Archive for the ‘Home and Family’ Category

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Three Ways Parents Can Pray for Their Prodigal Children

In Home and Family on July 30, 2018 by The Spillover

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Sarah Walton:

I once was that prodigal child — lost, angry, and struggling to find my identity. Hardened on the outside, but deeply hurting within. The pain of my choices was not only destroying me, but creating heartache within our family and severing my relationships with the people who loved me most.

By God’s grace, my parents did not give up on me — despite how tempting it must have been at times. Instead, they entrusted my life to God, prayed for my brokenness, and fought for me in prayers that God eventually answered.

Parents, if you are raising a seemingly hard-hearted, rebellious son or daughter (whether outwardly or inwardly), I challenge you to take up your arms, fight the spiritual battle that rages over them with all of your God-given strength, and refuse to give up on their life.

I encourage you to pray these three prayers over lost children.

1. Pray for a heart of brokenness, no matter the earthly cost.

It’s incredibly hard to pray for anything but a comfortable, successful, and pain-free life for our children. But as Christian parents, the greatest eternal good that we can pray for them is their salvation over their earthly happiness or comfort. We have to fight for them in this world filled with temporary pleasures, self-gratification, and blurry lines — entrusting their lives to our Lord — even if the path of salvation comes through pain.

I am eternally grateful that my parents loved me enough to pray for my brokenness, a brokenness that would lead to healing.

And my path of brokenness nearly killed me.

After a devastating loss of my identity as an athlete and hidden abuse from peers, my life spiraled out of control. I searched for identity and purpose in anything but Jesus. As self-destructive patterns drove me deeper into despair, I longed for an escape from this world, ultimately landing me in the protection of a hospital.

In that stark white hospital room, the choice before me was clear: be crushed by the weight of my sin or lay the broken pieces of my life at his feet. By his grace, he led me to my knees and has been redeeming those broken pieces ever since.

We will only be bold enough to pray a prayer of brokenness over our children when we ourselves have been broken before God and trust his love for our children and us. It’s only when we have completely surrendered our children to him that we can pray, “Father, use what you must to save my child from an eternity apart from you, no matter the cost.”

2. Pray against the enemy’s desire to have them.

A battle is being waged over our children’s lives. We have to fight for them, especially when blindness keeps them from fighting the battle themselves.

I remember my mom telling me the story of a time when I was standing in the kitchen with her, angry at the world, and taking it out on her. She looked at me and said boldly, “I am fighting for you, and I won’t let Satan have victory over your life!” After she spoke those words, I fell into a heap on the floor and burst into tears.

Although we don’t have a guarantee of our children’s salvation or the outcome we may desire, we can be confident that God is faithful to his promises and hears our prayers. One of the great weapons God has given parents to fight against the world’s pull and the enemy’s schemes over their children is to pray the way Christ did for Peter: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31–32).

Although Peter was a believer and the children we are praying for may not be, we can still pray to God that he would rescue our children from the power of Satan, give them faith in Christ, and use their lives to advance the gospel and strengthen other believers.

3. Pray specific Scripture over their life.

Even if your child wants nothing to do with the truth and hates to hear the word of God, they can do nothing to stop you from praying Scripture for them. This is another mighty weapon God has given to parents.

My parents prayed Psalm 18:16–19 over my life and prayed it often:

He sent from on high, he took me;
he drew me out of many waters.
He rescued me from my strong enemy
and from those who hated me,
for they were too mighty for me.
They confronted me in the day of my calamity,
but the Lord was my support.
He brought me out into a broad place;
he rescued me, because he delighted in me.

It truly amazes me to look back and see how faithful God was to answer this prayer. I was drowning in self-destruction, abuse from others, rebelliousness, and sorrows too deep to understand at the time. God, in his mercy, drew me out of many deep waters, and rescued me from my own flesh and Satan’s desire for me.

As I sat in a hospital room, no longer wanting to live, God rescued me, brought me out into a broad place, and showed me that he delighted in me (despite my unworthiness). He has continued to be faithful to this prayer, upholding me through many deep waters and carrying me through many dark days.

Parents, no matter how far your child seems to be from Jesus or what path they are on, you can fight for their life with the powerful weapon of God’s word.

The Power of a Praying Parent

The truth is, while we must teach and train our children, and put boundaries in place, we have no control over their hearts. Ultimately, God alone can fill their hearts with a love for Christ and open their eyes to see the beauty and glory of who he is.

