Live For The Moment: 5 Moments That Every Father Should Live For

Last year we went on a family vacation to one of our favorite beaches.  We stayed at a quiet place way down the beach, away from where all the action is.  It’s more family friendly that way, but sometimes we venture down where the action is for dinner.  We happened to be there last year during spring break, and it was very crowded where the action was. One particular thing caught my attention; everywhere I looked there were t-shirts, hats, sweatshirts, and various other items with the letters YOLO plastered on them.  I asked a kid I saw what it meant, and he laughed at me.  So I did what any self-respecting man in his mid thirties does when trying to figure out what the kids are up to these days…I Googled it.  Turns out that YOLO means, “You Only Live Once”.  A predictably popular slogan for spring breakers grasping for a justification to do whatever they wanted.  I saw the appeal, but here’s the problem:

YOLO is a lie.

You don’t only live once.  You live everyday.  True, we aren’t promised tomorrow, so we should make the most of today.  But it’s probably a good idea to make the most of today in a way that doesn’t put tomorrow in serious jeopardy.  Just a thought.

Everyday is composed of moments that come and go.  It’s true that Jesus has called us to live  life to the fullest.  Life in Christ is rich and meaningful.  The Bible describes it as abundant life.  But this is not a justification to make as many reckless choices as possible in the shortest amount of time.  This is a call to find lasting joy in living for the deeper things in life, not to seek fleeting entertainment the shallow things.

As a Dad, part of my God given responsibility is to help my family find joy in the more significant moments of life.  Sometimes that means recognizing and seizing certain moments and making them significant.  We must not just “take life as it comes”, we must come to life and take it for the glory of God and the benefit of our families.

Here are 5 moments that every Father should live for:

Teaching Moments

Teaching moments come all the time.  Rarely do they come with a 2 minute warning so that you can be ready.  Taking advantage of teaching moments requires thoughtful preparation.  If you haven’t thought through what you want to teach your family, you won’t recognize the moments when opportunity strikes.  Spend time in the scriptures and reading books that inspire intentional parenting and discipleship.  Pray that the Holy Spirit will make you sensitive to teaching moments.  Often, dads miss out on teaching opportunities because they look a lot like hard work.  Pouring your heart into your family on a daily basis isn’t easy, but things that are eternally meaningful rarely are.

Serving Moments

Being a man of God doesn’t mean having a family that serves and worships you.  It means sacrificially serving them.  In a display of God’s grace, often sacrificial service will inspire your family to honor you, but that’s not the point.  Jesus set the example for us as a sacrificial servant; not only washing his disciple’s feet (he considered anyone who did the will of God to be family: Mark 3), but by serving them all the way to the cross.  Look for moments when you can display Christ’s sacrificial love to your family by putting their needs and joys first.  Model it, then humbly teach it.  Create a culture of selflessness and others-centeredness in your home, not a culture of selfishness.

Comforting Moments

There will be moments in your family’s life when the brokenness of the world crashes in, and the people you love are hurting.  The Bible teaches us that God is near to the brokenhearted.  We model our Heavenly Father’s love when we compassionately care for our families in times of pain.  If there are people in your house who are hurting and you are not making your presence felt as a comforter, stop reading this article and go do what needs to be done.  Ask God to help you see the hurts of your family with His compassionate eyes, and show his strength by being there for them.

Worship Moments

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Yesterday I was walking into the grocery store and I was struck by the beauty of the evening sky and an approaching thunderstorm.  I stood there for a while and worshiped in quiet appreciation.  Then I took a picture, found this scripture and went home to share my experience with my family.  “He makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth; he sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses.” Psalm 135:7 Perhaps the moment will come as God miraculously meets a need in your life.  Perhaps the worship moment comes through a song on the radio, or a word of wisdom from a friend.  Marvel at God in your heart, but share the wonder with your family… make the most of it.

