As a generation, we are staring daily into the void caused by the lack of strong, godly men in our culture and our homes. Whether it is the recent news about rampant sexual assault on college campuses or violent, abusive young men who commit mass shootings, we are seeing the consequences of a generation of men who have not been taught to use their strength to live for the good of others, but instead have been trained to use other people for their own selfish gain. How have we ended up with this sad state of affairs and more importantly, how do we turn the tide with the next generations of boys?
The truth is that one of the effects of sin in our world is the selfish passivity of men. Without strong mentoring of the next generation of boys by the current generation of men, the default belief of young men is that they are supposed to be cared for by women. So, instead of learning from an early age to use their masculine energy and strength to be servant leaders, boys learn to use women to get their own needs met. This selfish passivity is destructive to the family, the church, and the culture at large.
What we desperately need today is a renewal of selfless servant leadership among men. We need a generation of boys who learn (by watching and hearing) to use their masculine strength to lay down their lives for the good of the women around them. We need a new generation of men who live to protect women, honor their bodies, and treat them with the respect and dignity they deserve as daughters of God and sisters in Christ. We need a generation of men who will reject the selfish consumer passivity encouraged by our culture and who reject the violent, abusive treatment of women displayed in pornography. A generation of men who make the decision to be faithful, loving husbands and fathers, who work hard to provide for their families, and who commit themselves to a life of character and honor.
One of the oft-repeated proverbs of pastoral leadership is that “everyone attends church on Mother’s Day and everyone goes fishing on Father’s Day.” While its obviously an overstatement, it reveals the core issue I’m writing about today: that moms too often carry the heaviest load for spiritual leadership and direction in the family. This should not be. Dads, where are you? Where are the fathers who don’t check out on Father’s Day, but instead tell their families, “what would honor your father the most this year would be for us all to be in church together worshiping God as a family”?
It is too easy for us as men to sit back and condemn the culture for its lack of moral compass and mistreatment of women and girls. But here’s the truth: if we sit back and do nothing, if we keep our mouths shut and say nothing, if we fail to train the next generation of boys to honor God above all and treat women with love and honor, then we are perpetuating the very problems we hate to see. Men, we need your strong, servant leadership in the home, the church, and the culture. We need you to tenderly love and serve your wives in front of your kids, to treat the women at your workplace with dignity and respect, to use your gifts to serve women in the church, and to use your strength to protect your daughters.
Men, our world is crying out for a vision of masculinity that is not selfish, passive, abusive, and consumed with lust and games. Where are the men who will lay down their selfish desires, their sexual urges, and their violent anger at the altar before God and pick up the mantel of Christ-like love, service, and kindness toward others? Give me a tribe of these kind of men, and by God’s grace, the next generation of boys will have a vision of manhood worth giving their lives for.
If you didn’t hear the story, Barie had her purse stolen out of her minivan last week while she was working out at the YMCA. Someone smashed in the passenger-side window while the van was sitting in the crowded parking lot around 10:00am in the morning and stole her purse (which was hidden under the front seat). Despite my calls to Bank of America within 30 minutes of the incident to report the stolen purse, the thieves were still able to use the debit card and ID to empty all of the money out of our checking and savings accounts. Here’s what we’ve learned through the process:
- If your purse or wallet is stolen (and both your bank card and your driver’s license are taken), it is NOT enough to cancel the debit card with your bank. A thief can still use your cancelled card and your picture ID to access the money in your accounts. You need to ask for an immediate HOLD to be placed on ALL of your bank accounts with your financial institution, and then as quickly as possible remove all of your funds, cancel your accounts, and open new accounts.
- Do NOT trust people that you talk to through the customer service department of any large bank (through their 1-800 phone service). You will end up talking to someone in a call-center who does not understand the details of how fraud and theft actually work. My advice to you is to immediate go into a local BRANCH and ask to meet with the branch MANAGER. Ask him or her for a list of steps you need to take to protect your money and your identity. Don’t leave until the manager gets on the phone and puts a HOLD on your account and flags your ID in their system.
