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.

A Business Lunch

Moms–PLEASE DO NOT READ THIS!! It is for your husbands only.

Friday I was invited to go to lunch with one of my suppliers. If that were you, would you go? Next, let me tell you it was a saleswoman. Would you still go? Mixed lunches are the accepted norm these days and so are close working relationships. Might someone who didn’t participate be looked on as an “old prude”?

Let each one of us ask ourselves whether we believe we have been faithful to our wives. Now let’s imagine our wives asking themselves if they feel we have been faithful to them. Do you think our wives’ answers would match our answers? What if they knew our thoughts; would they change their decision?

Jesus defined adultery as lusting for another woman. So a definition of faithfulness would likely be even narrower than just that of adultery. We can be sure that our wives would rather they are the ones we are spending time with, no matter what the reason. (Shouldn’t that be our feeling as well?) After many observations, I believe that individual (even small-group) time spent with women other than our wives is like playing with fire. I know this statement can evoke some interesting responses, but I am convinced it is true. Let me illustrate this further.

If David, a man after God’s own heart, could fall into the trap of adultery because of being where he shouldn’t have been, then why do we, who are less spiritual, feel we couldn’t fall into a similar trap? Homes are broken and lives damaged all because of what reason? Could it ever be worth that? The idea that we can’t become attached to someone else is a lie from hell, with history bearing witness. It is like playing Russian roulette with six rounds loaded!

Let’s assume we are all moral giants and totally impervious to physical temptations. (I know it’s impossible, but for the sake of my example please stay with me.) In 1 Thessalonians 5:22, we are instructed to abstain from even the appearance of evil. I told the saleswoman I couldn’t go as I have determined not to go to lunch with other women. Before I could continue, she laughed and said she wouldn’t bite and could even bring a male sales engineer along. I explained that with that aside, what if someone who knew Teri and me saw us together? What might they think? She exclaimed, “Wow, do you really mean that?” I said I did. She understood and thought that was great.

I believe God will honor our commitment to taking no chances. Another example. If heroin were legal, would you try it? Why not? Well, one reason is because we know how addicting it can be, and we don’t know how much we have to take to get hooked. So we would be crazy to try it. In that light, how did we fall in love with our wives? For me, I spent time with Teri, she became my friend (and still is), and then I fell in love with her. So why would we expect not to be in danger of becoming attracted to ANY other woman we spent much time with? From David until now, men daily are trapped. Could you be next?

Our wives are home caring for our children. We know they are as bright as, if not brighter than, the women we meet in our vocation. Shouldn’t they be the ones we go to lunch with? If childcare is a problem, then we could go home and let them go out with another homeschooling mom to show them how much we appreciate their ministry to our children.

Men, we must not delight in the company of any woman other than our own wives. Not only are our wives worth our faithfulness and adoration, but also, we are commanded to love them. “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25). Let us be men of God, committed to our wives.

The Cost of Training Our Children

What does it cost you to train your children? If asked that, I imagine we would most often think of what our curriculum costs us per year. Certainly, there is a financial aspect to home education, but I’m wondering how much we dads are investing personally in our children. If money is our main investment, will our influence be any greater than a dad whose children go to the government schools? Might our children turn out as bankrupt in character and training as most children these days who are educated outside the home?

In my work, I will encounter many fathers who love their children and yet send them off to school. They feel that is the American way; the job of the schools is to educate the children; dads provide the money and the home. Unfortunately, even if the school is successful in teaching the children facts, that is a far cry from preparing them for life.

Will the memorization of facts prepare a person for life and parenting? I think we would agree it wouldn’t. That is where training comes in, first teaching pertinent facts and then practicing them. We dads have many opportunities to work with our children to reinforce, by practice, the application of what they are learning.