Blessing Moments

Determine in your heart that you will regularly, and often, communicate to your family how they are a blessing from God to you.  Thoughtfully express to each person, individually, how they bless your life.  Let them feel the joy they bring you.  It may take some effort and courage, but the alternative is having a family that never knows how much they mean to you.  Young people treat themselves carelessly because they don’t feel valuable.  Wives struggle to feel confident because husbands don’t make the effort to show them their great worth.  I try to tell my children on a regular basis that they are my treasures.  I treat them with thoughtful care because they are worth so much to me.  My hope and belief is that they will grow to see themselves as people of great worth and value, and make life choices accordingly.  Interestingly, the more we teach our families what a blessing they are to us, the more of a blessing we are to them.  Parents should strive to be a blessing to their children at all stages of life, and children should likewise always seek to honor their parents.  Be a blessing, and leave it to God to inspire them to honor you as you have honored your Heavenly Father.

Prayer Guide for Daddy’s Mission Trip

Morning and night prayers for Dave, Summer, and Sadie

I am writing specific prayers for you guys based on what my activities for the day will be in Belize.  When you have your morning prayer time, and at night before you go to bed, please pray for the following things.  I love you all so much, and I miss you tons.  Knowing that you are praying for my days and nights will be a great encouragement.  Always know that when you pray for me, I am praying for you too.  And the best part is that we are both praying to the same God who is always with us both.

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Friday morning:  When you wake up and do your quiet time, I will be flying over the Gulf of Mexico on the way to Belize.  Pray for us to have safe travels, and good weather.

Friday night: When you go to bed Friday night, pray that Daddy and our group will have gotten settled in our place and that we will have been able to make some friends as we get ready for our week.

Saturday morning: When you wake up and do your quiet time, I will be leaving our camp site and going to a village to do a VBS for the children there.  There will probably be 50 children.  Pray that we do a good job and that some of the children hear about God’s love for them and become Christians.

Saturday night: When you go to bed, Daddy will be in a village way out in the country of Belize called Harmonyville.  They don’t even have electricity there.  Saturday night we will be doing a Clothing Give Away with all of the clothes that were made by people at Poplar Springs.  Several hundred outfits and pairs of flip flops will be given to poor children.  Our Teaching Theme will be: Salvation is a free gift.  Jesus helps us take off the “old man” and put on the “new”, which is a gift of grace.  Pray that this goes well and that people understand that Salvation is a free gift from God.

Sunday morning:  We will be going to church, just like you. When you do your quiet time, pray that we get to share our faith in church and encourage other Christians there in Belize.

Sunday night: We will be going back to Harmonyville.  On that night Mr. Kevin Hudson will be doing a Martial Arts Presentation, letting children practice and do things like break a little wooden board with their fists.  Our Teaching Theme will be: With God all things are possible.  We all have a problem that we cannot fix for ourselves.  Sin separates us from God, and only God can break through.  All we have to do is believe. Pray that the children and parents understand and believe.

Monday morning: We have a free day, and Daddy will be driving to an old Mayan Ruin.  Like an old pyramid that was made thousands of years ago by Indians.  Mommy can show you pictures.  Google Xunantunich.  Pray we are safe as we travel.  I will bring you pictures.

Monday night: We will be preparing for our next event taking orphans to the zoo.  Pray that we prepare well, and that we have all the supplies we need for our ministry to the orphans.

Tuesday morning: When you are having your quiet time, we will be taking a group of orphans to a zoo in Belize.  These are children with no mommy or daddy, and who need to feel loved and know that they have a heavenly Father who loves them.  Pray they have fun and that we get chances to share the gospel with them.

Tuesday night: When you go to bed, pray for Daddy as I will be back in Harmonyville.  We will be showing The Jesus Film.  Our Teaching Theme will be: The life of Jesus is a display of God’s love for people.  For God so loved the world…  Pray that people understand how much Jesus loves them and decide to follow him.

Wednesday morning: When you have your Quiet time, we will be traveling to a community where we will spend time with handicapped children who are participating in Special Olympics.  Pray that they have fun with us and that we can encourage them to see that Jesus loves them no matter what their handicap is, and that nothing is impossible with God.