- The primary way that people steal money from you after they have your debit card and your Driver’s License is to go through the drive-thru lanes at a large bank (where they have 6 or 8 lanes). They choose one of the far-away lanes and have someone who is close to your appearance go through the drive-thru. With your debit card (even a cancelled or expired one) and your ID, they can withdraw money from any account linked to your card by forging your signature.
- Don’t ever leave your purse or wallet in your locked car (even if it is hidden well). Most ID fraud happens based on stolen identification. Barie hid her purse well in our van, and another victim even hid her purse in the back seat of her car. However, the police said that most likely they were being watched as they got out of their vehicles and the criminals saw them leave their purses behind on the way into the YMCA. This crime happens most frequently at work-out facilities where people tend to leave their purse or wallet in the car. Don’t do it!
- If someone uses your identity as though they were you (which is the definition of identity theft), make sure and let the Department of Public Safety and the Policy Department know that you have been a victim of this crime. Often after this happens, people don’t follow-up with law-enforcement to report the details of the identity theft because their bank reimburses the loss to the customer. This is one reason that this crime is so infrequently prosecuted.
- Trust God. This whole experience has been a reminder to Barie and I that everything we have in this life can be taken from us except for our faith in Jesus Christ. No treasure on this earth is as precious to us as the gift of grace that God made possible through Jesus. In addition, we have learned (again) that we must trust God to meet our daily needs. He has been so faithful to us every step of the way, and we give Him all the glory for helping us through this ordeal.
In January 2014, I preached a series at our church called Hope for Parenting. Here are some of the resources that I mentioned during the series that are helpful for parents:
Second, some technical helps on using the internet at home:
* There is no reason to have unfiltered internet in your home when OpenDNS Home is free to use. It is easy to install and use. Get an account on their website, download the software, and get started.
* Experts report that most kids are introduced to porn online through Google Images. You can LOCK safe search on your computer for all users. Google tells you how to do it on their support pages.
* YouTube is another website frequently used by kids who are searching for songs, clips, and other media. You can LOCK safety mode on Youtube on your computer for all users. Google tells you how to do it on their support pages.
* Of course, no technical solution is a substitute for common sense. Check out this warning from NetGear on their Live Parental Control software (that we use – it utilizes OpenDNS): Live Parental Controls is an excellent solution for keeping your family safe online, but like all Web filtering tools, it isn’t perfect. NETGEAR reminds you there’s no substitute for keeping the family computer in a common area and in plain sight where you can monitor the Web sites your kids are visiting, and taking caution when visiting Web sites requesting personal or financial information.
Third, some resource websites for parents (to keep us informed):
* Craig Gross (the founder of X3Watch – an online accountability software tool) is raising money to launch a new website called iParent.tv, which will help parents stay informed on websites, apps, social media, and other online resources. As a parent who is raising children in the digital age, I think this will be a very helpful resource. Barie and I signed up yesterday for a one-year subscription ($29) to stay informed.
* Walt Mueller’s ministry is called the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding. CPYU sends out regular email updates for free that are designed to keep parents informed on what is happening in youth-culture. Mueller covers music, movies, tv shows, and web trends. His updates can be a little overwhelming, but they are great conversations starters with our kids.
Fourth, some books on parenting that I have found helpful:
* John MacArthur’s book on What the Bible Says About Parenting strikes the right balance of biblical wisdom and practical help without giving into cultural fear-mongering or guilt-laden parenting.
* Tim Kimmel’s book Grace-Based Parenting is a clear call to parent our children with the same grace that God parents us with.
* Dr. Bruce Ware’s book Big Truths for Young Hearts is my favorite book on teaching basic theology to children – introducing them to the greatness of God in small bites.
That’s it for now. What resources would you add?
In 1999, I asked a young woman of 19, Barie Sue Davis, to marry me. Two days ago, we celebrated 13 years of marriage. If I didn’t know it then, I know it now. Asking her to be my wife was one of the best decisions I ever made. Why? I’m glad you asked.
