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.

Halloween and Halloween Alternatives

Sometimes I marvel at God’s plan for marriage when I think that He chose two opposites and brought them together to make them one. “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). God provides us a beautiful picture of taking two objects and combining them into one new object that cannot again be divided without doing damage to those who were joined.

We recently had to strip wallpaper off the bathroom walls as it had suffered at the hands of little children for many years. In addition to that, there were quite a few late nights running a steaming hot shower so a croupy little one could breath. That room full of steam had soaked the seams of the wallpaper to where they were opening up and peeling back. I was confident it would be quick work to remove as it looked like it was already falling off the walls. Unfortunately, when the original owners had hung the wallpaper, they had chosen to apply it directly to unprimered sheetrock. The glue had soaked into the sheetrock in many places, providing a great example of two becoming one. It was impossible to separate them without doing considerable damage to both. (In the same way, some marriages that are coming apart at the seams would appear to be easily dissolved in divorce, but severely damaged lives result.)

Imagine for a minute that your wife came to you with a special request. “Honey, I know this may sound a little funny to you, but you will never guess who called me today! Jack Howard. You know, he was the one I told you about who was the boy next door when I was growing up. I couldn’t believe it! It has been so many years since I saw him, and just the other day I was wondering what ever happened to him. We were neighbors for ten years; he was like a brother to me. There were no other playmates near us, so we were best friends and did everything together. We had such great times together. Well, he is going to be coming back to town once a year for a conference of some sort, and he wondered if I might be able to spend some time with him–for memories’ sake. He said we could go out for a nice dinner, and then he would bring me home before it got late. What do you think? I can hardly believe it. I’m so glad you know I love you and aren’t jealous in any way. I told him it would be okay as I was sure that you wouldn’t mind. It is so wonderful to be married to you. I feel such freedom in our marriage and I knew it would be fine with you.”

God gave us the marriage relationship to give us an earthly example of our relationship with Christ. That is why, when Israel sought other gods, God called them adulterers. “And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also” (Jeremiah 3:8).

God wanted the Israelites to understand the pain that He felt when they did not give Him their complete love and affection. That is why He had Hosea marry Gomer, so that Hosea would know how God felt when the Israelites left Him for “someone” else. “. . . And the LORD said to Hosea, Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms: for the land hath committed great whoredom, departing from the LORD” (Hosea 1:2).

Why don’t we think of God as being jealous over us? We know how He was provoked to jealousy by the Israelites following after other gods. Why don’t we think that our attitudes and actions also cause Him to be jealous of us? “Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments” (Exodus 20:5-6). I have come to believe that for my family to participate in Halloween would be committing spiritual adultery. I have come to believe that to participate in the high, holy day of evil (from a Christian perspective) would be the equivalent of my wife going out with another man for dinner.

Just because Teri and I had pleasant youthful memories of going through the neighborhood on Halloween is no justification for us to participate in this holiday. I don’t want to teach my children that there can ever be sufficient rationale to forsake our Lord. Just because my wife is confident of my love, I do not want her spending time alone with another man. (Please don’t e-mail me and say you would have no problem with your wife spending time with another man in the above situation. It isn’t that I don’t trust her, but I prize my relationship so highly that I don’t want to take any chances. Also, one would have to consider the issue of the appearance of evil for a wife to be seen having dinner with another man.) I believe my Lord does not want my family spending time in a wicked celebration regardless of whether our intentions are good or evil. It would not matter how innocent a wife’s intentions could be in having dinner, or ours in participating in Halloween–it does not change the fact that we would be spending time with “another.”

I know some will say, “Steve, don’t worry about it, you are now free in Christ.” Many don’t understand the purpose of our freedom. Yes, we are free in Christ, but free to serve Him only–we are not free to do whatever we want. “For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:2). God desires that we are pure and set apart to Him only. “For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:20). In good conscience I cannot let my family participate in a “holiday” where the dead, wicked, and evil are glorified. Some might encourage our family to participate in the neighborhood activities to better relate to them and possibly win them to the Lord. I would consider it if I saw in Scripture Jesus participating in evil activities to win the lost. He was with sinners, but He did not join in their evil practices. “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14). Regardless of how Teri and I wanted to justify the children’s participation in Halloween, it was clear that we could not. It does not take much thought to see how wickedness is glorified and darkness triumphs. (If we want to win our neighbors to the Lord, we should serve them.)

