in our lives. It will take diligence on our part to make sure it happens. As my heart is exposed to God’s Word each morning, He convicts me of my sin. I’m able to confess it and repent of it. Praise God that He is faithful to forgive us of our sins when we ask.

Some time ago, I had deceived myself in misplacing priorities. I was consistently working so late on Saturday nights that I did not get up on Sunday mornings early enough to have time with my Lord Jesus. At church one Sunday, a dear brother, who seldom has much “fluff” to say, told me what a glorious time he had during his quiet time that morning. He mentioned his magnificent time of confession and worship in preparation for worship at church. He shared how his Sunday morning quiet time was consistently the best of the week. God used that dear brother to convict me of my wrong priorities. I had believed the lie that my personal devotion time was not all that important prior to church, since I was going to worship anyway.

Also note in Exodus 40:29 that the altar was near the entrance to the tabernacle. The acknowledgement, confession, repentance, and restitution for sin had to occur before one could enter the temple and worship God. Even though I meet with another brother and pray prior to church, it isn’t the same as special private time alone with my God while the home is still quiet. My time of corporate worship is much more special when I adequately prepare my heart.

I will also confess that having a Saturday morning quiet time is a constant challenge for me. Since my routine is different every Saturday, it takes extra effort to make sure I have allowed time to meet with my Lord. However, once God convicted me that it was my pride that caused me not to make time with Him the highest priority, I have been able to be consistent in meeting with Him.

Most dads are busy, but if that were used as an excuse to neglect time with our wives, it would lead to an unhealthy relationship. In the same way, if we neglect time with our children, they will quickly seek love and acceptance from others. Truly, how we spend our time reflects our priorities.

If we slight our time with the Lord Jesus, individually or as a family, it reveals the most serious character problem we could have–our pride. It shows whom, deep down in our soul, we are really depending on. If we truly believe God is responsible for every aspect of our lives, we would seek to spend time with Him. We would want to get direction from Him, to lay out the problems we are encountering before Almighty God. Some will wait until they are in the middle of a crisis to call on the Lord, after they have been neglecting Him. He desires to lead us, as His flock, to places of pasture and away from danger.

Frequently, while I’m speaking with a brother, he acknowledges struggles in his Christian walk and does not know God’s direction. I will ask if he is having daily personal and family devotions. I’m never surprised to learn he is not having a quiet time with the Lord in the morning. We cannot have fellowship with God, know His direction for us, and bypass the “altar.”

May we be zealous for loving, serving, and spending time with the Lord Jesus. May we be the heads of Christian homes.

Dads, Are You the Head of a Christian Home? – Part 6

(Read the previous parts of the series here.) A bright, blue Saturday a couple months ago as Nathan, Christopher, Joseph, John, and I were leaving City Union Mission, we saw a B-2 bomber making a thundering fly-by. We realized it was the weekend for the Kansas City air show. We had been told the air show had some incredible aircraft on display, and every male in my family would have loved the chance to look over the airplanes.

Unfortunately, the air shows around here always play loud rock music. We will not go to them since I have purposed that I will not trade a few minutes of aircraft excitement for the filling of our souls with the wicked audio influence of our world. On the way home, we decided we would ask a neighbor to record the portion about the air show from the 6 o’clock news. We did this, and there was no little excitement when the videotape arrived later that evening.

I put the tape in the VCR, and hit “play” to an excited crowd of young ones. Before I could get to where I could see, Sarah, who had just entered, exclaimed that the little ones needed to look away quickly. To my incredible disappointment, indignation, and mounting feeling of violation, there was a preview of some TV show with ladies in underwear, right before the 6 o’clock news began.

“. . . for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14). A Christian home is a home where the things that are acceptable to the world are not present. It is a place of purity. It is wholesome. It is not defrauding. It does not entice lust. Is it any wonder that “Christian” youth, who have watched TV all of their lives, are as involved in immorality as the youth of the world?

