Category Archives: Dad’s Corner

Don’t Give Up

A couple of weeks ago, I was speaking with a dad and mom at a homeschool conference. They were sharing about some difficulties with their son. They admitted making many mistakes. As a result, they had a very rebellious son on their hands. This couple was at the point of wanting to give up on the child, letting him go his own way.

I also met a precious mommy who had a very young child stretched across her lap. I commented about how peaceful the resting child looked. She told me that her baby had a fatal disease that caused him to be so limp. I watched her lovingly use a suction bulb to clear her son’s throat and then give him something to eat through a feeding syringe.

My heart broke as I learned they had lost other children to the same disease. There was not a trace of bitterness in her voice, just a tenderness that was the result of a suffering heart submitted to the Potter’s knowing touch. Undoubtedly, the family would continue to minister to this child until the Father took him home too.

In Mark 9:14-29, we read an account of a man who brought his son to Jesus to be healed. A mute spirit possessed the son and would attempt to destroy the child by casting him into the fire or water. It would have been a terrible situation for the parents because the son’s life depended on their keeping vigilant watch to protect him. There were likely many times that the father or mother had to react quickly to save their son from destruction.

Think about it. What hope did that father have of his son ever being cured and living a normal life? There was no hope! It would have been reasonable for the father to have despaired, forsaking the child. Even if that father had access to today’s medical technology, it would have been of no benefit in dealing with a demon-possessed son.

As some read this, a child of yours may be in a grave situation. Others may be like the Maxwells. While we have no rebellious or terminally ill children, at any given time we have issues with some of our children for which we don’t have solutions. These issues aren’t life threatening, but they would hinder a child from being all that God intends him to be. For example, we have a child who is struggling in a particular area of his schoolwork. We have tried many different remedies, and none have worked. At times it has seemed hopeless. It has been extremely frustrating for the child, for Teri, and for me.

With others of our children there are often areas that weigh on our hearts. Character issues of varying degrees are common for us to wrestle. It would be most pleasant if there weren’t ever problems in our home, but that has yet to happen. I suspect that the source of our difficulty is that both parents in the Maxwell home are sinners (saved by grace, but still sinners) who are committed to raising men and women of God. To make things even more challenging, each of our children is a sinner (saved by grace, but still a sinner).

Homeschooling moms should be the most content, joy-filled moms on the face of this earth. Why? Because they are being obedient to their Lord as they invest themselves in the lives of their children. Unfortunately, it can be a very difficult road to walk. Why? Because they are face to face with the rough areas of their children all day long. (Other moms may not see their children in the same light, most likely because someone else is spending most of the day with their children.)

Homeschooling moms see their children when they are being slothful, irresponsible, argumentative, and even deceitful. This is like an arrow to the mom’s heart because she is pouring her life into her children. She desires that they become men and women of God. Raising children is a long-term project, and it is often difficult to see the forest through the trees. It is easy for Mom to come to the point where she asks, “Why try? This is the same problem we have been battling forever, and it is no better!”

However, dads don’t usually have the same “opportunity” to observe their children’s sin all day long. Therefore, we may tend not to view it as seriously as Mom does. We can reassure our wives that it is okay, and after all they are just children, but that is not going to solve anything. In fact, that kind of response could lead to a situation where the parents wake up one day and ask themselves how they raised a rebellious teenager. So what is the answer?

First, I must communicate with my wife. I need to foster a relationship with Teri where she wants to share her struggles with me and can trust me with what she says. I’m ashamed to say that there have been times when I was not attentive to her words, or I did not take them seriously.

When Teri sees that I have taken responsibility for finding a solution, it is like a weight is lifted from her. That is the way it must be, as she is the one yoked to me. I am to bear the weight of her yoke in the same way the Lord bears the weight of my yoke.

In order to take responsibility for finding solutions to difficulties in our children’s lives, we can start by praying. As Teri listens to my prayers, she will sense the urgency of my soul communicating the need to my Lord. If I fully own the responsibility, it will be the prayer on my heart during the day. That also means I’m likely to have questions for her about possible solutions or areas in which I need clarification.