I am learning this on a new level and from a different perspective as I now face struggles with my own children that often tempt me to despair. But we are not helpless, and we are never hopeless. Whether our children are young or old, have soft hearts or hearts of stone, we have the power of prayer, God’s living word, and a sovereign God we can trust.

Our Father in heaven loves to take seemingly hopeless lives, like my own once was, and show himself merciful and mighty. Give your child the gift of prayer, and trust that God will use his or her life for his good purposes — growing and transforming your own life in the process.

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Single You Will Be the Married You

In Home and Family,Soul Food on October 27, 2015 by The Spillover

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Phillip Holmes:

Joining a gym won’t instantly transform your physique. Starting a blog won’t immediately make you a good writer. Purchasing a piano won’t make you a musician. The same principle is true for marriage. Getting married will not make you a good spouse or a better person.

When I was single, I thought marriage might be the magic bullet. I believed that it would miraculously transform me. I assumed I would suddenly possess a new measure of love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control that I had not yet known or experienced as a single man. I believed that once I said, “I do,” I would see the world through a different lens and become a responsible and loving man — a responsible and loving husband.

I probably would have denied believing any of the above if you’d asked me before marriage. Privately, though, I believed that marriage was the missing link on my journey to Christlikeness. I could not have been more wrong.

Marriage will not instantly change you. It will only expose what was already inside of you.

Killing Sin While You’re Single

Some Christian singles live lives of passivity. Often there is little to no accountability in their lives. Therefore, secret sins survive and corrupt. Singles indulge in different kinds of sexual immorality, give little to nothing of themselves to the church, scarcely attend Sunday worship, spend their free time idly, rarely read the Bible or pray, and pay little attention to the sin that still abounds in their heart. Much of this was true for me in my singleness.

But as newlyweds, an uncomfortable truth is discovered: The single you still resides inside of the married you. If you’re lazy, irresponsible, selfish, prideful, greedy, and/or lustful when you’re single, you will be just as (or more) lazy, irresponsible, selfish, prideful, greedy, and/or lustful after you say I do.

It is essential that we not put off the practice of watching and killing sin in our lives. The sins that entangle you, as a single, will inevitably continue to entangle you in marriage. Nevertheless, singles shouldn’t kill sin simply because you want to be good spouses; you should kill it because you want to live happy and holy lives, whatever your marital status.

Paul warns everyone that the “wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23) and that we should be about the business of putting to death “what is earthly in you” (Colossians 3:5). This command is not simply for the married, but for the unmarried as well. If you don’t kill sin now, it will kill you later, unless you repent.

Don’t Put Off the Killing of Sin

Paul also uncovers the great danger in putting off the practice of killing known sin in our lives:

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves. . . .

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. . . .

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness. . . . Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. (Romans 1:24–32)

God gave them up because “they knew God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die” but continued in these things instead of repenting. While this passage addresses sexual immorality, it clearly also includes gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, and ruthless.

This passage is a warning to us all, especially to single people, of the risk in putting off (for whatever reason) the killing of sin. I say especially to single people because you’re living without the day-in, day-out accountability of a spouse. It is a dangerous thing to be given over to your sin. It is frightening to know that we can one day reach a point where we’re unable to see the suicidal foolishness of our transgressions.

The Grass Is Truly Greener in Jesus

We’ve all heard the saying, “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” The saying is meant to address mankind’s discontentment with his or her current position or plight. We all think that we’d be happier if we were in a different set of circumstances. The same is true for our marital status. Most of us know singles who want to be married or married people who want to be single again. Why? We think our current state of discontentment is external rather than internal.

Discontentment with present circumstances is near the root of every single person’s expectation that marriage will instantly change them. Marriage has gradually become their Holy Spirit and the wedding day has become their Pentecost. But after the wedding day has passed and the honeymoon phase fades — they discover the ceremony lacks the saving and sanctifying power they need, and they’re still the same sinful person they were when they were single.

It is spiritually and eternally irresponsible to put off the business of killing sin as a single — in hopes that a different life (marriage) will make one holier and happier. Only Jesus can make us happy. Regardless of our current circumstances, the grass can be greener with Jesus. Run to him. Repent of your sins. Drink from the only fountain that can quench the thirst that is inside of us all.

No, marriage will not instantly change you. God, because of Christ and through his Holy Spirit, will change you when you’ve surrendered yourself to him, whether married or unmarried.