In Acts, chapter 21, when the Jews thought that Paul had defiled the temple by bringing Greeks into it, they closed the temple doors. “And all the city was moved, and the people ran together: and they took Paul, and drew him out of the temple: and forthwith the doors were shut” (Acts 21:30). God’s home on earth, the temple, was to be pure, and the things that defile it were to be shut out. They pulled Paul out of the temple, and the doors were slammed shut!

Dads, are we owning this responsibility? Do we zealously guard the purity of our children and ourselves? Homeschooling our children is a worthy accomplishment, but if their souls are drawn away, what really have we gained?

Often I have heard the statement, “We are careful what we allow our family to watch.” Simply in light of the six o’clock news, how many believe that is even possible? Please, don’t receive this as judgmental; receive it as one brother pleading with another. There have been times when a brother loved my soul and encouraged me in some positive way that challenged me. If you watch any TV at all, would you receive this encouragement from me? Our every activity should be at the direction of the Lord Jesus. Have you asked Him?

Truly, the heart is full of every evil imagination and is the source of evil, but Satan uses vehicles like TV to stir it up. Why would any father ever hand Satan the tools to destroy the purity and innocence of his children, not to mention temptations for the father himself? David said, “I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me” (Psalms 101:3). Why would a father allow glamorous people into his home selling and promoting (selling through commercials and promoting through unwholesome programs) lewd dress, alcohol, immorality, squandering of time, and a godless worldview?

It was David’s lack of control over his eyes that led to the downfall of his family. Men, I see that happen in many “Christian” homes as well; don’t let it happen to yours. Like our Shepherd, the Lord Jesus, Who guards His flock, the church, we are to protect our family from evil. “Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep” (John 10:7). The shepherd was prepared to give his life for the sheep to protect them–are we?

Certainly, many, many other areas require our diligence as well. However, may I encourage you that cutting off the TV is a great place to start. May we all agree with Paul when he said, “. . . I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil” (Romans 16:19). It is not God’s way to teach both the good and evil. God’s way is for us all to be innocent concerning evil.

As I pointed out earlier, the temple doors were to shut out evil, and we are the “door” that shuts out evil to our home. However, it isn’t enough to shut out the darkness. If that is all we have done, it still is dark inside. It is only when we bring in the blessed light of Jesus Christ that we have light. Just as He was the focus in God’s home on earth, may the focus in our homes be Jesus Christ, not the TV. My heart breaks at the image of families huddled around the TV in the evenings. Even if there were no evil, what a waste of precious time it is. Again, dads, are we the head of a Christian home?

Dads, Are You the Head of a Christian Home? – Part 5

(Read the previous parts of the series here.) It is much better to ask ourselves this question now than when our children are years older and set in their ways. There are many aspects of a true Christian home that we have “discussed” for several months now. Something important to remember is that these are merely outward evidences of the fact that Jesus Christ is indwelling, and the Lord of Dad’s and Mom’s hearts. It is not enough to just demonstrate these outward characteristics. It all must begin with a changed heart when Jesus Christ comes into our lives.

Most of us would agree that one of the major reasons we homeschool our children is to raise up godly seed. “And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed” (Malachi 2:15).

We expend much effort in setting the right example, and in consistent training, in our desire to teach children to be ambassadors of Christ. A great danger, though, is that the focus often tends toward outward exhibition of Christ-like character. If we dress them up and they act right, we have succeeded, right? Wrong! We know that God looks on the heart and man looks on the outer appearance. We don’t want to neglect the former because it truly is our hearts that God desires. “But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

It is interesting to listen to preaching on child training on the radio. Some would indicate godly character is caught and not taught. Others suggest it is the technique we use to train our children that produces the results. Yes, those two aspects are important, but probably the most critical aspect of raising children is often overlooked. I like to refer to the three aspects of raising children as the legs on a three-legged stool. Each one is dependent on the other two. But which leg of a three-legged stool is the most important? Obviously, it is whichever one is missing.