Wednesday night: We will have our final night in Harmonyville. On this night we will be having a colored bracelet give away. We have 500 bracelets with colored beads that tell the story of God’s love from creation, to sin, to death, forgiveness, and the promise of Heaven.  Our Teaching Theme: The big story of the Bible: from creation, to sin and separation, to Jesus and salvation, and the promise of Heaven.  Pray that people will understand the story of God’s love, and trust in Him for salvation.

Thursday morning we will be heading to catch a plane and come home!  Pray that we have safe travels!

Thursday night I will see you in person!  I love you!

The church has left the building…and people are starting to notice.

The church has left the building, and people are starting to notice.

This is not a statement that church buildings in America have been abandoned, and that, like the empty cathedrals of Europe, are fading into the fog of history. Today in America, it just might be a statement indicating that our culture is awakening to the truth that the church is not a building or a set of calendar events. The church is God’s people in motion, and on mission to participate with Jesus in the redemption of a broken world.

In the immediate wake of the terrible tornado that devastated Moore, Oklahoma, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers did what they always do when disaster strikes. They mobilized into action to bring hope and help in the name of Jesus to hurting people. Other Christian response groups, such as Samaritan’s Purse launched into action as well, but it was this comment made on national TV a day after the disaster that also mattered so much:

NBC reporter Harry Smith said, “We have seen this before. You can wait and wait for the government to help you but the Baptist Men are gonna get it done tomorrow.”

And just like that, a sign of revival rumbled through the American evangelical church.

Here are a couple of reasons why this is so important:

For too long the headlines and national conversation about the church, religion, Southern Baptists, etc; has been negative. We have all bemoaned the fact that while so much good is done by the church, no one ever mentions anything but the negative. Southern Baptist Convention meetings coincide with massive service efforts in the host cities. These are efforts to show the love of Christ and reach out to the hurting and do good in his name. But inevitably the headlines will follow conventions about a stand we took against something, and will be misinterpreted. We are known more for what we are against than what we are for. We will know that revival has sparked in the American evangelical church when that trend changes. Jesus said that people will know that we are his followers by the way that we love. Disaster Relief may be the front line in which that reputation can begin to be restored. The natural response to this revelation is that we need to be champions of local, state, national, and international disaster relief efforts in our churches.

The second reason why this is so significant has to do with the passive absence of men in our culture. It is important to note that disaster relief efforts do not consist of men alone. Thousands of women serve in crucial positions. But in this instance, the NBC reporter mentioned the men. Let us rejoice that Christian men got a positive mention from a national media outlet. If our churches have begun, in recent decades to fade from cultural significance, the blame lies in large part on our men. We have failed to be leaders and innovators in how the church can effectively remain a beacon of light, piercing the darkness of a hurting world. Perhaps today, the tide is beginning to turn. Perhaps through disaster relief, Christian men can begin to regain the place to which God called and created them. If Christian men can begin to be seen, and indeed see themselves, as rescuers, redeemers, and re-builders in communities after disastrous storms, earthquakes, and fires; perhaps we can then begin to relieve the disaster that has become the state of the American family. Stand up men, get certified to do disaster relief away from home, but use that same gospel centered motivation to rebuild AT home as well.

It was one small comment about Baptist men, spoken in the wake of devastation. But it may be the first whisper of a revival that will sweep across this nation and begin to undo the spiritual devastation which characterizes our culture. We are never more like Jesus than when we love and care for those who are broken and cannot care for themselves. We are never more like Jesus than when we rescue those who need to be rescued, in his name.

Why does the love of God make Christians so nervous?