First, I married an incredibly godly woman. I didn’t know how much Barie would teach me about the heart of Jesus when I married her, but I did know that her relationship with God was the most important thing to her in all the world. As I’ve grown to understand my wife and grown to understand the Lord I serve, here’s what I have found – very few people in the world have a heart as much like Jesus as Barie. You see, Jesus always saw and had compassion on those that everyone else dismissed in the first century – children, women, outcasts, sinners, cripples, foreigners, the hurting and the broken. Barie has that heart. She has those eyes. She sees people that others ignore. She loves those that others forget. She is the most Christlike person that I have ever met in that regard. And God has used her to change my heart again and again.
Second, I married my best friend. I’ve said this before in many other places, but the most important advice that I could give to someone who is looking for a spouse (after making sure they love Jesus) is to marry someone they really enjoy being around. Funny as it sounds, I meet with many married couples who simply don’t like each other. They say they love each other and that they are fighting to make it last. But the reason they have to fight for it so hard is because they don’t like being around each other. I am blessed that the person I enjoy being with the most also happens to be my wife. It sure makes date night more enjoyable when I look across the table and realize that there is nowhere else that either of us would rather be than with one another.
Third, I married an incredible mother. You don’t really know how your future wife will be as a mom until you get there, but you can see signs – how they treat other people’s children, how they talk about parenting, how selfish they are with their own time and energy. I knew Barie would be a great mom early in our dating relationship. I just didn’t know that she would set a new height for motherly awesomeness. First of all, having just witnessed it all again, I’m amazed that she has wanted to have all these kids in the first place. What a trouper! Second, she blows me away with her love, care, discipline, and instruction of our children. She always knows how to balance fun with our kids with the right amount of admonition and direction. Third, she continues to amaze me with her awareness of our children. She knows what is going on with them before they know what is going on with them. How does she do that?!
Fourth, I married someone full of joy. If you haven’t figured it out yet, you will: this life is hard. As a pastor, I am confronted daily not only with my own sins and failures, but with the sins and failures of those I shepherd. I am aware deep in my soul that this world is in the midst of labor pains, longing for the return of the King to set all things right. Nothing is as it was originally intended to be. It is easy for me to meditate on the dark things in this world, to slide into my own hopelessness and despair. But Barie always has that look in her eye, that smirk in her smile, that glow in her face – that something great is about to happen. You could say that I married an endless optimist, but that doesn’t really describe Barie at her core. It is deeper, something outside of her circumstances. It is her joy, a strong connection at a soul level to her hope in God. She believes that better days are ahead because she believes that God is a promise-keeper.
This is the woman I was thrilled to marry 13 years ago, and the one I celebrate again today.
I’m so thankful I asked her to marry me, and even more thankful that she said yes.
My role as husband and father are my first and primary responsibilities as a disciple of Jesus. He commands me to love my wife and train up my kids in the Lord (Ephesians 5-6), and He requires that I manage my household well as a prerequisite for spiritual leadership in the church (1 Timothy 3). My wife and kids are my first church, and if I am not leading them well, I am being disobedient to God and must rearrange my priorities in life and ministry. Here are my reflections on how to effectively lead my family spiritually in 2013:
Step 1: Model. My first responsibility to my wife and kids is to model a life that I want them to follow (see 1 Corinthians 11:1). Of highest importance is maintaining my love for God, so that I minister to them and to others out of the overflow of relationship with the Lord. They need to see me pursue Christ daily through time in his Word and talking with Him in prayer. They also need to see my commitment to grace by the way I freely confess my sins and repent of my mistakes. I need to model for them a life of character and integrity, so that the person they see behind closed doors matches the person they see in front of the congregation. I also need to model for them a rhythm of missional and ministry commitments, so that they see me sharing the gospel with others and serving others in the name of Jesus Christ. Basically, I am called to live out a life of Christian commitment that shows my family what it means to submit to Jesus as Lord.