However, all of that takes time. Most of us have heard others recite the popular, self-consoling lie, “I have to give my children quality time, since my job doesn’t allow quantity time.” From what I’ve observed, additional work hours are usually a result of the dad’s desire to get ahead. The extra time is not required. It also can be that there is trouble at home, and it is a convenient escape for Dad to bury himself in his work. It is a matter of priority. Is the proper training of the children most important to the dad, or is it his job? If the job is so demanding on its own, then it’s time to get a new job. God will bless proper priorities, and wrong ones won’t be blessed. Simple!*

Jesus said in John 10:11, “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” That is a constant challenge to me. As the shepherd of my family, am I laying aside my pleasures for the needs of my family? Am I willing to sacrifice my time for myself if there are needs in the family that haven’t been met yet? Do I set the example for my wife in serving my family? For most, work is the easy part, but serving at home and working on character issues are much harder.

I am ashamed of how often I fail regarding the right response to the above questions. However, I serve a God Who daily gives grace. May we be like the Lord Jesus and daily lay down our lives for our families.

*(I’m not referring to families where the dad has to work longer hours just so the mom can stay at home and teach the children. These are families who are content to live in a modest home and drive old cars for the sake of right priorities. I’m referring to others who have made wrong choices with what money they have. Often they drive new cars and buy new homes. I want to differentiate between those who make bad choices and those who are truly in need.)

Posted in: Dad's Corner

Fathers’ Decisions

Surely every one of us dads desire to make good decisions that are best for our family. We are called to be leaders. To be a good leader, we must make good decisions. I expect we have all made some choices we wish we hadn’t made, but what is one of the more important aspects of any decision?

Let’s take a look at Hezekiah, King of Judah. Now here is a man! He became king at age twenty-five, “And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that David his father did” (2 Kings 18:3). It continues in verse 4, “He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made. . . .” It says God blessed everything Hezekiah set his hand to do. He was making some very good decisions.

God waited fourteen years before He brought a significant test into Hezekiah’s life. Ten years after Hezekiah rebelled from the control of Assyria, the king of Assyria mobilized his army against the towns of Judah. King Hezekiah sent word to the king of Assyria and confessed his error for rebelling. He said he would pay any sum the king of Assyria demanded. Hezekiah then had to give all the silver from his treasuries and from the temple of the Lord. Plus, he stripped the gold off of the temple doors to satisfy the Assyrian request.

To many, this would seem like a great decision on Hezekiah’s part. The towns of Judah had already been conquered, and it would have seemed like a horrible disaster was about to take place had he resisted the Assyrian king. He averted a terrible situation and kept the peace. What a guy!

But wait! Next we read that the King of Assyria marches against Jerusalem. He tells them his intention is to deport them all to a very nice land with plenty of food. No talk of forced labor, but the evil one never highlights the truth. This time, however, we are told Hezekiah cries out to the Lord. God says He will take care of the situation. Overnight the Angel of the Lord proceeds to completely destroy the Assyrian army without Hezekiah doing anything.

Hezekiah has now made one good and one horrible decision. The first decision was trusting in himself. I’m sure it made good sense to him. Unfortunately, God’s glory on earth was diminished by the treasures being taken and by the gold scraped off the doors. As they entered the temple, the marred surfaces would be a reminder to those worshipping the Lord of the consequences of not seeking God’s will. Man’s solutions are never permanent, as demonstrated by the king of Assyria’s return. The second crisis resulted in God’s glory and praise. As Hezekiah called on the Lord, Judah was delivered, and 185,000 Assyrians were slaughtered.

I think back to decisions I’ve made over the years; there have been some good ones and some bad ones. I don’t recall ever feeling I made a bad decision after carefully seeking God’s will. However, I can give you many examples of bad decisions I made when I did not seek the Lord’s direction. May we put our will aside and seek God’s will for our families. May we avoid the marred doors that remind us of trying to raise godly children in our own strength. May we be the leaders God would have us to be.

Posted in: Dad's Corner

Sin in the Children; Sin in the Father

Recently, Teri and I were surprised when two of our boys did not seem to recognize something as sin. To us it was black and white, but they just couldn’t see it. How could that be? They had been taught the right things, yet their conclusion was wrong.

Last week God revealed what had happened. He convicted me that there was an area in my life of significant compromise. I couldn’t believe I had not seen it sooner, but God used a situation and a verse I had just read in my devotion to point it out. Then it was as if a giant spotlight was focused on it, and all doubt was removed. Ugh, I now had to deal with the situation.