    Why do calls for Christians to unconditionally love people scare us to death?  When you see a church sign that says, “All people welcomed in love” does it concern you that they may have “become comfortable with the world”?  When someone posts on Facebook that Christians should be careful to show grace not judgement, there always seems to be “that guy” who feels compelled to share an imprecatory Psalm, or quote Jesus out of context as he uses strong language to chastise religious leaders.  Ironic.
    It seems to make some Christians nervous to talk about grace and love.  As a Christian, I struggle at times with the same inner thoughts.  You may be feeling that same stuggle right now as you read this.  You have the urge to add a caveat to the call to love.  “But what about sin!”  I completely agree that we ought to preach against sin.  Sin, and the idolatry of self is at the heart of what separates us from God.  We cannot be true to God and His Word without standing up against the things that separate people from Him, and calling people to holiness.  My caution however, is that we ought to be doing so out of convictional kindness, not fear or prejudice.
    The truth is that God’s love is beyond us.  His mercy and grace come from a divine nature that our fallen nature is opposed to.   Discipleship is about casting off that fallen nature and embracing the divine.  It stretches us and challenges us to become more like God.  Discipleship involves embracing God’s standards for love and moving beyond our old prejudices.  What is more, the process of sanctification involves struggling with worldly notions of fairness, our fear, and paranoia.  Here are three categories that we must strive to overcome as we try to love like Jesus, without getting too nervous about it.
    Category 1: There are individuals in our churches who have let a worldly notion of fairness contaminate their view of love and grace.  For those in this category, it seems offensive to offer the extraordinary grace of God to unrepentant sinners.  It is a struggle to get the words out. “They haven’t shown that they deserve it.  They don’t even want it!” the cry goes.  In one way it does seem outrageous to offer God’s unconditional love to those who are in full rebellion against Him.  But that is not the way of the Kingdom. God’s love IS outrageous, and it is NOT fair; not by this world’s standards anyway.  Jesus loves according to a Kingdom standard that is completely foreign to this world, and that is a reality which we simply need to come to terms with.  God is God and he is sovereign.  It is His heaven and he will welcome into it those He sees fit.  He need not have our approval.  Matthew 16 records a relevant lesson from The Parable of the Workers.  A man who owns a vineyard hires workers for an agreeable wage throughout the day.  At the end of the work day, each worker receives the wage for which they were hired.  Those who worked all day are outraged when they find that the ones hired late in the day receive the same rate of pay as they do.  They begin to grumble against the owner.  (12) “These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.”  At this, the owner of the vineyard replies, “(13)… ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius?  Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you.  Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?”
    How quickly we begin to feel entitled to this divine love, which we no more deserve than the ones from whom we begrudge it.  We must not be threatened by the generous grace of Jesus.  We must not begrudge it, or withhold the promise of it to those who we deem not worthy.  If God treated us fairly in the way we understand “fairness”, we ourselves would be doomed.  Those who dwell in the shadow of the cross live in constant awareness of their own desperate need for grace.  When we stray from the cross we get judgmental.
    Category 2: Then there are those in our churches who are obsessed with the slippery slope.  This is a tricky one, because there are slippery slopes which should be avoided.  The road to compromise is real, and we must guard against it.  We must encourage and challenge each other to stay true to the Word of God.  Jesus displayed for us the perfect example of loving those who were lost while calling them out of their sin.  This is no easy example to follow.  Too often Christian groups stray from the example of convictional kindness, and fully embrace the sin along with the sinner.  It’s hard relational work to care for a person who finds their identity in a sinful lifestyle that openly rebels against the Creator.  But that is our task. The gospel calls people to find their identity in Christ and his sacrificial love for us. It speaks not only to our fallen condition, but more profoundly to our worth in the eyes of God.  And the truth of our worth in God’s eyes is a testimony to His generous love, not any achievement on our part.  When we yield our hearts fully to Christ, his agape love becomes the norm for how we behave.  Agape love is selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love that flows from a grateful heart, which has been transformed by Christ.  Caution against the slippery slope is warranted and appropriate when observed with faith and courage.
    On the other hand, we can respond inappropriately with fear to the threat of the slippery slope.  We fear that we will not be able to maintain that balance of convictional kindness.  We fear that we will wake up one day and be over-run by the world.  We fear that if we get too close with sinners that our neat and tidy Christian lives will become tainted.  In response to this fear we become closed off and harsh.  We become obsessed with rules and standards of dress and behavior that are the constructs of men, not God.  Instead of caring for the heart of the broken, we safeguard ourselves against their brokenness, and in so doing we faithlessly abandon God’s missionary call on our lives.  Paranoia is not a trait of victorious life in Christ.
    Category 3: Finally there are those who are not confident in the power of the Holy Spirit alone to convict. They cannot comfortably separate “grace teachings” from “warnings of wrath and judgement”.  They feel somehow that it is selling Jesus and the gospel short if “God loves you” is not followed with “and you will split hell wide open if you don’t turn from your sin”.  These are the churches that put slogans on their signs during the summer such as, “You think it’s hot here?”.  There is a certain inappropriate and disturbing glee to this sort of hellish threat that is unbecoming a follower of Christ. Warnings of wrath and judgement are a part of gospel teaching, to be sure.  They are not, however, the central theme of gospel teaching.  The theme of gospel teaching is love and grace.  Jesus did not hurl condemnations at the thieves between whom he was crucified, though they were quite guilty.  He offered grace that was free, but not cheap.  When our Lord offered stern words to the religious leaders of the day, and called out sin for what it is, the scriptures tell us that he was motivated by compassion and a broken heart.  A heart broken over the lostness of the world is not amused by clever threats of judgement.  The proper context of “judgement warnings” is through sincere pleas in the pulpit, or a compassionate personal relationship.  Yes, Jesus threw over the tables in the temple and drove out the money changers.  He did so out of righteous indignation towards a religious system that was taking advantage of people.  Following this example means holding those who call themselves Christians accountable to show grace and mercy to the masses, and not abuse them.  We must not appeal to Jesus if we take his example out of biblical context.
    The reality of our human condition is that apart from salvation we are doomed to eternal death and separation from God.  Without the reality of deserved punishment, grace has no meaning. We must however have confidence in the Holy Spirit to convict sin, and not attempt to force conviction ourselves out of a lack of faith.
    A high view of God would inspire confidence in His grace to convict as well as comfort.  When sinners experience the loving call of God’s salvation, the first response of a grateful heart is humble repentance and worship.  We are not called to shame, threaten, or argue people into the Kingdom.  We love, and God convicts.  Let me be clear, we should preach the whole counsel of God’s Word.  We should preach God’s call for sinners to repent.  When the scriptures name a sin, we should faithfully and publicly oppose such behaviors.  We must not compromise, and we must remain true to God’s standards.  But as 1 Corinthians 13 guides us, if we want our service to matter, we must do so in the context of love.  “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”
    In all likelihood, the challenge of living out convictional kindness is the defining issue of our generation in the church.  I believe that there is equal danger of the church becoming cold and closed off to the world, as well as infiltrated by it.  We must guard against both. We must do so out of confidence in Christ and not misguided or worldly motivations.  The best part is that we have a perfect example to follow, Jesus Christ.