The first leg is the righteous, set apart, God loving/fearing lives of the parents. The second is a biblical-based, consistent approach to parenting. The third is faithful, fervent, intercessory prayer, asking a holy, righteous God to work in the hearts of the children as they grow. “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalms 51:10). “O LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, our fathers, keep this for ever in the imagination of the thoughts of the heart of thy people, and prepare their heart unto thee: And give unto Solomon my son a perfect heart, to keep thy commandments, thy testimonies, and thy statutes, and to do all these things . . .” (1 Chronicles 29:18-19). You see, it is God who works in the hearts of men, and we must cry out to Him to work in our children’s hearts.

I admit that prayer is the easiest for me to omit, and that reveals an area of character weakness in my life. It is pride that leads us to believe that, if we are a good enough example and train our children properly, they will become mighty men and women of God. I strongly believe that is why so many fail. The children look and act good, but their hearts really haven’t been changed. The same pride in the parent’s lives has reproduced itself into the life of the child. Our prayer for God to work in our children’s hearts is that hidden labor that only an omniscient God sees and hears. To the rest of the world, we may appear to have a wonderful Christian home, raising wonderful Christians. However, if the children eventually rebel or, just as bad, come to love the world and are effectively neutered as Christians, we see the real outcome of children raised without intercessory prayer.

Yes, God’s temple was a place of prayer. Jesus said that His Father’s house was to be called a “House of prayer.” In the same way, if we would say a “house of brick” or a “house of wood” or a “house of straw,” this implies what the house is built from. Are our homes built on prayer? Christian homes are. Is prayer such an integral part of our lives that we are pleading with our Lord about every aspect of raising our children? If we aren’t, sadly, it reveals the pride in our lives: “We can do it without God.” We may not think that, but when something is manifested in our actions it indicates the hidden core belief.

Dads, may we honestly evaluate whether or not our homes are homes of prayer–Christian homes.

Dads, Are You the Head of a Christian Home? – Part 4

(To read the previous articles in the series, please see this link.) I am amazed at all of the fantastic, fun things there are on this earth for our pleasure. I loved the challenge and sensations of flying small planes. I loved the wind and salt spray in my face as I would tack a small sailboat into the wind. I loved the rush of acceleration and breeze as the motorcycle gained speed on the highway. I loved canoeing down a spring rain-swollen stream with the sound of rushing water in my ears. It has been many years since I enjoyed those activities, because I know how easily my heart is drawn into them. Are any of those things sin? Most would say, “No, of course not! God gave us this world to enjoy.”

Am I saying that these things are bad? No, they are not inherently bad. I know many missionaries rely on small planes for supplies and might use canoes or motorcycles in their travels. However, they are not good if they are getting in the way of something better the Lord has to offer. You see, I know my own heart, how easily it is distracted from my Lord Jesus and what He has called me to do. Fun activities of self-indulgence get in the way of raising godly children and serving our Lord by stealing away the time God would want me to use for His work. So, what is the point of all of this?

As we continue our discussion on God’s blueprint for a Christian home, we see another aspect of God’s earthly home, the temple; it was a place of sacrifice. It was where a vivid picture of our Lord Jesus’ final sacrifice was presented repeatedly before the eyes of those present. I say final because His life was a sacrifice day by day and ended with the greatest sacrifice on the cross. The priests were involved in the bloody, messy work of daily sacrificing in the temple. Have you ever wondered why God chose to make blood red? He could have made it so that it didn’t stain the clothes of those involved in the sacrifice. However, because it was red, everyone knew who was involved in the sacrifice.

I see a wonderful picture for us dads in all of this. The Lord Jesus calls dads of Christian homes to a life of sacrifice. There are so many wonderfully fun things in this world to spend our time, attention, and money on. However, if we do, we can be sure we will create the same passions in the lives of our children. So, instead of raising children with a zeal for the Lord Jesus and serving Him with their whole heart, body, soul, and strength, we will have produced children with a love for the fun and entertaining things of this world. On the other hand, when our desire is to sacrifice our lives for our Lord, we demonstrate the spirit of God’s design for the father of a Christian home, and thereby reproduce children of like mind and heart.

