Archives For Family Matters

Thoughts and help for the relationships that mean the most to you.

6.3.13I’m speaking as a husband, married for eleven years. I’m speaking as a pastor who’s seen and counseled scores of marriages; some that made it, some that didn’t. The only complaint I get about the percentage is that it’s too low.

Here’s the simple (but not easy) way to eliminate 85% of marriage fights: take care of your money issues. That’s it. If you’re married, you know exactly what I’m talking about. The number one thing that couples fight about is money, plain and simple. There’s not enough money. There’s too much debt. You’re upside down on a mortgage. One of you is the spender and won’t stop spending. You’ve adopted a lifestyle that you can’t afford. That leads to fights, fights and more fights.

If you trace the arguments, the pain, the hateful words, it will overwhelmingly come back to purchases you couldn’t afford, trips you can’t take because there’s no money, or overall stress caused by bills that you can’t pay. Is it any wonder that the Bible says that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Tim. 6:10)?

The solution is simple, but it’s not easy. Get out of debt. Stop spending. Stick to a budget. Adopt a lifestyle you can afford. Create financial margin. Painful, I know. But the benefit to your marriage will more than make up for it.

QUESTION: What do you think? Is 85% too high or too low?

image courtesy of

11.22.13Here’s something I hear all the time: “My kids are the most important thing in my life.” I hear people say it. I read it online. People write that statement when they’re answering 8 random things about themselves on Facebook (or whatever that is). On the surface, it seems like the right thing to say, “My kids are the most important thing in my life.”

I mean, it’s a lot better than saying “Money is the most important thing” or “My job is the most important thing” or “Football is the most important thing.” Kids seem like a much more noble endeavor.

Some people actually mean it. Some people actually live like it. That’s where they get into trouble. I’ve seen some people put their kids ahead of their marriage. They quit pursuing their spouse romantically and emotionally, pouring all their love and affirmation into their kids. They’ll sacrifice their marriage for their kids, which ends up being a detriment to their kids. The greatest gift you can give your kids is a strong and healthy marriage. Marriage needs to be a higher priority than your kids.

On top of it all needs to be your relationship with God. God is the one who will give you the strength you need to be the best spouse and parent you can be. Without his help, you’ll struggle under your own power. Do you want to be the parent you want to be? Prioritize your relationship with God over your kids, and let your kids benefit from the overflow of what God is doing in your life.

So, here’s the order I would advocate: God first, your spouse second, your kids third. (Your job, hobbies, Facebook and all that nonsense comes much farther down the line).

Do you want the best for your children? Don’t make them your first priority.

601 Marbles

November 15, 2013 — Leave a comment

11.15.13I have 601 weeks left until my oldest son Zeke graduates high school. I know that may seem like a lot, but when he was born I had 936 weeks. I’ve already lost a third of my time with him.

In his book Playing for Keeps, author Reggie Joiner makes a great suggestion to help parents visualize the amount of time they have left with their kids. He suggests that you get a glass jar and fill it with marbles, one marble for every week you have left with your child. Each week, take a marble out and throw it away. It will serve as a tangible reminder that the few moments you have with your children are precious.

So, I have three glass jars on my nightstand. One for each of my boys. Each Sunday, I take out another marble and throw it away. I don’t like it. It makes me a bit sad. But it’s incredible motivation for me. Every time I’m tempted to waste a day, watch a useless television show, or squander a weekend, I see the jars of marbles. Every time my boys want to play ‘rough’ and I’m not feeling up to it, every time they want to throw the football outside even though it’s freezing, every time they want me to take an interest in what they’re doing even though I’d rather be watching SportsCenter, I see the jars of marbles.

When I see the jars of marbles, it serves as a reminder that every week is precious. I’ve already lost a third of my time with Zeke. How I choose to spend the remaining time with him is up to me. I want to make every marble count.

To help calculate how many weeks you have left with your kids, download the free Legacy Countdown app from the App Store.

11.6.13I heard about it a lot growing up. There was a ‘soulmate’ out there for me, someone uniquely created for me that was going to fulfill my every longing and desire. While in high school, that prospect excited me and comforted me.

Once I was in my 20s and started actively searching, the idea of a ‘soulmate’ terrified me. What if I couldn’t find her? What if I made a mistake? What if I chose the wrong one? Or worse, what if I let my soulmate go by because I wasn’t convinced, and I would be forced to live the rest of my life on the outside of God’s will for my life? The thought was paralyzing at times.