When the need is the prayer of my heart, I’m like the father in Mark 9. He could have told his wife that he was busy taking care of the crops and didn’t have time to take his son to Jesus. If he did take the child to Jesus, they might not have enough to eat. Back then, just providing for a family was difficult enough. Isn’t it easy to rationalize that it is a man’s job to provide for the family, and the wife’s to take care of the children? That father knew he was ultimately responsible for his child. He was going to do whatever it took to find help for him.

We must be tenacious. The father in Mark 9 wasn’t satisfied after the disciples couldn’t free the son. He sought to get close to the Lord as soon as Christ came down the mountain. He did not leave with his son when the disciples weren’t successful. He probably saw Jesus as his son’s only hope. That is true for us as well. Christ is our only hope of true solutions in the home.

When Jesus was now involved, He did a curious thing in verse 21. “And he asked the father, How long is it ago since this came unto him?” Why did the Lord ask him how long the son was like this? The Lord knows everything and didn’t need to ask him. He could have quickly cast out the demon and gone on to the next, but He didn’t.

The Lord drew the father into a conversation. The Lord had a target that was as important as healing the son. The father replied, “. . . Of a child. And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us” (Mark 9:21-22). Christ now had revealed what He wanted exposed—the father’s lack of faith.

We would be wise to realize that many of the struggles in our home are for our spiritual benefit. We have as much to gain from the situation as the child with the problem.

“Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief” (Mark 9:23-24). The father has now responded from his heart with obvious emotion as he proclaimed what faith he had and asked the Lord to help him have greater faith. Dads, are we owning the needs of our family with the willingness for the Lord to work first in our lives? He desires to use every difficulty and trial we encounter as opportunity for building our faith and trust in Him. Will we let Him?

We may be tempted to see these problems as nuisances and hindrances to our getting along with life when, in fact, they are stepping stones to growth in Christ. It is easy to miss the blessings that God intends for us in properly resolving these issues. Paul said in Philippians 4:12, “I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” He said that he knew how to be abased and hungry. I’m sure there are many stories Paul could share with us as to how he suffered. Yet, we read in verse 13, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” That is the prize held out to us if we are but willing to receive the process as well.

Dads, it is good to suffer under the weight of family struggles if we will bring them to our Lord. He wants us to own them and bear them to Him. We need to be willing to be abased as we lead our family and be willing to suffer. We must not give up just because we can’t handle the difficulties. We can’t resolve them ourselves, and it is our lack of faith that causes us to think we can figure it out alone.

Just like that precious mommy with the failing child, we must let Christ work in our lives. Those parents are in God’s crucible, and their faith is being refined. If they let Him, He will purify and polish their faith to a luster that will reflect the light of Christ. “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).

Dads, are we willing to do the same? Are we willing to own the difficulties of raising men and women of God for our Lord? Are we willing to let Him work first in our own lives? My prayer is that we are. God bless, dear brothers. May we be found faithful.

Preparing Sons Real Life Stories

I recently spoke with a homeschooled, eighteen-year-old young man of whom I think highly. Let’s call him Eric. He is friendly, respectful, and I have not observed him being silly like many others his age. Unfortunately, there is one disappointing aspect of his life—he has not been working toward acquiring the necessary vocational skills needed to earn a living once he graduates from high school.

What makes it worse is the golden opportunity Eric has had. Eric’s father is a computer programmer and would love to have his son learn programming. His father has also produced and sold a number of software products that require telephone customer service. In addition to learning programming, Eric could also have learned valuable customer support skills.

As Eric and I talked, I continued pressing to find out why he hadn’t been studying and learning programming. Finally, when he ran out of evasive, general answers, he blurted out the real answer—he wanted to continue trying to make a go of his graphic arts business. What this really meant was that he was too focused on the desires of his heart. He did not understand how God uses parents to lead and equip children. His desire to learn graphic design caused him to ignore his parents’ counsel. He was unable to look down the road a short distance, past his heart, to see how God might use programming to establish a vocational and financial foundation for him.

Eric is a man and needs to be working hard—especially considering the three or four years of vocational learning opportunities that have been lost. I explained to Eric how programming and graphic arts complement each other very well. At least this is what we have found in our business. Had he listened to his father, he could have learned programming during his final years of high school and been working full time, for a good wage, upon graduation.