Missing the Point of Marriage

As I have read articles outlining the current debates about marriage, and seen my friends’ comments on Facebook and Twitter I have felt a growing concern that we are all missing the point. I’m certainly not saying that I get the point and no one else does, but I am saying that I feel burdened that there is a deeper, more meaningful discussion about marriage that hasn’t happened yet. My goal here is to share a few of the thoughts that are on my heart in such a way that a respectful, and more meaningful dialogue might be encouraged.

As a minister, I have been privileged to officiate in a few weddings. In each, I have been reminded that there are two sides to the coin of marriage. A great deal of time and energy is invested in the ceremony itself. The minister shares a word about the importance of marriage. Vows are made before God and witnesses. Rings are exchanged. All are physical expressions and symbols of spiritual significance. And at some point after the service the couple will sign the marriage license. This however is not of spiritual significance. It’s of legal significance, and even though the wedding may be over, the couple will not be married in the eyes of the law without it.

One of the problems in our public dialogue about marriage is that we are not all talking about the same issue. We’re talking about the same coin, but some are concerned about the legal side and others are motivated by the spiritual. In many cases neither side understands the other. Some are trying to argue for the legal side by using spiritual language. Some argue for the spiritual side using legal language. Neither approach is very effective and both sides end up feeling misunderstood and threatened.