Others might encourage me not to worry about “eating meat sacrificed at the temple.” I believe this analogy is often misused. To purchase Halloween candy at the store and eat it with a clear conscience is how I believe that verse could properly be applied. I don’t believe for a minute that Paul would participate in a pagan sacrifice at the temple. That is how I would feel if my family were to participate in Halloween.

Just how much attention would your wife have to give another man before you were jealous? What if she only went to dinner once a year? What if it was something that she looked forward to? What if he did nothing more than hold her hand as she got out of the car? What if she said the other man wasn’t special to her, but she wanted to use the dinner opportunity to witness to him? I want Teri to love me with her whole heart and want to spend time with me–not someone else. I would not be comforted if she told me the other man meant nothing to her, but she just wanted to relive those wonderful old times together.

My good intentions to let the children have fun and be a part of the neighborhood do not change the fact that my family would be participating in a wicked event. Halloween stands for absolutely nothing good! I can easily picture the Lord Jesus Christ being jealous and hurt when those He has bought with His own precious blood are participating in such a “celebration.”

What is there to “gain” by it? Wouldn’t I be teaching my children that participating in evil is acceptable as long as there is some sweet reward? Rather, shouldn’t I teach them to avoid evil? “And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ” (Philippians 1:9-10). Let’s not quibble about where the line of sin is but use good judgment and choose things that are excellent. May God give each of us wisdom to lead our family in righteousness.

Posted in: Dad's Corner

A Man and His Dawg

Our children are similar to most in that they love pets, especially dogs. When we visited someone’s home and they had a dog, the poor thing would be smothered by our children’s love and attention. Inevitably, on our way home one or more would ask if we could get a dog. My answer was always, “We raise children in our home, not pets. However, you may certainly pray about it.” You can be sure they did!

About two years ago the strangest thing happened–I would often find myself thinking about buying the children a dog. It was the funniest thing; it wasn’t just to be a dog but was to be a golden retriever. I knew the thought was crazy, as I didn’t even know what one looked like; I knew it would be lots of trouble; I knew Teri would be against it because everyone already had many responsibilities; and I knew my in-laws would think I’d gone off the deep end. But–I just couldn’t shake it. In fact, I began to believe the Lord was the One behind it. Once I realized it might be of the Lord, I began to look for confirmation.

One day, during my regular walk with my father-in-law, I broached the subject to him. He has a heart for his “little girl” (as you would expect), and I was sure he would advise against anything that would increase her responsibilities in keeping the house clean. If I remember right, there were two words out of his mouth, “Great idea!” I was shocked.

After such a positive response from Grandad, I reasoned that if the Lord was in it, Teri would likely be in favor of it as well. Boy, was I surprised by her response. Not only was she in favor of it, but also she said, “Why don’t we get two, a boy and a girl?” Since I was feeling God’s leading, and Teri was in favor, the decision to purchase the pup was quickly made. So, what have I learned through the process of introducing a dog into the Maxwells’ home?

First, some might think (with a light chuckle) that I no longer encourage the children to pray about something I’m against. Quite the opposite, I’m very much in favor of it. It is excellent for the family to see that God rules in the heart of their father, and the Lord can easily change Dad’s heart if He chooses to. They were able to see God turn their daddy’s heart. They have seen God answer other prayer requests, but this one was extra special to them.

Next, God has shown me how patient I can be with an animal that is not always obedient. You know how it is. Haven’t we all secretly been amused to watch a neighbor frantically calling out to a totally deaf, unresponsive dog, “Maverick, come here. Come here now. Hurry up and get in here. Right now. I mean it.” On and on it goes. The dog is having a great time and the owner looks and sounds quite silly. And yes, I have “been there, done that” during those early training months. In spite of the pup’s initial obedience struggles, I generally remained quite calm. The Holy Spirit has prompted me with this question, “Am I just as calm and patient with my children?” I am ashamed to say that I have actually been more longsuffering with a silly dog (just an expression) than with God’s precious heritage. That lesson continues to weigh heavy on my heart.

Sarah, my oldest daughter, will occasionally tease me by saying, “Come on Daddy, admit it, you love that dog.” What is there to admit? How could I say I love a dog? I love my children and Teri, but I can’t see “loving” a dog (please, no e-mails from anyone who does). Without playing word games, isn’t love really a choice that is demonstrated by actions? So, if Sarah watches the way I patiently interact with the dog, scratch its neck, and offer to let the dog ride along in the car when I’m going somewhere, she might draw the conclusion that I love that dog!