Step 2: Instruction. My second responsibility to my wife and kids is to teach them the ways of God (Deuteronomy 6, Psalm 127) so that they know who God is and what He asks of us. This includes formal teaching (when I read the Bible or Christian books to them or with them) and informal teaching (when I speak into their lives as we do life together). The instruction for our kids needs to cover general areas that they all need AND cover specific areas that they need as individual children. Everyone in my family needs instruction in the nature and character of God, His commands, and the grace of the gospel. But each of my kids has different needs at different phases in their development, and part of my responsibility as their spiritual shepherd is to be in tune with their specific needs. In my instruction, I need to make sure that I am teaching them the basics of the faith and teaching them to establish their own relationship with the Lord (so that they are not dependent on me).
Step #3: Involvement. As important as modeling a strong faith in Christ and teaching right instruction is being involved in the daily lives of my kids. Families don’t just need a distant father who swoops in to give direction from time to time. They need quality time and quantity of time. The quantity of time does two things for our kids: one, it shows them that their activities are important to us, and two, it provides opportunity for quality time. So much of parenting is simply being present at the right moment AND paying attention for opportunities to teach. I hope to be involved in my children’s activities without becoming a parent whose whole life and identity is found in the accomplishments of their kids. This involves incredible wisdom and discernment.
I have specific action items under each step, but they are specific to my family.
What does spiritual leadership look like for you at home?
I wanted to get the links to all of my Hope for Marriage resources in one place. Here they are:
Manuscripts of the seven sermons I preached: http://bit.ly/Ywi16J
Small-group study guides that go with the sermons: http://bit.ly/XDUbVh
Sermon Audio from the Hope for Marriage series: http://bit.ly/XYx4Xr
Reviews of seven marriage books I used in preparing to preach on marriage: http://bit.ly/YwgY6I
Concluding thoughts on marriage series: http://bit.ly/15NyLM1
For the Hope for Marriage series, I read several new books and reread several old books on marriage. Here are short, few sentence reviews on each book to help you as you look for additional resources:
Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas. Sacred Marriage is a book about how marriage helps us grow spiritually – closer to God and more into the image of Jesus Christ. Thomas’ main point is that God designed marriage not so much to make us happy as He did to make us holy. Along those lines, the book discusses different elements in marriage from the perspective of spiritual formation. The book is very pastoral and insightful. I appreciated Thomas’ unique point of view. He is not trying to coach us on how to have a better marriage, but on how to become a better person in our marriage. I highly recommend this book if you are seeking to learn what God plans to do in your heart and character and life through marriage.
Real Marriage by Mark & Grace Driscoll. Driscoll’s book on marriage is edgier and more explicit that the other books I read on marriage (at least from a Christian perspective). Part of this is the fruit of Driscoll’s context, part the fruit of his personality. The unique contributions of the Driscolls’ book on marriage are the focuses on friendship, sexual abuse and activity, and their personal testimony. As he has in his other books, Mark is not afraid to put his struggles and opinions front and center in his writing. This is both a blessing and a curse in his writing. It makes for an interesting narrative, but can also create confusion when wondering if he thinks his experiences should be normative for others. Overall, I really appreciated his teaching on friendship in marriage, and his honest look at how sexual abuse impacts the marriage relationship. The section in the book that gets him in the most trouble, called “Can we _____?” is about what is appropriate and inappropriate in marriage. I didn’t find this section offensive. I agree with Mark – that we need to address openly and honestly what people are asking for help with. When it comes to sexual questions, however, I wouldn’t send people to this book. I would encourage them to pick up a copy of Sheet Music by Kevin Leman.
The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller. Keller’s book on marriage is my favorite on this whole list. But many may not find Keller’s work as accessible as some of the others. Because Keller so often wants to go for the heart issues (and not just the practical issues in life), his writing can take a little more work to get through. However, if you will read what he says and meditate on the truths he presents, you will find it worth the reward. Timothy and his wife, Kathy, have written a book that shows how the gospel of Jesus Christ impacts every part of marriage, from communication to commitment to sex. In doing so, they interact with contemporary culture at every turn. I always benefit from Keller’s writings (as a pastor) because of his extensive footnotes. I can’t tell you how many articles and books I’ve read because of first hearing about them in Keller’s works. This is true of The Meaning of Marriage as well. If I was going to encourage couples to read one book on marriage, it would be this one.