Too often, Christians appear more calloused, narrow-minded, and judgmental than anything else. The motivation is to defend the spiritual significance of a sacred institution, but the problem is that most don’t understand that spiritual significance enough to be persuasive; and so they default to attempts at legal logic. Pride gets involved, people feel threatened, and pretty soon more people are hurt than heard. It’s hard work to dig into God’s Word and discipline ourselves to thoughtfully and compassionately engage people with love. Instead, we abandon the value of any spiritual perspective, and allow the issue to be reduced to one of legal and logical reasoning. It’s like a doctor trying to talk his patient into getting heart surgery by discussing his insurance coverage, rather than his physical concerns.

I am not going to attempt to make a legal/logical case for traditional or biblical marriage. There is plenty to be read on that perspective in other places. I am concerned with the spiritual significance of marriage. Marriage is a complex and compelling display of God’s nature and love for mankind.

Christians ought to advocate a biblical understanding of the gospel more than anything else. The truth is that if we understood marriage correctly, our public debate about marriage would be more about the beauty of the gospel than anything else.

I truly believe that Christians ought to advocate a biblical understanding of the gospel more than anything else. Too often we fancy ourselves making forays into the world of law and politics, driven by morals and values alone. Of course Christians have a place in politics, law, and in every field of work. However we must remember that there is no such thing as moral or ethical issue apart from the gospel. For the Christian, everything is about the gospel. If I am passionate about an issue because of moral and ethical concerns, it should be because I am persuaded that by expressing my position I can show a broken and hurting world the grace of God. I might also aspire to offer solutions that display God’s priority of justice or that solve problems which individuals cannot solve for themselves. In this way the love of Jesus is the solution which we apply to the problems of the world. Such is the case with the issue of marriage. If we fail to make the case for a biblical understanding of marriage by telling the world about how much Jesus loves people, then we have lost sight of our most precious priority.

The Apostle Pauls explains in Ephesians 5,

22-24 Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ. The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing. So just as the church submits to Christ as he exercises such leadership, wives should likewise submit to their husbands.

25-28 Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives. They’re really doing themselves a favor—since they’re already “one” in marriage.

29-33 No one abuses his own body, does he? No, he feeds and pampers it. That’s how Christ treats us, the church, since we are part of his body. And this is why a man leaves father and mother and cherishes his wife. No longer two, they become “one flesh.” This is a huge mystery, and I don’t pretend to understand it all. What is clearest to me is the way Christ treats the church. And this provides a good picture of how each husband is to treat his wife, loving himself in loving her, and how each wife is to honor her husband.” The Message

The message of marriage is that in ordaining this mysterious bond between a man and a woman, God is teaching us something about how much Jesus loves people. In living out the sacrificial service of the husband, and experiencing the paradox of strength and submission in a wife; we become intimately aware of the nature of God and the radical love of our Savior. What is more, when men and women live out this mandate faithfully, we demonstrate the love of Jesus to the world. This is not political activism or legal maneuvering. It is not even promoting Christian culture. It is nothing short of evangelism.

Marriage does not matter because it is an ancient tradition to be honored. The significance of marriage between a man and woman is not a that it is a notion the Bible puts forth to oppose gay people. Such simplified suggestions are indeed narrow minded and calloused. The Biblical model of marriage matters because it is a beautiful display of the love of Jesus Christ.

Tim Keller, in his book The Meaning of Marriage, writes “It is the message that what husbands should do for their wives is what Jesus did to bring us into union with himself. And what was that? Jesus gave himself up for us. Jesus the Son, though equal with the Father, gave up his glory and took on our human nature (Philippians 2:5). But further, he willingly went to the cross and paid the penalty for our sins, removing our guilt and condemnation, so that we could be united with him (Romans 6:5) and take on his nature (2 Peter 1:4). He gave up his glory and power and became a servant. He died to his own interests and looked to our needs and interests instead (Romans 15:1-3). Jesus’ sacrificial service to us has brought us into a deep union with him, and he with us. And that, Paul says, is the key not only to understanding marriage, but to living it.” (p.46)

If one is only concerned with the legal side of the marriage coin then this spiritual reasoning will make little sense. But I believe that the message of the gospel is compelling and that through it God speaks to the hearts of mankind. Like Jesus, it can be denied or embraced but it cannot be ignored. As Christians, we can afford to let the beauty of the gospel, on display in marriage, speak for itself. What we cannot afford, is to make a case for marriage that leaves the gospel out entirely.