Sarah’s question was used by the Holy Spirit to teach me the greatest lesson, and it is worth dwelling on. By observing my interaction with the dog, Sarah was reasoning that I loved the dog. The question that came to my heart was, “If someone observes the way I interact with Teri, the way I hold her hand, stroke her neck, help her, and whether I want to be with her, will they conclude that I greatly love my wife?” I can have wonderful discussions with my children as we talk about how we treat those we love, but do they actually observe their father acting that way? Am I a hypocrite living for my own pleasure or a man of God demonstrating true love for his wife?

Have you ever thought about how easily a family could fill the roll of a jury if the father’s love was on trial? (Not just a guilty or innocent verdict, but evaluating it on a scale such as a jury might award damages.) My family observes how I act toward Teri. They know if I’m demonstrating true love to their mother. We may be able to put on nice faces when we go to church, but there is no fooling the children. My example, whether good or bad, is making a deep impression on their lives.

A worthy question each father could consider asking himself is, “Am I choosing to exercise true love toward my wife, or is my love a pretense?” Jeremiah 3:10-11 is great for showing us what God thinks of pretense: “And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah hath not turned unto me with her whole heart, but feignedly, saith the LORD. And the LORD said unto me, The backsliding Israel hath justified herself more than treacherous Judah.” God calls living a life based on outward show treacherous and unfaithful. He said that backsliding Israel was better than Judah who was not sincere. That is a very heavy indictment for any dad whose love for his wife is a pretense.

I don’t know about you, but I struggle greatly with selfishness. It is so easy for me to focus on my needs and myself. As long as my needs are being met, I can be very satisfied with how things are going at home. Something tells me that this is true for most dads. We will go on our merry way while our wives struggle under the burden of keeping house, homeschooling, and being wife and mother (all the while feeling unappreciated and maybe defeated). I think that if we had as “full a plate” as our wives we would often feel like quitting. Most men I know leave a job long before it gets that bad.

However, when I lavish my love on Teri, both verbally and by my actions, she is better able to face the challenges each day brings, knowing how much I love her and appreciate all she does.

I believe that Christian homeschooling dads are blessed with the most wonderful wives on the face of this earth. Our wives are walking down a road that requires great personal sacrifice. They would have so much more time on their hands, and far less challenges, if they weren’t teaching the children. Think about the character your wife demonstrates and how fortunate you are to have a wife like that! Truly, may our children see a father who loves their mother with a deep, genuine, and true love.

Posted in: Dad's Corner

A Husband’s Perspective on His Wife’s Depression

We have had so many e-mail us to ask about how we dealt with the depression Teri suffered from years ago, we decided to write this month’s Corners on it. It is important to remember that we are not doctors giving advice but believers sharing our experience. What I am writing in this Dad’s Corner is a result of what the Lord taught me through the years Teri struggled with times of depression. Depression was a part of her life off and on for about fifteen years. It was the worst when I worked long hours and traveled a great deal. Only in the last eight years has the Lord brought Teri out of those dark times. Not only was the depression something Teri had to cope with, but it obviously had an impact on the children and me as well.

When a wife is suffering with depression, it can be very difficult for the family. Depending on the age of the children, they may be aware of it and asking questions as to why Mommy is crying or sad. There don’t seem to be any easy answers. However, everyone is in agreement that they want Mommy happy again.

Working through issues in my mind was critical to developing a godly perspective on Teri’s depression. It was very easy to think about myself and not the pain Teri was suffering. I believe that was absolutely the first and most important step: that I would get my mind off of myself and focus on my wife’s and children’s needs. Isn’t that what we are really called to do as husbands and fathers? Isn’t that a perfect picture of the shepherd who is tenderly caring for an injured sheep?

I had to realize that God was not surprised by the situation. He had a plan for it. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:28-29). God desired to use my wife’s depression to conform me into the image of His Son Jesus Christ. It is interesting to note that the word “conform” is from the Greek word “morphe,” from which we get the word morph. His desire is to morph us into the image of Christ. Are we willing?

It may mean that there are “things” in my life that are hindering God’s conforming me into the image of Christ. I believe that God uses problems in a wife’s (and children’s) life to bring serious pressure to bear on a husband. As long as things are smooth sailing, we might not be willing to deal with areas that may be displeasing to the Lord. However, as the pain grows in my family, I become increasingly more willing to surrender what I might not previously have let go. I have now learned to use every serious difficulty that our family faces as motivation to cry out to God to examine my life and for Him to point out sin that He wants to eliminate. Pain in the family can become a wonderful stimulus to seek God’s will for change in my life.