While working to set right this area of deceit, I thought about Exodus 20:5, “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.” When I looked up “visiting,” it seemed to carry more than just the consequences of the sin, but the sin itself. When I rebel against God by choosing sin, I open the door for my children to embrace this sin as well. Now my secret sin is not so secret. Unfortunately, I have seen this demonstrated clearly in our family more times than I wish to think about.

As a way of getting our attention, God allows our sin to be visible in the lives of our children. How this gets my attention! I dislike the sin in my life so much, and then, when confronted with it in my children’s lives, it can be almost unbearable. What a gracious God we serve in that He will do whatever is necessary to prod us away from our sin.

How about you? What sins in your children are particularly annoying to you? Could it be that they are reflecting a sin in your life that hasn’t been dealt with? I have found it is extremely difficult to remove the sin from the life of my child before I have addressed it in my life.

1 Corinthians 11:28, “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.”

Posted in: Dad's Corner

A Dad’s Power and Authority

There probably aren’t too many situations that will call a father to “arms” quicker than when his child is being picked on by a bully. I have only had it happen a few times to one of my children, but it really got my blood boiling.

What is it about power and authority? Those that have it tend to use it. That is why someone once said, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” If the quote isn’t exact, it is close enough for you to get the point. Those who have power, over time, will tend to use it for their own advantage.

Look at Solomon; he was the wisest man in the whole world. No king had the wisdom that he possessed. You would expect his reign to be picture perfect. Yet that was not the case. He failed to obey God’s Word and then used his power to satisfy his lusts. However, his lusts led his heart toward worshipping false gods.

The power of Solomon’s position allowed him to acquire 700 wives and 300 concubines. Can you imagine that? He used his power to indulge in pleasure against the warning of God’s Word. It was the ruin of his kingdom.

What about dads? As leaders of our families, we have the power and authority to make the decisions. Certainly, we may be tempted to make decisions for our own selfish ends.

Christ, as our example, had absolute power, but He used it only to serve others as directed by the Father. He did not use it for His own selfish pleasure.

It is easy for us dads to be bullies in our own homes. I know we don’t see it that way, but isn’t it possible? Just like the bully, we can have what we want. We can have our way all the time if we so choose. The possibilities are endless: dad’s favorite meals, more money for dad’s clothes, dad’s hobbies, dad’s entertainment, dad’s sports, dad’s choice of restaurant, and on and on it goes.

However, just like Solomon, if we neglect to follow the leading of God’s Word and choose to use our power and authority for our benefit, the consequences will be far reaching in our family.

May we be careful to follow Christ’s example and use our authority to serve and minister to our families. We have been entrusted with the care and nurturing of our families; may we, by God’s grace, be faithful stewards.


What is “music to your ears?” I mean, what do you really enjoy hearing others say to you? I expect almost universally we love to hear expressions of gratefulness to us for something we have done. Not only is gratefulness an essential character quality, but also it does so much for producing a spirit of harmony in a home. It can’t be overstated.

When I’ve taken the children somewhere I thought they would enjoy, I’m very pleased if I hear them thank me. However, I feel wonderful if they go on to say how much they enjoyed it and what fun it was. I don’t think I’ve ever said to them, “Please stop, you’re being too grateful.” There is something about gratitude that just, well, it delights my heart!

Now the question comes up, How grateful am I? Since I am the leader in the home, just what sort of example am I setting? Am I quick to recognize the acts of kindness that are done for me and tell that person how much I appreciate them? Do I thank my sons for mowing, yard work, or cleaning the garage? Do I thank Sarah for all the baking she does? Do I thank Teri for dinner, for washing my clothes, or for the nightly neck and shoulder massage I receive while we have a session of geography immediately following our evening meal? (I wonder if that is why I have had this new-found love for geography lately. If you haven’t tried this approach to geography, I guarantee you’ll like it.)

However, most of all, I’m eternally grateful to Teri for her ministry of love in teaching the children at home. She has chosen a much more difficult route than to send them off to school. She appreciates how I feel about her efforts, but that alone isn’t enough. She wants to hear me express it to her in words and not just once a year. Phone calls, letters, email notes, or gifts–you name it, she loves it. I have yet to come close to being too grateful, but I need to purpose anew to try.

