Archives For family

4.7.14As you drag into Monday, I know you’re tired, but is it a good kind of tired? Was your weekend energy spent on partying, video games, too much tv and too much alcohol? That’s not a good kind of tired. That’s a weekend of wasted opportunities mixed in with a dash of regret. Here’s a good kind of tired: spending your weekend doing something beneficial for someone else.

This past weekend we wore our church out, but it was a good kind of tired. We hosted our third annual Joy Prom, where our high school students throw a prom for the special needs community in our area. People drove in from three states to be here this year. It was an all week event getting ready, and many were up late Saturday night putting everything back together after the last dance ended.

There were countless hours and dollars devoted to this one event, to give a night of joy to an often overlooked group in our community. But here’s what’s amazing: our people loved it. They served with a smile on their face. They sacrificed their time and energy willingly. Sure, we were dragging a little Sunday morning. But we were a good kind of tired.

Growing up, a good weekend consisted of hanging out with my friends and finding ways to entertain myself. Looking back on this last weekend, I didn’t get to do much for me. We brought our baby girl home from the hospital on Saturday morning, I took my older two to an airshow in town, came back and got dressed for Joy Prom, and stayed up late Saturday helping clean the church.

Today I’ll be honest. I’m tired. But it’s a good kind of tired. It’s a weekend I’d do again in a heartbeat. Are you a good kind of tired today?

IMG_0324Seven years ago, the narrative of Robin and I’s marriage was that we were the young couple that couldn’t have kids. Then our oldest son Zeke was born (seven years ago today). Two and a half months later we would meet him for the first time and take him home to adopt him. And then we met Shepherd two years later. Another two years went by and then God blew our minds and we had our first natural born son, Lincoln.

Today we’re meeting our little girl Elle who will complete our family. Her full name is Emmanuelle, and she is a living testimony that God continues to be with us. With kid number four, I think we’ll have to give up that narrative as the couple who couldn’t have kids. I think God’s proved his point. He can make the miraculous happen. He has blessed time and time again, and we look forward with breathless anticipation to see what He does over the next seven years.

May you be able to see and appreciate the miracles God has worked in your lives!

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?

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1.15.14Here’s a reason that we don’t bring friends to church, one that we don’t talk about and will never admit to our pastors: our church is weird. It’s okay, I can say that. I’m a church person. I’ve grown up in church. I’ve been a part of some weird churches. They’re fine for you because you’re used to it, but you love your friends too much to expose them to it.

It’s like taking your friends to a family reunion. You’ll never do it. Why? Because you have friends that you genuinely like. And you have a family that you don’t like all the time but you’re stuck with. And you’ll never bring your friends to a family reunion because you love your friends too much to expose them to that level of crazy.

Sometimes church can feel like a crazy family reunion. It’s a little weird, it’s not super fun, and it smells. But it’s family and you’re stuck with them.

When church feels like a crazy family reunion, newcomers won’t stick around. They’re not family. Here’s what I know: people today are genuinely searching for hope. They’re searching for Christ. They need a church to go to that will welcome them and not freak them out.

Want to get people to bring their friends to your church? Make sure it’s welcoming, from the second they step out of their car in the parking lot. Make sure it’s fun. Church doesn’t have to be as somber as a funeral service. It’s very possible to have fun without compromising the sanctity of the gospel. Make sure church is helpful. When the preacher talks about something that doesn’t apply, people check out. Save the sermons on the tabernacle for Sunday nights or Wednesday nights. On Sunday mornings, make sure that church is helpful.

Want new folks to come to your church and stick around? Make sure your church doesn’t feel like a crazy family reunion.

QUESTION: What do you think? Am I off base here?

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.

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.

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.

PPF_FBThe Old Testament tells the story of a nation of slaves that God took and formed into the nation of Israel. As slaves, this people had no real concept of how to live as a society of their own. So we have the Old Testament law, over 600 commands given to help shape and guide this new nation. But of the 600 plus commands we’re all familiar with the top ten, the Ten Commandments.

Many of them we know by heart: Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not commit adultery. The one I want to focus on today is commandment four, the Sabbath. Here’s the entirety of the command:

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. Exodus 20:8-11

Here’s what’s intriguing about this command to rest (the literal translation of “sabbath”): the entirety of the Ten Commandments is contained in 137 words in the original language. The one command to remember the Sabbath takes up a full third of those words. Remember, these ten commands were written by God on stone tablets. Space was limited. Every word counted. The ones we know today are short and to the point: Don’t murder, don’t steal, don’t commit adultery. And yet the command to remember the Sabbath goes on and on and on. Why? Why would God put so much emphasis on the Sabbath?

Is it because He created us and knows our selfish tendencies? Is it because he knows how quick we are to over-burden ourselves and get distracted from what’s most important? Is it because he designed our bodies to constantly need rest, to constantly pause and remind ourselves of what’s truly important, of where our value truly comes from?

For whatever reason, God went out of his way to make sure we understood just how important it is for us to periodically rest, reflect, and remember the source of all that is.

QUESTION: How often do you take a Sabbath?