I also saw my wife’s struggles as opportunities to show her my love. It is easy to love someone when she is pleasant and meeting my needs, but what about when her eyes are swollen from crying, and she isn’t much fun to be around? Maybe it isn’t too difficult for one or two days, but what about when it is longer than that? Truly, I could demonstrate that I meant my wedding vows by choosing to love Teri through better or worse. Whether my wife is discouraged all the time or just a few days a month, I must be understanding and love her as Christ loved the church. “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25). Those are not just nice-sounding words used to fill up an empty page; God commanded us husbands to live them out. I must choose to give of myself in whatever way God tells me to. “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). So what does “according to knowledge” mean? Vine’s Expository Dictionary amplifies it as “to come to understand.” I needed to understand the struggles my wife was having. I needed to shoulder the load she was stumbling under.

When Teri was depressed, I had to learn how to listen. As I prayerfully listened I heard about things that I had not adequately dealt with, things that produce bitterness and hurt. Unresolved offenses are fertile ground for Satan to sow seeds of doubt and discouragement in a wife’s heart.

As I listened, I heard about areas of intense struggle with the children that she did not have answers for and that led to frustration. Again, they had to be dealt with as well. A dad may hear that his wife is discouraged because she is too busy while accomplishing too little. Dads often can be the cause of encouraging lots of activities for the children. This can be terribly draining to Mom of both energy and time, not to mention introducing many additional character problems with the children. We need to be prepared to encourage the elimination of unproductive use of time and be willing to help. It might mean doing the grocery shopping or cleaning house; whatever it takes, we should be prepared to do it as long as necessary. Although one caution is that I don’t believe it would have been good for Teri if she’d had nothing to do. Idleness gives Satan much opportunity for working in a person’s mind. A certain balance of work and rest is good, but having nothing to do is harmful.

One thing I learned was that doing the family budget was stressful for Teri. She had begun doing it to free up some of my time. However, it was adding to the pressure she was under and was actually hindering me from being financially responsible. I have found, and now believe, that it is good for the husband to manage the finances so he feels the financial pressure. I am freer with money than Teri is, and when she tracked the spending, it caused her to worry. However, if I have to manage it and see the bills, I’m more likely to be careful. I now handle the finances–not as efficiently as she did, but adequately and without her having the pressure.

There could be other areas of responsibility that a wife has taken on that really should be her husband’s. When a wife is shouldering any extra load that God did not intend for her to, it can clearly lead to depression. Unfortunately, most wives will quickly step in to take over an area when the husband is not doing the job.

There are many things I don’t understand about women, and one in particular is the effect clutter has on them. I can be content with a closet so full it takes a week to find something in it! As long as the door is closed, I’m fine. Not so with most women. There is something about clutter that nags at a woman’s heart and will bring her down. I know that when I help Teri by building storage areas and weeding things out, she is unbelievably grateful. It is as if a big weight is lifted from her shoulders.

When she was struggling, I needed to understand that her choice of words might be less gracious than normal. I had to be prepared to be loving and accepting anyway. The situation would not have been improved if I became insensitive and offended because she was more direct now than at other times. Truly, we need to be men of understanding. Next, I believe that the husband needs to take full responsibility for his wife’s depression. “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” (Ephesians 5:23). It was not my wife’s problem, but it was my problem. We are one, and if part of the union is hurting, we are both hurting. Unless I took full responsibility for my wife’s depression, I was not going to have the compassion that God desired for me to have, and I would not have been crying out to Him for direction. I believe that most of what Teri is sharing in her Mom’s Corner is a result of God answering our prayers. It was not a pamphlet we picked up somewhere, but our Lord hearing our cries to Him and slowly showing us new things.

Just after moving to Florida in 1980, I was extremely troubled and concerned for her. I was led to fast and pray about the situation. God is so good! In my heart, I felt strongly that He told me not to worry, but to be loving, patient, and supportive. I would have preferred a quick solution, but God had as much for me to learn as He did for Teri. One of the most critical things I did was closely maintain my walk with the Lord and do everything I could to encourage Teri in her walk. “The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him” (Psalms 28:7). Oh, how great our pride to ever think that we can get along without a close walk with the Lord. During times of depression the mind can play all sorts of games, and to focus on God and His truth is imperative. If we have neglected the Lord, we must repent and turn to Him. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Taking responsibility also will ensure that I am not being judgmental. It was easy to become impatient and critical. However, Teri would have given anything to be herself, and it was not a wrong choice she was making. If anyone could have just willed it differently she would have, but she couldn’t. “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). Again, God commanded me to love my wife as Christ loved the church.