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The Most Important Thing My Parents Did

In Home and Family,Soul Food on April 9, 2015 by The Spillover

Tim Challies:

I grew up in a church culture, a catechizing culture, and a family worship culture. Each of these was a tremendous, immeasurable blessing, I am sure. I am convinced that twice-each-Sunday services, and memorizing the catechisms, and worshipping as a family marked me deeply. I doubt I will ever forget that my only comfort in life and death is that I am not my own, but belong in body and soul, both in life and death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ, or that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. I can still sing many of the psalms and hymns of my youth, and I have precious memories of my family bowing our heads around the kitchen table.

What was true of my family was true of many of my friends’ families. They, too, grew up around churches and catechisms and rigid family devotions. In fact, in all the times I visited their homes, I don’t think I ever witnessed a family skip over their devotions. It was the custom, it was the expectation, and it was good. Our church had near 100% attendance on Sunday morning and near 100% attendance on Sunday evening. It was just what we did.

But despite all of the advantages, many of the people I befriended as a child have since left the faith. Some have sprinted away, but many more have simply meandered away, so that an occasionally missed Sunday eventually became a missed month and a missed year. Not all of them, of course. Many are now fine believers, who are serving in their churches and even leading them. But a lot—too many—are gone.

Why? I ask the question from time-to-time. Why are all five of my parents’ kids following the Lord, while so many of our friends and their families are not? Obviously I have no ability to peer into God’s sovereignty and come to any firm conclusions. But as I think back, I can think of one great difference between my home and my friends’ homes—at least the homes of my friends who have since walked away from the Lord and his church. Though it is not universally true, it is generally true. Here’s the difference: I saw my parents living out their faith even when I wasn’t supposed to be watching.

When I tiptoed down the stairs in the morning, I would find my dad in the family room with his Bible open on his lap. Every time I picked up my mom’s old NIV Study Bible it was a little more wrecked than the time before, I would find a little more ink on the pages, and a few more pieces of tape trying desperately to hold together the worn binding. When life was tough, I heard my parents reason from the Bible and I saw them pray together. They weren’t doing these things for us. They weren’t doing them to be seen. They were doing these things because they loved the Lord and loved to spend time with him, and that spoke volumes to me. I had the rock-solid assurance that my parents believed and practiced what they preached. I knew they actually considered God’s Word trustworthy, because they began every day with it. I knew that they believed God was really there and really listening, because they got alone with him each morning to pray for themselves and for their kids. I saw that their faith was not only formal and public, but also intimate and private.

Here is one thing I learned from my parents: Nothing can take the place of simply living as a Christian in view of my children. No amount of formal theological training, church attendance, or family devotions will make up for a general apathy about the things of the Lord. I can catechize my children all day and every day, but if I have no joy and no delight in the Lord, and if I am not living out my faith, my children will see it and know it.

For all the good things my parents did for me, I believe that the most important was simply living as Christians before me. I don’t think anything shaped or challenged me more than that.

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Same-Sex Marriage and the Supreme Court: What Now for the Church?

In Home and Family on October 6, 2014 by The Spillover

Russell Moore:

The Supreme Court has declined to take up appeals from states in which the courts have found same-sex marriage to be a constitutional right. This paves the way for same-sex marriage in many, perhaps most, places in the United States. Many Christians may be unaware of how momentous this is, since the denial of cases doesn’t come with quite the shock and awe of a ruling handed down. The effect though is wide-ranging. So what should our response be as the church of Jesus Christ?

There are two responses we should avoid.

The first is the temptation to listen to those who would want to jettison a Christian sexual ethic in order to acclimate to the cultural moment. We have no authority to revise what Jesus has handed down to us. Our vision of marriage is not the equivalent of a church constitution and by-laws, adaptable by a majority vote. Marriage is not simply a cultural or legal practice, but is instead an icon of the union between Christ and his church, embedded in the creation (Eph. 5:22-31). Without a Christian vision of marriage, we have no Christian vision of the gospel.

The second, though, is to respond with a siege mentality. We wring our hands or shake our fists at the cultural moment in a way that also detracts from the gospel of Jesus Christ. We live in an era in which marriage is redefined and confused. So did many of our forefathers and foremothers, which is why the Bible is consistently equipping the churches to live in a world of prostitution and adultery and so on. The sexual revolution didn’t start at Woodstock. It is always with us.

We ought to have the confidence of people who have heard a word from God and the compassion of a people who are on a mission with God. The Supreme Court can do many things, but the Supreme Court cannot get Jesus back into his cemetery plot.