Posted in: Dad's Corner

Fathers in America

I am amazed that we could be at a turning point in the history of our country. If Bill Clinton is re-elected, he stands to have appointed over 50 percent of all the Federal judges in our country, not to mention the ones on the Supreme Court. In addition to the appointments are the ideologies that he appears to stand for and will push to implement.

What is most incredible about this situation is what it reveals about the soul of our nation. A salesman I was speaking with the other day very honestly summed it up. He said, “All I care about is what he (the President) is going to do for me and my family.” Honest, yes, but what an indictment. It appears the average person is most interested in how big the handout is going to be for him. What has failed in our country?

Instead of people being horrified over the multitude of allegations of wrongdoing, they accept them as normal, or part of one’s private life, and not important. If even 5 percent of them are true, this president would make Nixon appear “squeaky clean.” Does character not count anymore?

There may not be a group of people more passionate in caring about these issues than the home-educating community. One of the top reasons for home educating is that we can raise children of godly character who know how to work. To us, the consequences of the current direction are only too obvious, but it does not ease the anguish of our souls as we observe the slide. But what can be learned from this situation?

I feel the lesson is for us dads. You see, I believe the failure can be placed squarely on the backs of dads in our nation, fathers who did not seek God. Fathers who believed money was more important than time with their children. Fathers who valued their wives more when they were earning a paycheck than raising children. Fathers who wanted their own entertainment, relaxation, and pleasure more than they wanted godly children. I don’t believe God will listen to excuses when fathers are held accountable for the lives they were entrusted with.

Is there anything we can glean from this mess our country is in? YES!! May we bless and appreciate our wives for the daily sacrifices they make for us. May we be zealous for being the godly fathers we are called to be. May we purpose to use every last bit of energy to train up children who love the Lord and want to serve Him, children of godly character who know how to work and enjoy it. I believe the children who are raised according to this recipe will be tomorrow’s leaders.

Posted in: Dad's Corner

Communicating with Our Families

As I watched, Jesse, my next to youngest, pointed down the hallway and excitedly said, “beedsbuks.” However, as many times as he repeated it, I still didn’t understand what he meant. Then, finally, one of the older children translated it for me and said, “Dad, he wants you to read him some books.”

Soon thereafter, I had a conversation with Teri. She revealed that she thought I did not value her organizational abilities. I was truly shocked. I have been so appreciative of them and felt I conveyed that to her through the years. I was saddened at the idea she had not known of my sincere appreciation for her abilities in that area. What we have here is a failure to communicate.

As a husband and father, I often think of English as my “second language.” It’s not that I have some other language that I speak as my fluent native tongue (English actually is), but I can have such difficulty communicating what is on my heart. Is that ever a problem for you? It can be a real source of frustration for me, just like poor Jesse when he was doing his best to ask me to read him a book. He was giving it his all, but he was unsuccessful. The other children understood, even though I had not. So why not me?

I’m sure one reason is I don’t spend as much time around him as the others do. Sheer quantity of time around the people you want to communicate with is important. As dads, we are away from our families much of the time during the week. We miss a lot that goes on in the home, and as such, we are not as well “tuned in.” That affects both how effective we are in getting our message across and how well we hear what someone is really trying to tell us. I think the best cure for that is large doses of time. Not the lie of quality time, but time. I’ve known dads who say they have to go for quality, since quantity isn’t an option. I believe that is just an excuse to pacify their conscience. What our wives and children want is US to spend time with them. The less time we spend with them the more difficult it is to truly communicate, soul to soul, with them. There may be pleasant conversations, but they won’t be on a level that is necessary to keep a healthy marriage or strong bond with your children.

I’m sure another hindrance to communicating effectively is how observant I am. Am I really listening intently to what they are saying? Am I concentrating on what is being said, or am I thinking about some other project and giving only half-hearted attention? I’m guilty of that. I can look at them and even nod appropriately, giving the pretense of interest. God hates pretense, and it seems like I am always caught when I try it. It’s a good thing, too, or I would probably do it more often. In one passage in Jeremiah, God told him how He prefers unfaithful Israel over pretending Judah. “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” (Jeremiah 3:10-11). What a sobering thought when I am tempted to pretend.