Don’t be distracted by “non-issues.” Often when Teri felt bad, she would think some circumstance must be the cause. Most things were not really the cause of her feelings, but they would seem very monumental at the time. We would discuss it, and I, in typical male fashion, would come in and tell her how to fix it. Finally, it dawned on me that what she needed was someone to listen to her. I didn’t have to fix it, just listen! There were times when I would ask her, as she would begin to share a problem, “Honey, do you want me to listen or fix it?” That helped so much as I finally understood, at that moment, that all I needed to do was be sympathetic and listen to her. I think this was one of the most challenging lessons God had for me. To my shame, there are times now when I really just need to listen and not jump ahead to a solution. So much still to learn and so little time.

In our experience and that of people I’ve spoken to, there just doesn’t seem to be a “silver bullet.” Unfortunately, that is what we usually want. We need to be very cautious if one is proposed–a quick fix so we can get back on track and things can be normal again. Husbands, we must get our heart fixed on Christ, and be prepared that it could take a while. How long before our sovereign God says it is enough? Obviously, no one knows, but we need to set our expectations such that if it takes years, then we will minister in whatever way God calls us to during that time.

That is about all I could think of that God might have me share. Truly, it can be such an awful time for husbands and wives. I think the easiest to deal with was when the depression was mostly caused by my failures. Then, if I’m willing to humble myself, God is able to resolve the situation fairly quickly. However, God designed women the way they are for a purpose. Hormones are not a design flaw; our wives are perfect according to His plan. When the depression is physiological in nature, it might last a while, and we need to be the strong, faithful shepherd that God desires us to be. This won’t happen in our own strength, but it can happen when we are in full, complete dependence on the Lord Jesus Christ. He is our strength and our shield. All praise to Him.

We’ve Reversed a Bad Decision

Before you read any Dad’s Corner, may I share a caution? Dad’s Corners are from a father’s heart to another father’s heart. It is our desire that these Corners would build the family up and never create a controversy between a husband and wife. It is possible to undermine our goal if a mom read and agreed with a Dad’s Corner and the husband didn’t. Never would we want to undermine respect for Dad in the direction he has chosen for the family. Therefore, we would encourage moms not to read Dad’s Corners first, unless as a couple, you have discussed and agreed who should read the Dad’s Corner first.

Recently I loaded the five younger children into the van so we could be off for Kansas City. The children’s big toy (backyard climbing playhouse) was in need of some repair. After about seven years in the Kansas sun, dry rotting had weakened some of the dowels and boards. Our mission was to buy the necessary replacement parts.

Each Saturday I try to spend some time with the younger children by running errands or on building projects. It is a special joy for me to spend time with them. Understand, I’m not saying that they are perfect every minute as we do have opportunities for growth (either on their part or mine). However, in general, I love being with my children, and next to Teri, there is no one I would prefer to spend time with. In between conversations in the van, I thought back to the early eighties when we only had three of the eight children we now have.

We lived in Clearwater, Florida, and had some very difficult times. I’m hesitant to share such a level of personal trial, but it might be an encouragement to some. Teri and I loved the Lord Jesus and were growing in knowledge and our relationship with Him. However, due to her body’s inability to regulate progesterone, Teri was suffering with extreme depression.

In addition, the three children we had were presenting significant challenges for Teri to cope with. The medical community, and even a Christian counselor, had no solutions for us. It became clear to us that three children were all that Teri could manage, so we looked to ways of eliminating further pregnancies. Members of our conservative church accepted surgically cutting off more children through sterilization as a practical way of doing this. I sought counsel from her dad and others, and all were supportive that it was the wise thing to do. So, around 1984 we cut off the possibility of more children. We were content with our decision. We enjoyed our three greatly, and I spent all my free time with my family. However, we truly felt it was necessary to prevent future pregnancies.

In 1985 we moved to the state of Washington, and we continued to grow in the Lord Jesus. We still had some very difficult times, but it was getting better. One thing began to trouble us, though. We started to feel that we were wrong in cutting off more children. We would frequently re-evaluate the decision even though we “knew” that it was imperative that we did it for Teri’s well being. This continued to be a subject of discussion and prayer until one day I was home from work, ill.