The high school years are vitally important to young men as they prepare for their future. Homeschooled children have a wonderful opportunity that others lack: they are able to tailor their curriculum toward God’s future vocational leading.

As well as a strong focus on God, character, and academics, we have tried to maintain a concerted vocational emphasis for our children in their junior and high school years. Christopher, our second born, spent extra time learning accounting and computer-based design. Upon graduation he became the Chief Financial Officer of our fledgling company. It was wonderful because he was ready for some real challenge and we had a need for him to fill that role.

Now, four years later, he truly deserves the title. He does a superb job managing the financial side of the company as well as doing all the computer layout and design we need. His earnings are on par with his responsibilities. His goal of buying his first house debt free, like his twenty-four-year-old brother just did, is looking very feasible.

I hesitate in sharing some of these details because I don’t want to boast. However, I do want to encourage you. Homeschooling moms and dads are blessed to be able to prepare their children for life in ways that others can only dream of. Homeschoolers should never think of homeschooling just as a way to teach their children, but as a golden opportunity to ready each child for his future. Even though many public high school graduation speeches talk about the graduates being equipped for life, I know from my own experience that was not the case.

Is the ability to purchase a home debt free a good goal for sons? Think about what a burden rent and/or mortgage payments are. They pressure men to choose work in places where Christians should not be employed. I have also known men, under tremendous financial pressure due to their mortgage, who participated in unethical and illegal business dealings. Concern over loss of income should never hold a Christian to a job with which his Lord would not be pleased.

Now can you see why we have presented our children with this goal of a debt-free house? Many parents may see saving for a house as unrealistic because a mortgage payment has hounded them through their marriage. However, I would encourage you to ask the Lord if it might not be a worthy goal for your sons.

Teri and I would have loved to provide our children with homes according to Proverbs 19:14, “House and riches are the inheritance of fathers: and a prudent wife is from the LORD.” Unfortunately, we are nowhere near being able to do that. However, we can provide them with room and board for as long as it takes them to save up for their house. Even then it is our desire that they would continue to live with us until God provides them a spouse.

If a young man has prepared well during high school, he should fairly easily be able to earn thirty-five thousand dollars or more a year when he graduates. Start with a yearly income and then subtract tithes, offerings, and taxes. Then money must be put aside for transportation, insurance (medical and auto), and other incidental expenses. If your son is frugal he should be able to save 50 percent or slightly more of his income while living at home.

Within six years from high school graduation your twenty-four-year-old son will have saved one hundred thousand dollars, not counting any appreciable interest. I find that very exciting. If he earned less than thirty-five thousand a year, it just means he must save a little longer.

Depending upon the location, size, and age of the house your son will purchase, he might not even need one hundred thousand. There are so many possibilities and intriguing options, but nothing happens unless a son has a vision, and you help him prepare.

My sons have found that as they accumulate a significant amount of savings, the interest starts to really add up. This has given them a true appreciation for earning, rather than paying, interest. That is where the battle is won! When you are successful in motivating toward a goal, your sons will own that goal and work toward achieving it.

As Eric and I ended our conversation, I told him I was going to keep asking him, every time I saw him, until he began studying programming in earnest. I admit I was a bit pushy, but I felt God’s leading so strongly that I was very forthright when I might otherwise have been subtler.

Since our conversation I’m delighted to say that Eric has really begun applying himself to the study of programming. He is now able to see that his father’s leading was correct and how the skill of programming will benefit him.

I am anxious to see the day when Eric is bringing in a reasonable wage for his efforts. He is a serious enough young man that I don’t expect him to waste his money on frivolous things but to save toward a house. What an incredible benefit that will be to him as he begins his adult life.

We have known Troy for quite a while. He was homeschooled, and his first job was as a two-week temporary assistant to the most junior employee in the company. Troy was hired to move heavy archive boxes in the basement. Being his first real job, Troy was determined to do his best regardless of how menial the tasks. That doesn’t sound like an impressive start to a career, does it? However, it was amazing to see how God was working. While doing his work assignments, he did his best to learn the archiving system of the company. He also tried to perform each task quickly so he would be available to do other “little” things for his boss.