Four reasons pastors shouldn’t home school.

Just to be clear, I am a pastor and we home school.  This is our first year homeschooling both of our grade school children, and we have a preschooler that we plan to home school in kindergarten next year.  My wife and I have had a great experience and are excited about the future.  It’s hard work, especially for my wife who is the primary teacher, but we have felt peace as we followed God’s leading in this area of our lives.

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As many church leaders will have noticed in their communities, the popularity of homeschooling is increasing.  One recent statistic showed that over 2 million students are now learning at home.  That’s a 75% increase from 1999.  And the trend is rising.  A recent Barna study found “The political climate is increasingly amenable to home schooling as a legitimate educational alternative. Add to that the growing desire of millions of Americans to have a more significant family life and to maximize their children’s educational opportunities, and suddenly home schooling becomes a serious option for many.”  I attended pastor’s conference recently where I learned that  percentages of pastor’s families which are choosing to home school is on the rise as well.

The purpose of this article is not to debate whether this is a positive trend or not.  The reality is that home schooling families represent a growing demographic in our communities.  Many of them are already connected in our churches, but a significant number have no connection to a church at all.  A growing number of parents who home school are doing so because of dissatisfaction with the public school system, and not because of personal religious reasons.  The old stereotype of super conservative families with 10 kids who all dress the same and fall asleep listening to Answers in Genesis every night doesn’t fit reality anymore.  The Barna Group reports that, “Half of all home school parents said they are “somewhere in-between” being politically conservative and liberal.”

There are two major lessons to be drawn from this.

1.  Our churches, and pastors specifically should be sensitive to the perspectives and needs of home schooling families.

2.  Pastors who choose to home school should be careful how and why they publicly articulate their own reason to do so.

There are plenty of reasons that school at home is a great educational option, perhaps especially for pastor’s families.  Increased family time, different options in curriculum,  safety and security,  specialized emphasis in your child’s strengths and interest areas are some of the leading pros.

But there are also reasons that pastors should NOT home school.  By that I mean that there are motivations for home education that should not be a part of a pastor’s public case for his family’s private choice to home school.  If your motivation is poor, or poorly communicated, it will harm your ministry.  

Here are four big mistakes pastors should avoid in making their case for home education:

 Mistake #1.  We had an awful experience in public school, and we want to spare our kids from that pain.  Perhaps you did have an awful experience in public school growing up.  Jesus enters our lives and heals all sorts of scars and wounds from our past.  There is a difference between gaining wisdom and insight from past experiences, and a life of choices driven by fear.  Public school is not the enemy.  The world is a broken place and we cannot escape it.  We are not meant to.  We are meant to participate with Christ in His work to redeem it.  That may sound like a rationale to stay in public school.  If fear is your reason to leave public school, then perhaps repentance would mean re-enrollment for you.  My point is that our choices to educate at home should be built on wisdom and confidence in Christ, not fear.  Your kids are not doomed to walk the broken path you did.  They will walk their own broken path until they find Christ.  Our responsibility and opportunity is to hold their hand along the way, in whatever ways the Spirit leads us.  And the truth is that we must overcome our own brokenness through Christ if we are going to be effective in leading them.

Mistake #2.  Public school education is so sub par, we can surely do better at home.  News flash – there are kids everywhere who are learning tons in public school everyday.  There are passionate teachers who have given their lives to educating these kids in the public school system.  There are teachers with missionary hearts who could make three times as much in another career as they do teaching…but they don’t, because they love kids.  There are people who teach in public schools that have extraordinary experience and education which they draw from to teach.  Those same people are in your church and community.  When we rationalize our choice to educate at home by criticizing public education, we insult the people who are being obedient to Christ in their lives by serving in that feild.  There are also families in our congregations that cannot educate their children at home for various reasons, most of them noble and sincere.  When we rationalize the choice to educate at home by criticizing public education, we sound self-righteous and arrogant to them.  And in many cases, we are.  Home school families must repent of this arrogance and replace it with considerate compassion.  Wisdom leads us to recognize the honorable things in people’s lives who have made different choices than ours, and to affirm them with grace.