I told Teri that I was going to find out what the Lord had to say about children and settle the matter right then. I spread my Bible and reference books out on the bed. I began looking up each verse about children to see what God had to say. I started in Genesis and continued through the Bible. After a while I had tears running down my face, and my heart was broken. I cried out to the Lord, “God, I was wrong in cutting off additional children. I can now see that children are our heritage from You. They are our reward and, next to salvation, the most precious gift You could give us on earth.” I will share what God has shown me regarding children.

“Lo, children are a heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate” (Psalms 127:3-5). I thought about the issue of inheritance and how happy most people are to be informed they are in someone’s will. Imagine someone being told that they would inherit a tremendous amount of gold and saying, “No thank you. I have enough and am very content with what I have.” No one would refuse the inheritance because of the value that is placed on gold. Frankly, had I truly valued children we would not have had them surgically cut off.

The word “heritage” also draws our thoughts toward the One giving the inheritance. Usually, when parents leave an inheritance it is out of a desire to bless their children with something they will cherish as a token of the parents’ love. Had we understood the preciousness of the gift of children from the Father we would not have rejected more children.

Malachi 2:15 reads, “And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. . . .” God’s purpose in marriage is to produce godly seed. “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth. . .” (Genesis 1:28). God never took the command back. In His Word, He never told Teri and I that we were to decide how many children to have. Had I understood His purpose and command for marriage, we would not have cut them off.

As I reflected on the physics of intimacy, it was clear that God intended to be the One in control of the family size. Truly God gave man an ongoing desire for intimacy. However, He did not give man the natural ability to control whether there was conception during times of intimacy. This was no mistake, but clearly God’s plan. God’s creation of the body is so incredibly perfect. Had He intended us to be in control of whether children were conceived, He would have designed that control into our bodies. As science has progressed, modern man has figured out ways of preventing pregnancy. If that had been God’s intent, however, He would have designed that into the “system” at creation.

Some might have said we were foolish and “not counting the cost” in considering reversal surgery and risking another pregnancy. “For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?” (Luke 14:28). However, this verse speaks of commitment. It does not say we must consider whether we can afford more children. Jesus was challenging the disciples to evaluate their level of commitment. If Jesus meant this verse to be applied to whether we have the funds for raising children, He would have been contradicting His own teaching.

Jesus says in Matthew 6:25-27, “Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?” By feeding the birds of the air, Jesus meant their offspring would be fed as well. Jesus continues and compares those who would worry about such things with the Gentiles. They had no god who would provide for them and therefore had reason to worry.

That is why I believe this issue strikes at the very heart of our walk with Christ. If I choose to let Him be in control of my family size, then I must trust the Lord to provide. That can be a scary thing. Not until I began writing this did I notice the “therefore” at the beginning of Matthew 6:25. It refers back to Matthew 6:24, which reads, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”

The fact is if I let the Lord choose the size of my family, He might not let me have the standard of living that I’m accustomed to, or I might have to sacrifice for my children. Even if I were called to sacrifice for my children, isn’t that the essence of Christianity? Are we not to die to self for the sake of someone else? The servant says, “Lord, I am Yours, and You tell me what You want me to do.” That is why I have come to believe that this is one of the greatest issues within the family and church today.

I was convicted that we were wrong in taking matters into our own hands and determined to set it right. Almost immediately, we sought out a doctor and prayed that God would provide the funds to reverse the previous surgery. Within a short amount of time, God provided a doctor and the funds for the surgery.

Once the decision was made, a funny thing began happening in my heart. Even though I knew the decision was right and children were a blessing from God, I was still a little apprehensive about more children. However, the closer the surgery came, the more excited I became about more children. The Lord took our small step of obedience and replaced our fear with joy and trust.

Frequently, when I look at my family seated at the dinner table, I can’t help but wonder how many more there would be if I hadn’t made a poor decision. Even now with self-employment, RH factor complication, Teri’s age, and miscarriages, I know we can trust a mighty God.

This seems to be a forbidden subject in the church, but in Dad’s Corners, I’m able to share my heart and experience. Most men have never sat down with another brother and heard him share about such things privately. If this strikes a chord in your heart, praise God, but if not, forget it. May God bless you as you strive to be the man God wants you to be.

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.

Overcoming Anger for Homeschool Dads – Part 2

Last month I shared how I have struggled with anger. Not fits of rage, yelling, or other demonstrations of anger usually considered forbidden for Christians, but at times a spirit of irritation was heard in my voice.