His temporary position was extended, and after a couple of months, he replaced his “boss” as archiving manager for the company. Throughout the next year or so, he completely redesigned the archive system from the bottom up. This included designing a new database and tracking system for more than 4,000 boxes of information.

Computers have always interested Troy, and he found himself helping various people in the company with small projects in his spare time. While not an expert in formulas and the financial aspects of spreadsheets, his desire to learn enabled him to create, fix, and modify spreadsheets. Thus he began to be used in the process of converting the company’s spreadsheets from Lotus 1-2-3 to Microsoft Excel. After a while he was doing spreadsheet and database consulting full time. He completely redesigned their largest financial spreadsheet (which was made up of seventeen inter-working spreadsheets) in a three-month-long development project.

Troy began working for minimum wage, and within two years his hourly rate had climbed to twenty-five dollars an hour. He has chosen to go on to college and has found it extremely easy to continue earning that amount doing contract work for another company near his school. Think about how easy it would be to remain debt free through college by working part time and summers for twenty-five dollars an hour.

My encouragement to you is that any homeschooling parent can have confidence that their son can provide a good income for his family with the proper preparation. This requires determination and hard work on your part and your sons’, but the results are well worth it, lasting a lifetime.

For more information on raising sons who can provide for a family, please see Preparing Sons to Provide for a Single-Income Family.

In His Image

Special Note – 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.

Teri and I take great delight in observing families. Most often we see physical characteristics that are common between the children and their parents. It may be hair color or facial features. Usually there is something that causes us to say, “I can tell they came from the same ingredients.” It becomes especially obvious the more children there are to compare.

Isn’t it a wonderful thing what God did when He designed the procreation process? The image of the parents is impressed on the children. Many of our physical and even behavioral characteristics become a part of our offspring. There is one family in our church where the father is six foot seven. You ought to see his two sons. One of them has just now surpassed his father. I remember when my sons became taller than me several years ago. It felt very strange and was no small event for them.

I wonder how much each of us resembles our Father in heaven. I’m not referring to mankind in general, even though we were made in His image. I mean those who have been born again by the blood of the Lord Jesus. That transaction made God truly our Father, and we became His offspring. I wonder how much we resemble our Father

Jesus evaluated men’s conduct and associated their conduct with their father in John 8:44. “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.” Because the Pharisees would not welcome truth, Jesus stung them with sharp words by calling them the children of Satan. Here were the religious leaders of Israel being called sons of Satan, and Satan was called the father of lies.

We read in Deuteronomy 32:4 about God, “He is the Rock, His work is perfect: for all His ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is He.” Our Father is a God of truth, and Satan is the father of lies. That puts falsehood and truth in a very black and white light. If Jesus made this distinction and likened those who embraced lies to being in the lineage of Satan, it would seem that born-again believers must endeavor to always speak and live truth.

Recently, Teri and I were watching some videotapes by a well-respected Christian teacher. He referred to a statement he spoke to his child. Then he told the audience with a bit of a wink, “I was lying to him.” One other time, he acknowledged in a lighthearted fashion lying to someone. I must admit my respect for this person took a hit just then. Here he was expecting us to believe he was telling us truth, and at the same time admitting there were circumstances where he chose to lie.

I have no doubt this man endeavors to live by and preach truth; however, we must shun anything false. I believe it damages the reputation of Christ when we don’t. “Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me” (Proverbs 30:8). If we want to walk in righteousness we must not lie, as “A righteous man hateth lying: but a wicked man is loathsome, and cometh to shame” (Proverbs 13:5).

I believe that one of the most pungent Bible verses is, “A lying tongue hateth those that are afflicted by it; and a flattering mouth worketh ruin” (Proverbs 26:28). Here we see that from God’s perspective, we hate the one we lie to. If we loved him, we would speak truth to him just like our heavenly Father speaks truth always to us.

One of the greatest struggles I have is my desire to be funny. Sometimes the easiest way to get a chuckle is to say something that isn’t true. I know it is wrong, and yet it can create this battle in me as to whether I will say it. Usually, I just “swallow the words,” but there are times, especially if I’m tired, that they will come out. Then after we have all laughed, my spirit convicts me.