Our society has created the myth of the ‘soulmate’ because it sells well. It makes for a great movie, a great ideal, a great dream. In reality, this myth has devastating consequences for young adults. We’re never given any criteria for how to find our soulmate, so we just ‘feel it.’ You know when you find your soulmate when they send tingles up and down your spine, when your heart goes a flutter just by being in their presence. Obviously, they’re the one. They’re the soulmate.

But then what happens when the magic wears off and you get into the grind of making a marriage work? Some people make the tragic mistake of thinking that they made the wrong choice. In their mind, a soulmate would never grumble or be selfish or be anything less than perfect. Some believe they made the wrong choice about marriage simply because they have to work at it.

Think about it from God’s perspective. Does it sound very loving for God to give you only one compatible spouse out of the six billion people walking on the planet? Does it sound loving that God would base your entire life’s happiness on your ability in your early twenties to find the one person out of the entire planet that’s right for you? That doesn’t sound very loving to me.

If you’re looking for a spouse, take some of the pressure off of yourself. Marriage is a choice. Love is a choice. Choose well, work hard, and don’t give up. You’ll have a beautiful marriage that will stand the test of time.

Did you know that if you repeat a lie long enough, people will start to believe it? By repeating it over and over, people’s defenses eventually wear down. That doesn’t make the lie any truer, just people more likely to accept the lie as truth.

Here’s one of the biggest lies we’ve been duped into believing: debt can be a good thing. Debt can be managed. Debt can be leveraged. Watch this short commercial and see if you can spot the lie:

It’s hard to root against Sydney. She’s cute, she’s spunky, she’s chasing her dream! But did you catch the lie? “Her valuable assets were staying, and selling her car wouldn’t fly. We helped Sydney manage her debt . . .” In other words, Wells Fargo helped give her a big fat loan and put her in debt. But it’s okay if she’s chasing her dream, right? Next month when the bill comes due, she gets a pass if she’s chasing her dream, right? When you buy a car you can’t afford, you get a pass if your heart is in the right place, right?

The Bible is very clear on this: “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.” Proverbs 22:7 Debt is slavery, with masters like Visa, Mastercard, and your bank. Debt is not something to be managed; it’s something to be avoided. Jesus came to set us free, why would we willingly enslave ourselves financially to other people? If Sydney’s dream was worthwhile enough, she should be willing to sell something to get there. As it is, she’s likely to have to give up her dream to start paying back all the loans she took out to chase her dreams. Debt is bad.

Don’t buy into the myth that debt can be a good thing. Get out of debt, and experience the financial freedom that God intends for you.

PPF_FBNegative media influences ranks as one of the top ten issues that Christian families deal with according to LifeWay research. Why is this issue so important? “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” Matthew 5:13

Satan’s strategy with negative media influences is to get the salt to lose its saltiness. If he can’t keep us out of heaven, he’ll try and destroy our effectiveness. If he can change the way we think, he can change the way we live. We must always be on our guard when it comes to negative media influences. How do we respond as families?

1. Protect. We’re called to protect our children. That’s why we don’t let them run around with scissors. That’s why we don’t let them play with open prescription bottles. That’s why we don’t give them a chainsaw and tell them to ‘have at it.’ And yet many of us give our kids unfiltered internet access on their cell phones, cable television in their rooms, and buy them Grand Theft Auto V, all the while hoping they turn out okay. Protect your kids from stuff they don’t need to be exposed to.

2. Engage. As kids get older, you can’t protect them from everything. Sooner or later they’re going to interact with the world. Better to start that process while they’re still under your supervision. Engaging is about knowing what songs, shows and movies your kids are interacting with. It’s about knowing what social media platforms they’re on, and having constant dialogue with them about it. It takes time and energy, but sets them up for success later on in life.

3. Redeem. All culture is not bad. Just because some music is bad, it doesn’t mean all music is bad. God is calling some of our children to be artists and musicians, to redeem the good that’s still left in the world. If Hollywood can produce The Bible series from Mark Burnett and it be a success, then there’s hope for anything. Don’t shy away from culture. Redeem it.

ScaredI don’t have to spend that much time trying to make the case that we live in a society that is becoming increasingly hostile to Christianity. You can look back decades ago when prayer was taken out of public schools. You can look as recently as last week when a school in Ohio was forced to pay a fine of $95,000 and take down a portrait of Jesus that had been hanging since 1947 after being sued by the ACLU. It’s not that culture is indifferent towards Christianity; it seems as if it’s becoming outright hostile to our beliefs. The question is, how do we respond?