How I hate that tone. I had heard it for most of my childhood years, and now, as a parent, I had the same irritated tone. If something displeased me, I would have an edge on my voice that my family knew all too well.

Anger Should Not Be Accepted

Have you noticed that certain levels of anger seem to be acceptable in the church? Nearly any Sunday you can observe a parent “communicating” with their child. The face is tight, and the eyes are boring holes in the child. Even if you can’t hear the threatening tone, it is obvious the parent is not happy and is doing their best to evoke a change in the child’s behavior.

However, if a parent were to raise their voice at the child, it would generally be frowned upon, and others would feel they had “crossed the line.” That characterizes my experience with anger. As long as I avoided raising my voice, I could accept my response and not feel the need to confess it.

Last month after my Dad’s Corner, we received an e-mail from someone who said they had struggled with anger and that a message by Dr. S. M. Davis called Freedom from the Spirit of Anger had really helped them. We had listened to another message by Pastor S. M. Davis on anger, and it was excellent. Since we had heard the one, I felt no urgency in ordering it and listening to it. After all, I didn’t have a problem with anger, just an irritated tone.

The next week Teri and I were in Peoria, Illinois, giving workshops at the APACHE homeschool conference. Pastor Davis was also giving some workshops at the conference and had a table with audio and videotapes. It was wonderful; I was able to visit with him and purchase a number of resources.

Soon after Teri and I arrived home, I popped the audio called Freedom from the Spirit of Anger  into the player. Within fifteen minutes, God had broken my heart and convicted me that my “tone” was really a spirit of anger, and I knew it had to be dealt with. To my relief, Pastor Davis shared, during the remainder of the tape, how I could have victory. Isn’t the Lord Jesus so merciful? He will deal with sin in my life if I let Him. I have been rejoicing over finally having some relief from my spirit of anger. It is such a new experience for me. When something has been a way of life for years, a period of adjustment is necessary to overcome it. First, I’ve found that there are times when I am not aware of it. Then there are times when I’m correcting a child, and I’m not even sure how to speak to them. I feel like a child having to learn new behavior, but it is wonderful.

Today as I was pulling the van out of the garage, I had an opportunity to respond peacefully. Without thinking, one of the children picked up the garage door opener (yes, the opener is actually a closer as well) and pushed the button before we were all the way out of the garage. We managed to clear the door in time before it came down on the van, but it was close. Then, I began hearing a torrid of reasons why it wasn’t her fault. What makes it worse is, I have told the children never to pick the opener up while we are in the garage. I was trying to get her to stop and listen to me when I heard an angry tone in my voice. As soon as I recognized it, God gave me peace. I was able to calmly explain again, they are not to touch the “closer.” Later, she told her mother she thought I was really going to be angry and was surprised to find I wasn’t. Isn’t God good?

Unfortunately, I realize I have quite a long road ahead as I will have daily opportunities to yield my anger to the Lord. If He wants to get angry over something, then that is His business.

What about you? Have you been a “good Christian father” and attempted to control the angry outbursts and throttled your anger back to angry tones and searing looks? Praise God there is hope in the Lord Jesus. I will not attempt to share here what dear Brother Davis has done so powerfully.

Maybe I am the only one on the Corner list who has struggled with this. If not, you may be interested in knowing how to purchase a copy of the audio.

My spirit of anger had infected our family just as any father’s spirit of anger will infect his family. If a spirit of anger is a problem in your life, you might give them a call. May God bless and enable us to be the gentle, meek fathers He desires us to be.

Overcoming Anger for Homeschool Dads – Part 1

Mildred is probably in her seventies and has short, straight, gray hair. Her life is clearly displayed on her face as it is so often with the elderly. Her bottom lip protrudes sharply from her face as a young pouting child’s often does. However, hers is fixed there due to many unhappy years. I don’t believe I have ever seen her smile.

In spite of all that, I love Mildred. She has been a resident at the County Infirmary for the nine years our family has participated in a church service there on the first and third Saturdays of the month. For years, I asked Mildred if she would come to church. With lip out, she would shake her head back and forth and say, “I don’t want to.” I would pat her shoulder, maybe speak with her briefly, and go down the hallway.

Then, to my surprise, Mildred, one day a year or so ago, said, “Yes.” I couldn’t believe it, but not wanting her to change her mind I grabbed the wheelchair handles and whisked her away to the dayroom. Since then she faithfully answers, “yes,” and I push her down to church, patting her shoulder and talking to her all the way.