Another problem is that often I don’t try to compensate for the differences. We are aware there are many differences between us, our wives, and our children. The politically correct will insist there are no differences between men and women. I wonder if “they” ever tried to discuss financial issues with someone of the opposite sex. Teri and I approach money matters from different perspectives. It’s difficult to explain, but somehow we can both arrive at the same conclusion from opposite directions.

Let either of us try to explain the route we took to get to the conclusion, and the other one is totally confused. I am not saying her route is wrong; it is just a different approach to getting there. I feel what is needed is understanding and patience: understanding in how we approach things differently and patience to be willing to answer questions and kindly explain.

The bottom line is that communication can be hard work. It takes time and effort. That is why Teri’s and my weekly dates are critical to avoiding roadblocks and helping her be most efficient in home educating. If you don’t have the weekly date habit (movies don’t count since talking through them would be difficult and certainly viewed as rude by others), I strongly encourage you to begin it. In regard to the children I think it is like the rules for locating a business. There the formula is location, location, location. With our children, I believe it to be time, time, and more time.

Posted in: Dad's Corner

How Our Words Can Be Like Rocks

What is it about boys and rocks? You know what I mean. There is just something innate in a boy! When he sees a rock, he wants to throw it! It is simply the way boys are made. Ohhhhhhhh, and what consequences there can be. When I was four or five, I caught a rock with my forehead and immediately was covered with blood. Two little boys had some consequences. Mine was the stitches. The other boy’s was courtesy of his parents.

Unfortunately, I feel our words are often like rocks in the hands of boys. We carelessly give them a good toss, and thereafter they are out of reach. We desperately wish we could take them back. But once they are in motion, there is nothing that can be done. It is so easy to think I can apologize, and it will be okay. Ever throw a rock through a window? All of the “I’m sorry’s” in the world will not put that window back together like new. Even with painstaking gluing, the cracks will be seen forever.

I can remember something I said to Teri over fifteen years ago, which can bring tears to her eyes even now at the mention of it. More recently, there was an incident when I said something harshly to one of my children. It breaks my heart as I recollect the hurt expression that enveloped their face, almost a look of betrayal. I wish I could take it back, but it’s too late. With both of those incidents, I have humbled myself and asked forgiveness. Asking forgiveness is a critical step as it stops bitterness from growing and destroying a relationship, but it does not eliminate the pain. The only way to avoid others’ pain is not to hurt them in the first place.

As dads, we are called to nurture and encourage those entrusted to our care. Yet careless, angry words can tear down, in a minute, what has taken weeks to build up. May our words be filled with praise as we train up these precious souls God has given us.

Posted in: Dad's Corner

Training Our Children?

There is a lot of talk about the Olympics these days. Certainly, national pride and world competition has much to do with it, but I wonder if there isn’t more than that.

How impressive would those teams be if they were comprised of contestants who had been selected by lottery? I believe we are impressed because the athletes had superior training and they perform flawlessly.

Isn’t that why our military is so good? They have first been instructed in what, when, and how; then they are drilled repeatedly to perfect the performance. I believe that is why those who have been home educated are doing so well. Not only are they being educated, but also they are disciplined in the application of that knowledge.

So what does that have to do with us dads? Maybe not a lot, but I did want to make a point. Quality training is respected by almost everyone, and it is no accident. It takes a concerted, organized effort, usually by more than one individual.

We are training this country’s leaders of tomorrow. They will be the ones whose performance is admired. Even now, compliments on a child’s behavior, attitude, and academic performance are not foreign to parents of home-educated children.

In most of your homes, Mom is the day-to-day coach, and Dad keeps things on track for the long run. Dad is the one who holds the children ultimately responsible for learning what Mom is teaching.

I have found that as I’m spending time with a child, something will come up that is an excellent chance to apply what they are learning. I suppose most often they ask a question. The solution will involve a math problem that I help them work in their minds. When I was a child, I disliked word problems in school; they revealed I didn’t know how to apply what I was learning.

Dad’s interest shows the children how important it is to him that they are learning. His encouragement will challenge his children and bless their mother.

Posted in: Dad's Corner