We can look back to Jesus’ day and see incredible similarities. Jesus was born into a Jewish culture that was at war. Subjugated by the Romans, the Jewish people saw their freedom and their way of life under siege by an overreaching, ultra-liberal government. How they responded is how many of us respond today.

Essenes – This was a group of Jews who believed that everything in the world was evil and tainted. Their response was to run and hide, to live in communes out in the desert, far from mankind. Today, I’d call that response “Bunker Bob.” Bunker Bob is the dad who’s afraid to venture out into the world. He unplugs the televisions, snatches up the cell phones, and doesn’t allow his family out into the world, for fear they might get infected.

Zealots – These Jews were the revolutionaries whose response to Roman oppression was violent revolt. They were the terrorists of the day. Today, I’d call that response “Angry Alan.” Angry Alan is the dad who overly delights in judging and condemning the world around him. Making heavy usage of Old Testament fire and brimstone, he’s smugly looks on as the world goes to Hell, pointing his finger the whole way.

Sadducees – The Sadducees were a group of religious leaders based out of Jerusalem who had compromised their religious convictions to hold onto power under Roman rule. In short, they sold out. This response I like to call “Compromising Carl.” Compromising Carl is the dad who simply gives in, who allows the world to have full sway with his family, trusting that the world truly has his best interests at heart.

Pharisees – The Pharisees lived out among the people in the countryside. Their rigid interpretation of Old Testament Law enabled them to judge openly and disregard those not like them. In their eyes, God loved only the Jews, so they were under no compulsion to care for those not like them. They tried to exist as if the Gentiles (non-Jews) didn’t exist. Today that person is “Ignoring Ivan.” Churches love Ignoring Ivan. He represents the person that tries to recreate his entire social existence inside the four walls of the church so he doesn’t have to interact with those not like him. Sunday morning, Sunday night, after Sunday night fellowship, Monday night committee meeting, Tuesday night visitation, Wednesday night church . . . you get the picture. If he can just be at church all the time, then maybe he won’t have to interact with the broken world around him.

When Jesus came of age and started his ministry, he made all four groups angry. He didn’t run and hide from the world like the Essenes, he lived among it. Jesus didn’t violently oppose the Romans, he loved them and served them, even healing their servants. He didn’t compromise his beliefs like the Sadducees but unashamedly stood on the truth. And he didn’t ignore the Gentiles like the Pharisees did, but he engaged them and showed them grace.

When it comes to your response to today’s Anti-Christian culture, who describes you best? Bunker Bob? Angry Alan? Compromising Carl? Ignoring Ivan? Or Jesus?

PPF_FBWe all know those kids: the ‘punk’ kids. The ones who throw a tantrum in the grocery store. The ones who have an unnecessary meltdown on the ball field. The ones who act at least five years younger than their age. The ones to completely disrespect their parents in public. The ‘punk’ kids. Lack of discipline in families is all around us.

What contributes to it? You can’t discount the sin nature inside of them, creating a gravitational pull towards selfishness. Busyness plays a role, as we’re simply too busy to discipline. Sometimes we lack a strong enough bond with our own kids to see discipline have a lasting effect. Some parents are too weak-willed, unable to endure inconveniencing their kid in any way. Divorce can disunite parents and break trust with the kids, and differing parenting styles from neighboring parents can erode a strong sense of discipline. In the end though, many parents look at discipline and simply say it’s too hard.

What’s at stake? Much more than we think. We think the worst that could happen is that kids grow up disrespectful and bring dishonor to the family, but even that is thinking selfishly, how our kids affect us. What does a lack of discipline do to a child? Discipline your children, for in that there is hope;
 do not be a willing party to their death” (Proverbs 19:18). From the Bible’s perspective, discipline is a matter of life and death. To use a stark example, if you walked past a swimming pool and noticed a toddler struggling to stay afloat in the water, when you fail to discipline, it’s as if you walk right on past the swimming pool, leaving the toddler to fend for herself.

How can you begin to make headway with discipline in your house?

  1. Be disciplined yourself. Here’s the uncomfortable reality: disciplined people discipline people. If your life is disciplined, discipline will be easier for you. But if your life is chaos, don’t be surprised if your children follow suit.
  2. Be united and consistent. You and your spouse have to be of one mind. Kids learn too quickly how to divide and conquer their parents. If you’re divorced, do whatever you need to do to reconcile with the other, at least in terms of parenting. And be consistent. Don’t threaten without following through. If you start counting, “1, 2, . . .” make sure you’re willing to say “3″ and follow through with your consequences. If they don’t believe you’ll follow through, your threats are useless.
  3. Embrace short-term pain for long-term gain. Disciplining is thinking not just about the specific situation, but how this will affect your child ten years from now. Yes, discipline is hard, inconvenient, and not much fun. But if done right, will shape your child in a way that he’ll be thankful for ten years from now.