There are others I would share about as well, if we had time. By patiently expressing love and encouragement, we have seen God do a wonderful work in their lives. However, I’m convicted that I will often expend greater emotional effort and patience with these elderly friends than I do with my own children! It gets worse than that. I know that there are times when I’m more patient with our golden retriever than with the children! Truly, that is something I have pondered and am not very proud of.

Anger Damages Relationships

Anger has to be the most damaging emotion a father can pour out on his children, whether I raise my voice or simply have an irritated tone. I know that, and yet I still will choose to let myself get angry. It really is a choice. If we say it isn’t, we are lying to ourselves. A good test is if our children do something wrong when someone we want to impress is present (perhaps at church), versus when we are at home by ourselves. Do we respond in the same way? I know I frequently don’t. But unless I want to damage my relationship with my children, anger cannot be allowed.

To begin to overcome anger, I have to first acknowledge that my anger is wrong and simply a matter of choice. I will not control my temper unless I see it first as sin. “But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. . .” (Matthew 5:22). It is clear that 99.9999% of our anger is sin. I know some will say that Jesus was angry, and the above verse referred to a “cause.” However, I believe that seldom, if ever, do we dads really have a just cause that Christ would agree with. I’m not referring to larger issues such as abortion, but matters of the home. Jesus’ anger was righteous anger, and I expect if we critically evaluated why we were angry at home we would see it is sin.

Disobedience is not an Excuse for Dad’s Anger

Perhaps I will get angry because the child did not obey me. That is pride. It is not out of concern that my child has broken God’s command for him or her to obey me. I want the child to obey me. Simple. If one child hurts another, and I am angry, is my anger because they sinned against God by not showing brotherly love? No. My anger would be due to my desire for peace in the home and it has been disturbed. Yes, it is possible that it could be righteous anger but ever so unlikely. We would be far better off to allow the Lord Jesus to be the One to demonstrate righteous anger.

“Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath” (Ephesians 4:26). Even if it was righteous anger, the question is whether I will sin or not when I’m angry. We would not be commanded in Scripture to “sin not” if we couldn’t control it. I believe that even when I have an irritated tone in my voice, that is sin. I’m not being loving and patient, and God has called me to serve my family, not my own selfish pleasures.

Last weekend our family was returning from Teri’s grandmother’s funeral in Iowa, and I had a wonderful opportunity to be kind and patient. The children had had no naps for two days previously, and it was their naptime. They were all quite tired, and soon the situation was definitely not Christ-like. Complaining, crying, and other less admirable activities were taking place in the back of the van.

I was content to drive and did not want to have to pull off the side of the road to deal with it. It was laziness on my part, and as a result, I became angry. After a while, I was tired and wanted Nathan to drive while I got some rest. An amazing thing happened! As soon as I was in the back with the children, they settled down and there were no more problems. Had I been willing to stop earlier when it was needful, it would have been a far more pleasant trip, and I would not have gotten angry.

We have worked hard to teach our children proper table etiquette, but that had become a real source of frustration and anger for me. This may sound stupid to you, but it is true. I had one child in particular who would not chew with his lips together and others who would either eat with their elbows on the table or not sit up nicely. I would remind them and remind them, and eventually I would get angry. You can imagine that did not make for pleasant meals. God is so gracious though. When we desire to please Him and if we cry out for wisdom, He is faithful in answering our prayers.

Find Creative Consequences

I asked the Lord to help me train them without getting angry. The idea came to me that if a child is demonstrating poor manners I could catch their attention and then raise my pointer finger indicating the first mark. If I see another problem with the same child, I will raise two fingers indicating two marks. If I see a third occurrence, they are excused from the meal. I have found this very freeing. I have a way of communicating the problem without getting angry, and there are consequences that the children will work hard to avoid. Seldom has anyone had to be excused from the table, and I now have children who are striving to demonstrate proper manners. The best part of it is I don’t get angry any longer over training the children at the table.

I have found that if I confess my anger as sin, repent of it, and cry out to the Lord for ways to avoid it, He will meet me at my point of need. Anger and love will not coexist. I have to be willing to die to my own agenda to get a grip on anger. I know that I cannot go wrong by grieving and repenting over every occurrence of it. May we be men of God and turn our hearts to our children by choosing not to get angry. Christ will be glorified and our children will flourish in our love.

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