The conviction to speak truth is what initially led us to quit Santa Claus at Christmas. We realized that, according to Scripture, we could not love our children and lie to them. Yes, that also meant that the “tooth fairy” and “Easter bunny” were eradicated – never to darken our door again.

It is so easy to get caught up in all of our warm, fuzzy memories of being a child and in not wanting our children to miss out on anything. However, it is my greatest desire that my children would not miss out on having a God-fearing father who loves the Lord Jesus with all his heart. If God says I must shun falsehood, then I am not going to justify lying to my children for any reason.

I think what happens is that often we dads can be short-sighted and not patriarchal minded. It is so easy to live for all the fun this world has to offer and lose sight of eternal things. This year I will turn fifty and that seems old, but even if I lived to be as old as Silas (a delightful young man of 97 years old), what is that in comparison with eternity? Nothing!

I want my children to think of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead when they think of Easter. Yes, the Bible doesn’t tell us to celebrate “Easter,” but we are told to remember. We choose to “remember” in a more focused way on the day that even unbelievers expect Christians to celebrate. In my opinion, it would be far better to not celebrate Easter at all than to have any part of the “Easter bunny.” It is not truth, and to let something else detract from the most glorious event ever – the celebration of the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lamb of God, the Lord Jesus Christ – is unthinkable. We do celebrate and remember Christ’s resurrection weekly when we worship, but we choose to make Easter a special remembrance.

If we were somehow to find a way to celebrate Easter and spiritualize the Easter bunny in some fashion, I believe we would have a situation analogous to Exodus 32. Aaron had just made the golden calf while Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving God’s law. After Aaron finished crafting the calf and building an altar for it, he proclaimed, “Tomorrow is a feast to the LORD” (Exodus 32:5). Aaron announced it was to be a feast to Jehovah, the true God of Israel. Only God knows exactly what was going on in Aaron’s mind, but from the outside it appeared to be incredible double-mindedness. Let’s look at what happened in verse 6 when the things of the world were mixed with the worship of the true God: “And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink.”

That does not sound too bad. They had a very spiritual time with their offerings and then a meal. Then we read on that they “rose up to play.” This was not righteous play. We learn later that they were naked. Whatever Aaron intended led to something very unholy.

Please understand, I’m not saying that families who choose to celebrate Easter and include the Easter bunny are guilty of the idolatry we read about. I am not making that judgment in any way. What I am saying is: we can see from Scripture that if we mix truth with something false, the result is negative. Nothing holy will be inspired in the minds of those we are called to bring up in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

Dads, please understand, I’m not condemning you if you do make a choice different from mine, that isn’t my place. However, it is my prayer that I will challenge you to consider things in a new light and encourage you to love the Lord Jesus more and walk according to His Word. May God be merciful and gracious to you and may you be the head of many godly generations

“And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth” (Exodus 34:6).

Job Woes

Teri and I take great delight in observing families. Most often we see physical characteristics that are common between the children and their parents. It may be hair color or facial features. Usually there is something that causes us to say, “I can tell they came from the same ingredients.” It becomes especially obvious the more children there are to compare.

Isn’t it a wonderful thing what God did when He designed the procreation process? The image of the parents is impressed on the children. Many of our physical and even behavioral characteristics become a part of our offspring. There is one family in our church where the father is six foot seven. You ought to see his two sons. One of them has just now surpassed his father. I remember when my sons became taller than me several years ago. It felt very strange and was no small event for them.

I wonder how much each of us resembles our Father in heaven. I’m not referring to mankind in general, even though we were made in His image. I mean those who have been born again by the blood of the Lord Jesus. That transaction made God truly our Father, and we became His offspring.

Jesus evaluated men’s conduct and associated their conduct with their father in John 8:44: “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.”

Because the Pharisees would not welcome truth, Jesus stung them with sharp words by calling them the children of Satan. Here were the religious leaders of Israel being called sons of Satan, and Satan was called the father of lies.