QUESTION: What other action steps would you add to this list?

PPF_FBThis week in my sermon series “Picture Perfect Family,” we looked at the thorny issue of lack of discipline in the house. Investigating scripture, I talked about three new ways we should look at discipline in the house:


  1. Discipline is more than just punishment; it’s love. We think discipline is mere punishment, with no redeeming value. The Bible begs to differ. My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline,
and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
as a father the son he delights in. Proverbs 3:11-12. God makes a direct connection between discipline and love. It’s not just getting in trouble, it’s about a parent loving their child so much that they will correct their child out of love. Again the Bible says, Whoever spares the rod hates their children,
but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them. Proverbs 13:24. This is pretty direct. If you don’t discipline your children, don’t think you’re doing it out of love for them. You’re doing it out of selfish laziness. Whoever loves their children will discipline them.
  2. Discipline is more than just negative; it’s positiveDiscipline your children, and they will give you peace; 
they will bring you the delights you desire. Proverbs 29:17 This perhaps is the biggest misconception. Discipline is so negative! Who wants that negative energy around. Yes disciplining is about spanking and time out and getting grounded, but it’s so much more than that. It’s more than just being negative when they mess up. It’s about, as parents, setting a positive example for them so that they will live a better and fuller life.
  3. Discipline is more than just reactionary; it’s preventativeFolly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far away. Proverbs 22:15 We get this with our health. Reactionary health is getting a heart bypass when our arteries clog up. Preventative health is eating right and exercising to keep those arteries from clogging up. If you only discipline when your child does something wrong, that’s simply reactionary discipline. Preventative discipline is teaching your child habits that will keep them from getting in trouble in the future.

Parents, discipline is not a dirty word. If done right (and biblically), it’s one of the greatest forms of love you’ll ever show your child.

QUESTION: What other misconceptions of discipline do parents have?

workfam copyIf I asked you how much you value your family, you would answer me in terms of feelings and emotions. “I love them.” “I would do anything for them.” “I would throw myself in front of a bus for them.” But from your family’s perspective, the chief indicator of value isn’t measured in feelings, but in time. How much time do you give them?

Your job works the same way. Your value is measured in time spent there, not feelings or emotions. Thus the quandary is born: there’s not enough time in your week to give as much to your work and family as both would like. So where’s the balance in this impossible situation?

In Daniel 1, we find the story of a young man (Daniel) placed in an impossible situation. Taken captive and forced into a foreign king’s service, he was quickly presented with a crisis of faith: abandon his God or abandon his life. By eating the food from the king’s table, he was eating food sacrificed to other gods. Eating would be an act of worship to another god, forsaking his own. Yet if he didn’t follow the rules, his very life was at stake. So, how did Daniel navigate this impossible situation?

But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. Now God had caused the official to show favor and compassionto Daniel, 10 but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.”

11 Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 12 “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” 14 So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.

15 At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. Daniel 1:8-15 (NIV)

Here’s how his actions give us insight into how to balance work and family.

  1. Make up your mind. Daniel resolved himself. He made up his mind. Out of the two, his relationship with God was more important than even his life. In your own life, you have to choose: between work and family, what’s more important? Once you choose, you have the resolve necessary to move forward.
  2. Create a plan. Daniel didn’t simply barge head first into his supervisor’s office and refuse to work. He prayed his heart out, and he came up with a plan. God honors dependence and diplomacy. No ‘impossible’ situation is impossible with God. There’s always a way. Perhaps it’s changing your hours up so that you can be home when you need to. Perhaps it’s saying that you’ll only travel out of town five days a month, or that you’ll be home by 6 pm for dinner, no matter what. Create a plan. For Daniel, it was to eat vegetables and water instead of the king’s food.
  3. Set up a test. Here’s where Daniel gives his supervisor a ‘win.’ He didn’t give him an ultimatum. He asked him for a test. “Let us try it for ten days.” If it doesn’t work, no harm done. This option of a test is very appealing from the perspective of your employer. When you present your plan, ask to try it out for a week, or a month.

In the end, be sure that you don’t sacrifice your family for your job. In your job you’re completely replaceable, but in your family you’re completely irreplaceable. There’s a way to find balance, I promise.

*all good thoughts from this post come from Andy Stanley’s book When Work and Family Collide.