One of the most helpful scholarly books that I read in preparation for teaching on marriage was The Marriage Go-Round by Andrew Cherlin. Cherlin’s book is an analysis of marriage in America over the last fifty years. This book is sobering to read. Cherlin documents the amazingly high rates of both marriage and divorce in America, making the strong case that this shows a high view of marriage in our country (people want to get married) and a low view of commitment (people want a way out if their marriage doesn’t go well). According to Cherlin, more Americans marry (and marry earlier) than in any other Western nation, and yet, more Americans divorce than in any other Western nation. This cycle of marriage and divorce has devastating consequences on adults and children, and must be confronted. But Cherlin helps us to understand that the solution is not just to teach on the value of marriage, but to confront the limits of individualism. His insights (and data) are worth the price of this book. I would encourage anyone who is preaching or teaching on marriage to read this book.
Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. I have given out many copies of this wonderful book over the years. Dr. Eggerichs’ model of marriage is built on Paul’s instruction in Ephesians 5:33 that a “husband should love his wife and a wife should respect her husband.” From this passage and his personal pastoral and counseling ministry, Eggerichs has built a model of marriage that is intended to help spouses understand and appreciate the differences of the opposite sex. His book is immensely practical and helpful. He discuss the downward spiral that most couples are on (with an unloving husband and disrespectful wife) and how those couples can get on an energizing cycle. His teaching is not just theory, however. He has six chapters for wives (on how they can practically respect their husbands) and six chapters for husbands (on how they can practically love their wives). I have benefited personally from this book, and have seen the impact on numerous marriages when the couples decided to live according to these principles. I highly recommend this one!
God, Marriage, and Family by Andreas Kostenberger. If you are looking for something a little more comprehensive on what the whole Bible teaches in the area of marriage and family, this is the book for you. This book reads like a seminary text-book, giving the student an overview of what the different sections of the Bible teach. You have chapters like “the OT on marriage” and “Jesus on children” or “the NT on gender roles.” Kostenberger does his best to move through the whole teaching of the Bible. At times, this approach is helpful (in reminding you how many different passages you need to look up). At other times, this approach is unhelpful. It keeps him from really explaining significant chunks of Scripture (like Song of Songs). When you try to cover everything, you end up cover some things in depth and other things in passing. This is understandable, but also frustrating, as the editorial choices of the author reveal his bias and perspective. Overall, however, this book reminds us to read the whole Bible on marriage and family issues, and not just the ones that we like.
Getting Away to Get It Together by Bill & Carolyn Wellons. If you have been around my family very long, you have most likely heard me talk about a yearly tradition that Barie and I keep: we drop the kids off with the grandparents for two nights and spend time talking about our priorities for the coming year. This idea – a fun, working retreat – comes from this book by Bill and Carolyn Wellons. The main idea is simple: so many people have planning retreats for their jobs, but hardly anyone has one for their family. Bill and Carolyn set out to change that culture in American families. Their encouragement is for couples to spend time working ON their family, not just working IN their family. So much of what we do as spouses and parents is reactive, but we can be much more productive if we plan ahead. And remember, one retreat every ten years is not enough. You need time every year to plan, dream, pray, and think. Why? Because you change, your kids change, and you need to regroup. This resource is a wonderful blessing to couples who will take time to actually get away with their spouse and plan for the future.
These seven books have helped my marriage, and equipped me to better preach on marriage. I hope they are a blessing to you!