We read in Deuteronomy 32:4 about God, “He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.” Our Father is a God of truth, and Satan is the father of lies. That puts falsehood and truth in a very black and white light. If Jesus made this distinction and likened those who embraced lies to being in the lineage of Satan, it would seem that born-again believers must endeavor to always speak and live truth.

Recently, Teri and I were watching some videotapes by a well-respected Christian teacher. He referred to a statement he spoke to his child. Then he told the audience with a bit of a wink, “I was lying to him.” One other time, he acknowledged in a lighthearted fashion lying to someone. I must admit my respect for this person took a hit just then. Here he was expecting us to believe he was telling us truth, and at the same time admitting there were circumstances where he chose to lie.

I have no doubt this man endeavors to live by and preach truth; however, we must shun anything false. I believe it damages the reputation of Christ when we don’t. “Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me” (Proverbs 30:8). If we want to walk in righteousness we must not lie, as “A righteous man hateth lying: but a wicked man is loathsome, and cometh to shame” (Proverbs 13:5).

I believe that one of the most pungent Bible verses is, “A lying tongue hateth those that are afflicted by it; and a flattering mouth worketh ruin” (Proverbs 26:28). Here we see that from God’s perspective, we hate the one we lie to. If we loved him, we would speak truth to him just like our heavenly Father speaks truth always to us.

One of the greatest struggles I have is my desire to be funny. Sometimes the easiest way to get a chuckle is to say something that isn’t true. I know it is wrong, and yet it can create this battle in me as to whether I will say it. Usually, I just “swallow the words,” but there are times, especially if I’m tired, that they will come out. Then after we have all laughed, my spirit convicts me.

The conviction to speak truth is what initially led us to quit Santa Claus at Christmas. We realized that, according to Scripture, we could not love our children and lie to them. Yes, that also meant that the “tooth fairy” and “Easter bunny” were eradicated—never to darken our door again.

It is so easy to get caught up in all of our warm, fuzzy memories of being a child and in not wanting our children to miss out on anything. However, it is my greatest desire that my children would not miss out on having a God-fearing father who loves the Lord Jesus with all his heart. If God says I must shun falsehood, then I am not going to justify lying to my children for any reason.

I think what happens is that often we dads can be short-sighted and not patriarchal minded. It is so easy to live for all the fun this world has to offer and lose sight of eternal things. This year I will turn fifty and that seems old, but even if I live to be as old as Silas (a delightful young man of ninety-seven years old), what is that in comparison with eternity? Nothing!

I want my children to think of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead when they think of Easter. Yes, the Bible doesn’t tell us to celebrate “Easter,” but we are told to remember. We choose to “remember” in a more focused way on the day that even unbelievers expect Christians to celebrate. In my opinion, it would be far better not to celebrate Easter at all than to have any part of the “Easter bunny.” It is not truth, and to let something else detract from the most glorious event ever—the celebration of the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lamb of God, the Lord Jesus Christ—is unthinkable. We do celebrate and remember Christ’s resurrection weekly when we worship, but we choose to make Resurrection Sunday a special remembrance.

If we were somehow to find a way to celebrate Easter and spiritualize the “Easter bunny” in some fashion, I believe we would have a situation analogous to Exodus 32. Aaron had just made the golden calf while Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving God’s law. After Aaron finished crafting the calf and building an altar for it, he proclaimed, “. . . To morrow is a feast to the LORD” (Exodus 32:5). Aaron announced it was to be a feast to Jehovah, the true God of Israel. Only God knows exactly what was going on in Aaron’s mind, but from the outside it appeared to be incredible double-mindedness. Let’s look at what happened in verse 6 when the things of the world were mixed with the worship of the true God: “And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink. . . .”

That does not sound too bad. They had a very spiritual time with their offerings and then a meal. Then we read on that they “rose up to play.” This was not righteous play. We learn later that they were naked. Whatever Aaron intended led to something very unholy.

Please understand, I’m not saying that families who choose to celebrate Easter and include the “Easter bunny” are guilty of the idolatry we read about. I am not making that judgment in any way. What I am saying is: we can see from Scripture that if we mix truth with something false, the result is negative. Nothing holy will be inspired in the minds of those we are called to bring up in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

Dads, please understand, I’m not condemning you if you do make a choice different from mine, that isn’t my place. However, it is my prayer that I will challenge you to consider things in a new light and encourage you to love the Lord Jesus more and walk according to His Word. May God be merciful and gracious to you, and may you be the head of many godly generations.