God gives us good gifts so we can give them back to Him. Our family, our time, and our money are all to be laid on the altar for His glory. I desire to lay it all down before my Lord. I truly want God’s best for my life. I know that if I give it back to Him, He will make the best of it. If I give Him my right to recreation and having “time for myself,” I know that He will pour out such blessings as I cannot imagine. I look at the lives of true men of God such as Hudson Taylor and George Mueller. They wanted God’s best and abandoned their own interests. I see them as men filled with joy and a passion for their Lord.

Sadly, I believe that is what makes the distinction between a Christian home and one of the world’s. A worldly home is where the father has his attention on the fun things the world has to offer because he knows he has to “get all the gusto” he can now. The attitude that we can do whatever we want as long as we don’t “cross the line of sin” is wrong. The father of a Christian home is working here now, with the anticipation of eternity with his Lord.

Jesus did and said only what His Father told Him to. “. . . The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise” (John 5:19). As we read about Jesus’ life, we see no mention of His having His own time for fun. His was a life of sacrifice!

I’m humbled when I look at my Lord’s life and feel that I’m still holding on to so much of my own pleasures. I pray God would continue to work in my life as He reveals the joy of sacrifice. May we dads never settle for anything less than God’s best.

Dads, Are You the Head of a Christian Home? – Part 3

Is your home a Christian home? Do you desire to raise godly children? If so, why and how important is it to you? Would we say that it is the burning desire of our hearts? If someone were to ask you what God’s primary purpose for marriage is, what would you tell him? I believe how we answer these questions is key to whether we have a Christian home or not.

“And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth” (Malachi 2:15). We read in Malachi that God’s purpose for marriage was to raise up godly seed, which means children who will bring God honor and glory. So raising godly children is not just a good idea, not just a popular discussion topic at homeschool meetings, not just for the pastor or elders, but it is what God intends to be fruit from every marriage. A Christian home is the necessary environment for such precious fruit.

Last month we saw that when the idols of the world invaded God’s home, the temple, it was no longer a place where His Spirit would dwell. We applied that figuratively to our homes. The next reasonable question is, when does God’s Spirit dwell in our homes? 1 Corinthians 3:11 tells us, “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” And then in verse 16 we read, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” Jesus Christ is to live in us and to be the foundation for our homes. This is not a matter of simple preference or religious practice. This is the question for fathers to answer: “Is Jesus Christ my Savior and the Lord of my life?” Jesus Christ is the foundation of our life and our home.

We can’t expect godly offspring if we aren’t a child of God ourselves. Becoming a child of God happens when we repent of our sins and place our trust in Christ’s shedding of His blood for the remission of our sins. That takes care of the first part. Unfortunately, many never go beyond and make Christ the Lord of their life. That is often where idols enter. If Jesus Christ isn’t Lord of a man’s life, the man himself will reign over his life. When we are reigning on the throne of our heart, we will fill our life with the “things/idols” of this world. The love for our Lord will not be there.

Our focus, our joy, and our passion is to be the Lord Jesus. “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved” (1 Corinthians 10:31-33). Then in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” Also, read in Colossians 3:17, “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.”

This is a perfect picture of our homes built on the foundation of Jesus Christ, and we, as fathers, walking as our Lord Jesus did. This is not talking about outward religious conformity, but a man deeply in love with his Lord and seeking to please Him in every way. It becomes clear that selling out to his Lord is not for the cowardly. It takes a real man!

However, some might say, “Why try? That is impossible. Jesus was perfect, and I’m far from perfect.” Yes, that is true, Jesus was perfect, but He lived His life in submission to the Father. I marvel that even though Jesus is God, He chose to do only what the Father told Him to do or say. “. . . The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise” (John 5:19). Then in John 12:49, “For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak.” Jesus gave us the perfect example of Lordship–surrendering one’s will.

