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.

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?

Dads, Are You the Head of a Christian Home? – Part 1

“Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it” (Matthew 7:24-27).

Have you noticed how there are so many Christian “this” and Christian “that’s”? There are Christian radio stations, Christian music, Christian businesses, Christian schools, Christian curricula, and Christian you name it! Would you agree there are many things labeled Christian that it becomes an increasing stretch of the imagination as to whether they are any more Christian than the “world”? For example, many so-called Christian songs on the radio sound just like the world’s music. If you doubt it, turn the volume down until you can’t hear the words, and compare it to a secular song. Christians have welcomed the world so much there is little distinction between what most consider Christian and what they would consider the “world.” We must bear in mind that the Lord’s standard for judging is not as fuzzy.

Most of us have known Christian families where the older children have rebelled. People will then say, “I just don’t understand it as he/she was raised in a good Christian home.” Usually, the observation is based on a superficial judgment, and indirectly the Lord is being blamed in that situation. It is almost as if the Lord failed in some way. May it never even be thought! We can be sure that is not the case at all. God is always faithful.

I wonder if you have ever asked yourself just what is a Christian home. “Christian home” isn’t directly mentioned in the Bible, but the Bible does have plenty to say about what a Christian home is. Before we proceed, what do you say? Is your home Christian, yes or no (no lukewarm voting)?

How exciting to see that God’s Word is definitive on every aspect of our lives. Even though our concordance might not list “Christian home” as a selection, the concept is very clearly dealt with.

In 1 Chronicles 17, David is telling Nathan, the prophet, about his concern that God should have a fitting “house.” Then in verse 10, God said through Nathan the prophet, “. . . I tell thee that the LORD will build thee an house.” Here God ties David’s loving concern for his God to God’s blessing of David. God draws a parallel between His house and David’s house (family). If we want to learn what the basis is for a Christian home, we need only study God’s home on earth–the temple.

We will continue this for the next several months’ Dad’s Corners as there is much practical direction for our homes. Each step of the way I will encourage you to evaluate your home to see if it is really a Christian home or not. There is no middle ground. It is either a home where the Lord Jesus is glorified, or it isn’t. If it is in the middle, it is lukewarm. “So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:16).

Dads, may we provide a loving, nurturing environment, which is conducive for children becoming mature, equipped, dedicated Christians serving the Lord Jesus Christ.

Guarding Hearts–A Real-Life Situation

“According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love” (Ephesians 1:4).

Last week we went to our favorite zoo, which is located in Omaha. It is a special day for everyone, and even our young adults will take a day off work to go with us. This trip was especially a close time as we were in the process of losing our ninth child to miscarriage.

At the end of a wonderful day, we were dropping off the wheelchair that I borrowed to push Teri around. I noticed two documentary videos on Mount Everest in the gift shop. I have a special interest in mountain climbing and thought this would be an excellent addition to our educational video library. It also turned out that one of them was the same footage as was being shown in the Imax Theater. After a little hesitation, I decided to go ahead and purchase them.

When the little ones were in bed, I chose to preview the videos, so we carried the TV and VCR out of the downstairs closet. To my amazement, the opening scene began in a temple where one of the climbers was lighting candles. Ugh! My heart then began to twinge a bit under conviction, and that should have been enough to stop it right there. However, the mental excuses and gymnastics began as I thought of the thirty dollars I had paid for this one. Besides, there probably wouldn’t be any more problems with the video (Sure!).

The story unfolded with occasional remarks about his god, temple footage, and other Eastern religion information. To my shame, I didn’t turn it off, but continued watching it with the three oldest children. I failed those children! I should have stopped it right then and said, “No more, we must turn it off. This isn’t worth compromising our hearts.” However, I wanted to watch it! Therefore, we finished the first video, and we started the second tape. This one was about high-altitude effects on the body. By this time I was feeling quite convicted. Then, out of the blue, the guy being interviewed cursed. That was enough to push me over the edge and turn it off. Why hadn’t I chosen to stop watching it earlier?

In the last few Dad’s Corners, I emphasized the fact that God places all the responsibility for everything that goes on in the home on “dear ole Dad.” The sad thing is that I am often the cause of the problems. When I’m struggling with self-control, I can expect to see lack of self-control in my children. We are the shepherds guarding the access to the sheep pen. It is true that every evil imagination, which is similar to improper appetites, does come from the heart. However, we then can guard whether these appetites are fed or not.

The sad fact was, if I had chosen to stop watching the video earlier, my older children would have seen that their father was very careful to guard his heart and their hearts. They would have seen that, even in a situation where Dad wants to continue, he is man enough to deny himself. That was one of those rare opportunities that don’t come around often. We are teaching our children in everything we do. I showed them that if it is something that interests you, it is okay to continue. I failed!

Life is so full of opportunities to train our children in the way of righteousness. We must see that as our responsibility. We should protect our heart first, and then our children’s. Otherwise we teach them that once you are old enough to be in control, you can use that control for selfish purposes and choose to “enjoy” evil at the expense of righteousness. “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16).

An Unloved Wife

Teri and I have been sharing what we believe God’s Word teaches on how to avoid having rebellious children. In our pastor’s sermon recently, he touched on another cause that I had not considered before. I wish it weren’t so, but all that we have shared points back to the father, and this one is no exception.

It is a very heavy matter to lay so much responsibility on the back of the father, but I believe that is where Scripture puts it. As God would have it, we should each do our own study and prayerfully come to our own conclusions. So I encourage you to open your heart and your Bible, and see if this is another warning about rebellion.

Colossians 3:19 says, “Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.”

Most would say they are familiar with that verse as a part of being a good husband. However, our dear pastor developed the point that an unloved wife’s bitterness will lead the children into rebellion. It is true, men–unfortunate, but true!

In Proverbs 30:21-23 we read, “For three things the earth is disquieted, and for four which it cannot bear: For a servant when he reigneth; and a fool when he is filled with meat; For an odious woman when she is married; and a handmaid that is heir to her mistress.” An unloved wife who does not forgive will become bitter.

I still remember a woman I met roughly ten years ago who had been mistreated and left by her husband. Acrid bitterness dripped from every word she spoke. It had eaten her up and was etched into her jagged-lined face. The encounter was most unpleasant, and it moved me to compassion and sorrow for the pain she was putting herself through.

This woman was an extreme example. However, an unloved wife who has not received God’s grace to forgive her husband for the wrongs he has committed will be bitter toward her husband. Just like the woman I mentioned, bitterness toward a husband cannot be hidden, and those around will sense it. Even worse, it will also infect her children with bitterness toward their father, and that could turn into rebellion.

1 Samuel 20:30 says, “Then Saul’s anger was kindled against Jonathan, and he said unto him, Thou son of the perverse rebellious woman, do not I know that thou hast chosen the son of Jesse to thine own confusion, and unto the confusion of thy mother’s nakedness?”

Have you noticed that Jonathan had a rebellious attitude toward his father? Saul felt that Jonathan’s mother had hard feelings toward him. Now he is accusing Jonathan of it as well. Look at 1 Samuel 14:29 where Jonathan said, “. . . My father hath troubled the land: see, I pray you, how mine eyes have been enlightened, because I tasted a little of this honey.”

The correct response would have been repentance, but Jonathan had a rebellious attitude toward his father, and it came out here. This rebellion wasn’t so severe that Jonathan abandoned his father, but it was there. Jonathan was a “good kid” in many ways, because generally he complied with his father’s orders. However, he did not respect Saul and demonstrated a rebellious attitude.

We are called to love the wife God has given us. If we don’t, we can be sure there will be consequences.