“And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth” (Exodus 34:6).

In the Way He Should Go

Several months ago, while studying in preparation for a workshop, I came to a new understanding of the well-known verse Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” I believe this is one of the most commonly quoted verses but least appropriately applied.

How can it be misapplied when the verse is so straightforward? Doesn’t it teach us that if we raise our children in the way we want them to go, they will live like that as adults? I have observed “good” Christian parents raising their children–families who go to church, espouse to love the Lord Jesus, and even homeschool their children. Aren’t they training their children in the way they should go? Let’s find out.

Sadly, even within the Christian homeschooling community, I’m seeing children who are being raised to be children all of their lives. They are trained, but is it really in the way they should go? Does it match the goals these parents have for their children? In another twenty years, will the entertainment-focused Christian youth of today all of a sudden change their ways? A turnaround in focus didn’t happen as my generation grew up, nor do I honestly believe that Proverbs 22:6 teaches it will.

If the years of one’s youth mean one fun activity or sport after another, when do children learn to enjoy work? Must our children always have great fun while homeschooling? If this is their training, how will they respond as adults to jobs that aren’t always fun? In Genesis 2:15 we read that God put man on the earth to keep the garden. Our lot in life as men is to work and serve.

It is as if we believe there is some magic switch on the back of our children’s heads that, when flipped, will instantly turn a childlike youth into a mature, Christ-serving adult. Unfortunately, a child who has been fed a constant diet of fun and games is not going to have an appetite for work and the things of the Lord. What happens when church is the place of boy-girl relationships and pizza parties? It will likely mean that church must have a great social calendar, potlucks, and sports leagues to keep our adult children coming back. Hmmm. If it isn’t the intention of parents to raise perpetual children, why are so many doing just that?

We must search our souls over this. How will our sons ever grow up to be responsible, Christ-serving men of God if we don’t truly “train them in the way they should go”? If our young men are fed a diet of fun activities and sports in their youth, won’t they grow into adults with an appetite for ongoing recreation and couch-potato-type viewing? I’ve met very few men who began life with an entertainment focus and were able to break the training (actually, I can only think of two).

Christ is our example and our Lord. We see no hint of the Lord Jesus spending His time on what is the norm for Christian youth and men today. Why didn’t He? Was it because there wasn’t entertainment back then? No! It was because Jesus knew the clock was counting down, and He was not going to waste precious time on activities of no eternal value. I think that may be at the heart of the parent’s problem. Our focus today is on how to spend as much time as possible doing what is the most pleasurable. We do not believe that time is precious, and that we need to be about the Master’s business. “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16). “But this I say, brethren, the time is short. . .” (1 Corinthians 7:29).

Most Christian parents will say they want their children to grow up to be good Christians. Sadly, what our generation has come to accept as “good” Christians is, I believe, very different from being dynamic followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).

This leads to the first step we parents should take to train our children in the way they should go. May we bow before the Lord and ask Him to evaluate our lives. What is my relationship like with Jesus? What is the focus of my heart? What do I enjoy doing the most? Who do I want to be with the most? What priority does my daily quiet time with the Lord Jesus hold? I think we will agree the answers to these questions reveal whether we are carnally or spiritually minded. I join you in bringing these questions before the Lord.

Generally, our children will follow in our footsteps. Are those footsteps leading them in the way they should go? If we are setting a good example, then the fruit will be good. If, however, our example is of following the world, then the fruit will be bad. We must approach Proverbs 22:6 with stark honesty. We should realize that what we are creating now is ultimately what our children will be. Certainly, God can perform a miracle as He did with Paul, but He is holding us responsible for how we lead our children. The issue goes beyond whether or not we are satisfied with the example we are setting for our children. Rather the question would be, “Is the Lord Jesus pleased with our example?”

May we be fathers who will critically evaluate whether we are leading our children in the way they should go. If not, may we seek the Lord for a change of direction and then be obedient to it.

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.