Today marked the last day of our Hope for Marriage series at church. Over the last seven weeks, I’ve preached on a wide range of issues related to marriage. In addition, I’ve led discussion in our elder-board, staff-meetings, and small group on marriage. Finally, I’ve counseled many couples who needed help with their marriage. During the last seven weeks, here are five lessons I’ve learned…
1) God’s ways are wise and timeless. Having read many books and articles on marriage over the last several years (from a variety of worldviews), I am more confident than ever in the wisdom of God’s Word. Another way to say this: God’s ways are best. He knows what He is talking about when He commands us to do life a certain way. He is not against our joy. He is for our joy. And His Word is not outdated. It contains the untold riches of divine wisdom, which when they are applied to marriage actually work. New marriage fads will come and go, but the wisdom of God will remain.
2) Marriage struggles are never just about marriage. Horizontal relationship challenges are almost always an indicator of a vertical relationship problem. Most spouses believe that their marriage would be better if their spouse would start doing something differently. While our spouses can always improve, they are not the ultimate source of our fear and anger and insecurity. They are simply the object of our internal struggles, the easiest target for our immaturity. Our greatest need is always for spiritual maturity (a vertical reality) which will change the nature of our marriage. If we fix our marriage mechanics but fail to grow in our relationship with God, our struggles will continue.
3) A healthy marriage takes work. Most people get married with at least two wrong expectations: first, they think that their romantic feelings will continue at the same level throughout their marriage, and second, they think that their marriage will be easy. Both of these are completely wrong (and ultimately destructive to lifelong marriage). When spouses experience a change in their emotions (which will come), they think they must be married to the wrong person. Couples are unprepared for the challenges that come with lifelong faithful marriages. A healthy, strong marriage takes effort – meaning we can’t sit back and expect marriage to be easy. We must be proactive.
4) The greatest enemy to marriage is selfishness. This is a corollary of lesson #2, but important enough to state on its own. If our relationship with God is weak, the by-product will always be selfishness. And selfishness is detrimental to true love. Love is always about choosing the other, laying down your life for your spouse, and giving up your rights for the sake of your spouse. Therefore, it is impossible to love my spouse and be selfish at the same time. This is why spiritual maturity (a.k.a. growth in humility) is so important to a healthy marriage.
5) God can restore any marriage. I am always in awe of God’s work in the lives of those around us, but I have been especially overwhelmed to witness His power at work in restoring marriages that were on life-support. I have always believed theologically that God can save and restore any marriage, but in the last seven weeks, I have actually seen it happen. I am encouraged by the power of the Spirit to restore trust and heal broken relationships.
If you would like to listen to any part of this series, you can download the audio and study guides for all seven sermons at our church’s website: http://www.hillcountrybible.org/resources/sermons/messages/series/hope-for-marriage
This is what I have learned through this series. What has God taught you?
I’m starting a new sermon series this morning called Hope for Marriage. Here’s where we’re going:
Americans in the 21st century have conflicted emotions when it comes to marriage. On the one hand, we believe that marriage is the best way to live one’s family life. Over 90% of Americans will marry at one point in their lives. On the other hand, we are nervous about making lifelong commitments that might not work out. Over 50% of first-time marriages fail within 20 years. But our emotions are not based on statistics. They are based on experiences.
We have seen marriages fail in spectacular fashion all around us. For some of us, we witnessed the fallout from our parents’ divorce firsthand. For others, we’ve seen the marriages of our close friends start and end too quickly. For some, we’ve been through divorce ourselves. In all these situations, we know the real pain caused when marriages don’t work out.
Something must be wrong with our expectations for marriage and our understanding of how marriage works. Thankfully, the Bible gives us insights and wisdom gathered over thousands of years. We don’t have to live with a defeatist attitude when it comes to marriage. Even if our marriage is currently struggling, there is hope. God speaks into our lives with powerful truth and practical wisdom. Join us during the next seven weeks as we learn together how to find hope for marriage:
Jan 6: Fault Lines in the Foundation
Jan 13: Looking for The One
Jan 20: The Enemy Within
Jan 27: Wounded Lovers
Feb 3: Selfless Sex
Feb 10: The War of Words
Feb 17: Finding Our Roles
If you live in the Round Rock area, come join the conversation!