Mistake #3.  We love our kids SO much that this seems our only option.  “We just cherish our kids.  We love them so much that we just can’t be at peace with settling for public education.”  Again, the inference here is that public education is the enemy in itself, and people who send their children to public school don’t love their children as much as you do.  As a pastor, words are your tools of the trade.  God’s Word, and your ability to communicate truth are your bread and butter.  It is insufficient to support your choice to home educate by suggesting that you love your children more than everyone else, and if people don’t understand then that’s just too bad.  You cannot play the part of a misunderstood victim of popular opinion.  Use your words.   Speak the truth in love.  Share your commitment to christian parenting and how God has placed a burden on your heart to make this choice.  Do it without minimalizing and mischaracterizing other people’s choice to educate differently.

Mistake #4.  We REALLY have our act together.  All of us feel the pressure to appear super spiritual.  This may be a message that you are communicating without even knowing it.  Sometimes we overachieve because of how truly underachieving we feel.  But when we drive ourselves to put forth the image of a super spiritual, ultra organized, impeccably cultured and well mannered family unit who got that way with ease and style…we are being dishonest with ourselves and the world.  Life is messy.  Some days are really hard to get through with a smile.  We are a better witness for Christ when we are transparent enough to let people see that we aren’t perfect all the time.  We need Jesus to give us joy, not just on hard days, but everyday.  We need Jesus to redeem us from our laziness and tendency not to do our best all the time.  We need Jesus to help us shake off the “old man” and learn to be renewed in his light and grace every day…just like everyone else.  An authentic life that is built on confidence in Christ is much more compelling than an appearance of excellence that thinly veils deep insecurity.  The gospel is the message of a perfect Savior redeeming imperfect people.  That message should be on display as we live out home education.  Go ahead and crochet catechisms in Latin, but do it because you want to, not because you feel like its the only way to prove you aren’t sabotaging your child’s life by homeschooling them.

The bottom line is that Christians have long been known in our culture more for what we are against, than what we are for.  This is a trend that must change if we hope to build a compelling case for Jesus being a loving Savior to a broken world, rather than it’s harsh judge.  Home school education is a wonderful option for families, including those of pastors.  We must be able to build a positive case for home school education without alienating ourselves from those who have not, or can not, make the same choice.

What do you think?

when things blow up around you.

A quick thought about things blowing up.

An older man who I really respect told me a story recently.  It was a memory of his from his time in Korea during the war.  He was a young man then, and still shaping his ideas about God, life, and purpose; and he was doing it while driving a tank in a war.

He said he went to chapel very few times during his time on the battlefield.  But he remembered one time in particular when his commanding officer announced the coming of a chaplain to their camp, which was just off the front lines. The officer in charge  encouraged all who wanted to meet with the chaplain to do so.  The chaplain arrived in a small convoy with two guards.  They stopped, set up a tent, and a crowd gathered, sitting on their helmets under the shelter.  Shortly after the chaplain began to speak a line of tanks drove by.  The noise the tanks created on the bank of the river they camped at caused the chaplain to stop talking and wait so he could be heard.  One of the tanks hit a mine, causing an explosion.  People scrambled, as you can imagine, but when the dust settled, the young soldier noticed something.

In the aftermath of the explosion, the chaplain had closed up shop and left.

Military chaplains are brave and honorable people who deserve our respect and prayers.  They are truly missionaries in uniforms, and this incident is not a reflection of any judgement on that noble calling.

But it caused me to think.  As Christians, people who bear the name of Christ Jesus to a broken world, we must not run for safer places when things start to blow up around us.  My prayer is for strength and fortitude to stand firm when life is hard.  To be present when those around me are hurting, scared, in crisis, and unsure.  When the dust of life occasionally settles, people need to hear a message of hope.  We can’t share it unless we are still there.