Men, we can’t lead our family until we learn to follow our Lord. We have no hope of a Christian home, and resulting godly offspring, unless Jesus Christ dwells in us and is our foundation. He must be our Lord in practice, not just speech. We should seek the best always, and never settle for anything less. When we choose anything but God’s best for our family, we are leading our family astray. Christ chose to follow the Father’s every decision. May we choose what Christ says is best for our family. May we be men of God and provide our children with a Christian home.

P.S. One additional thought. In Malachi 2:15-16 we read, “And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth. For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.” Note in particular where God warns men about divorce. It is a very stern warning about breaking the covenant we made with our wives. God holds us accountable for how we treat our wives. Admittedly these men were divorcing their wives, but we are held to a much higher standard. We are to treat our wives as Christ treated the church. He died for her.

Dads, Are You the Head of a Christian Home? – Part 2

A word of caution before reading on! This month’s Corner is a tough one to share. It is possible there will be some reaction to it. Please don’t shoot the messenger! Take this before the Lord, and if you then feel God has intended this for you, receive it. If, after praying about it, you are convinced it isn’t of the Lord, just ignore it.

I laid a foundation last month by suggesting that God gave families the blueprint for a Christian home. That blueprint was His home on earth–the temple. The temple is a beautiful picture of what a Christian home should be like; we can model our home after His. Of course not literally, but God often uses “types” and “pictures” to help teach us. We can learn much from His home on earth.

First, think about what made God’s temple different from any other building. The temple was just stone, wood, and gold until the glorious Spirit of the living, holy, mighty God came down and filled it. So our house is just another earthly house until God’s Spirit is able to dwell there. (I understand that our body is God’s temple now, but this is just a discussion of types.)

Our homes (and our bodies), as the temple, are to be holy and set apart to the Lord. Isaiah 64:11 says, “Our holy and our beautiful house, where our fathers praised thee. . . .” In 2 Chronicles 3:8 we find, “And he made the most holy house. . . .” I think none would argue that the temple was a holy place.

I have been in many homes where I sensed God’s spirit. My pastor’s home is like that. I also remember an unbeliever from Holland resting comfortably in our living room and saying he felt such a sense of peace, as he had never experienced before.

Now notice Psalms 79:1, which says, “O God, the heathen are come into thine inheritance; thy holy temple have they defiled. . . .” Note the temple was defiled by the nations invading it. When the world enters the temple, it is no longer holy; it is defiled, and the Lord will not be there.

We defile our homes by bringing the world and its idols in. So the million-dollar question is, “What are the idols of the world that we shouldn’t bring in?” First, admittedly, anything can become an idol by usurping the supreme place in our heart that belongs to our Lord Jesus. There are necessary “things” such as jobs, food, and sleep that we can’t avoid, but must learn to control them lest they too become idols. However, there are other “things” that the American male has clearly made into idols, but as Christians, we don’t have to have anything to do with them. What are they? I suspect the top four are: team sports (participating or viewing), watching TV, entertainment, and alcohol. You may come up with more, but few would argue that these are very high on the list.

Dads, may we never allow the idols of the world in our homes. The Holy Spirit had some very strong words, which He spoke through James. “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). Friendship, in the Greek, is defined as only a fondness/friendship. That is far less strong than the word “fan” which many men use to describe themselves. The term “fan” is short for fanatic. God’s Word is really very decisive in this passage. We can’t serve two masters. To evaluate just what we value, we might ask our wives and children to list the top ten things that they see are important to us.

It has been over ten years now since we stopped watching TV. However, I can still remember the conflict the TV presented for me. Just having it upstairs dulled my desire for the Word of God. When we quit watching it, I felt a sense of freedom and renewed desire for His Word.

Dads, we need to live the life we want our children to model. I want my children to see each minute as a precious gift from God, to be used for His glory. That means when I am not working or sleeping, I want to be ministering inside or outside of the home. I want my children to enjoy serving others. If they learn to take joy in blessing others, they will never lack for joy. I can’t tell you the delight it gives me to go to the City Union Mission with my sons and have them all say they really enjoyed going.

May we never settle for second best. Let us always seek God’s best. A Christian home will be different from the world’s homes. Is yours a Christian home?