Our model here ought to be the best aspects of the pro-life movement. Were there angry people who were anti-abortion who simply wanted the “wedge issue” in order to differentiate themselves from their opponents? I’m sure there were. But the primary thrust of the movement wasn’t about culture wars but cultural persuasion. That was by necessity, since real-life women were making real-life decisions about real-life babies. We don’t demonize them. We speak to them, with an alternative vision of what it means to love and to cherish every human life, in our families and in our laws.

Jesus wasn’t shocked by the Samaritan woman at the well, who had had five husbands and was now living outside of wedlock. He also wasn’t afraid to speak a word of repentance to her conscience. He said to her, “Woman, go get your husband and come here” (Jn. 4:16). Both aspects of that sentence must be part of our witness: an honest assessment of sin and an invitation not just to morality, but to life.

Let’s hold fast to what the gospel reveals about the meaning of marriage and the gospel behind it. Let’s articulate a Christian vision of what marriage should be, and let’s embody that vision in our churches. Let’s love our gay and lesbian neighbors. Let’s move forward with persuasion and with confidence. This is no time for retreat or for resentment. This is a time for mission.

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The Mother I Meant to Be

In Gals,Home and Family on January 17, 2014 by The Spillover

Staci Eastin:

I’ve had two goals over the last decade or so: lose weight and be a better mother. And every morning in the mirror I see that the weight is still there and I’m still not the mother I meant to become.

My oldest is 17, and I’m running out of time. For him, the mother I was during his growing up years—the one who yelled too much and couldn’t stay on top of the laundry—is pretty much in the books. He’s gathering the trappings of an adult life: job, car, bank account, and W-2s. His days are filled with tasks accomplished without my help or input, things he would have needed me for just a couple of years ago. How did this happen? When did he become capable of this?

I’m proud of the man he’s becoming. And I know I’ll still be needed—I certainly still value my parents’ advice—but I won’t be directing the show. I have a few more notes to sing, but soon my spotlight will fade and I will exit stage left. I’ll still be in his life, but it will only be in cameo roles.

As a young mom, I despised being told to treasure the time when they were small. I didn’t want to hear that it gets harder later. Treasure this time? Right now? I was so exhausted that buttoning a shirt was a challenge, how could it possibly get any harder?

This advice typically came from a middle-aged woman who spent her evenings sipping herbal tea while her older children performed amazing feats like feeding and bathing themselves. Who was she to say that mothering gets more difficult? Surely she’s forgotten. Perhaps senility had set in, and she was remembering a time that never existed.

I can’t speak for all mothers, but what I think we’re trying to say—what I’m trying to say, anyway—is to treasure this season when time is still your friend rather than your enemy. I want to go back to when my list of regrets wasn’t quite so long and I didn’t have a ready answer for the things I wish I’d done differently.

The young years were hard. But there were Band-Aids for the skinned knees, dishtowels for the spilt milk, and fresh pages for the ruined crayon drawings. But now the stakes are higher. There are no Band-Aids for these grown-up hurts, and the failures have bigger consequences than a bare space on the refrigerator door.

His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22–23). I know this. The grace that was there when they were 6, 4, and 6 months is still here when they’re 17, 15, and 11. But now I’ve got new things to learn, and the dance steps required to shuffle offstage feel awkward and tricky. I’d rather repeat the songs I already know.

Be the best mother you can, but sanctification—for you and them—comes slowly. You will not be enough, and the good in your children will sometimes be in spite of you rather than because of you. That may sound depressing now, but it will be a relief later.

I still hope young mothers treasure the time. I hope their list of regrets is shorter than mine. And I hope I do a better job treasuring the season I’m in now, because I realize now I didn’t treasure it enough when they were small.

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Sshhh. My mom is sleeping.

In Home and Family,Videos on December 3, 2013 by The Spillover

An awesome 2-1/2 minute video on the beauty of motherhood. Ready your tissues, moms.

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3 Tips for Teaching the Gospel to Kids

In Home and Family,Videos on November 12, 2013 by The Spillover

Trevin Wax:

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A Mommy’s To-Do List

In Gals,Home and Family on November 11, 2013 by The Spillover

Courtney Reissig:

We live in a culture that celebrates productivity and efficiency. We like to see results. We like to get things done. We like when we accomplish something big. It makes us feel important. At least it does for me.

But here is something I’ve learned in my first year as a mommy.

Babies don’t like to-do lists. Mommies like me do. I find great comfort in my to-do list. And I find even more in that little checkmark next to each and every item on my list. Babies? Not so much. There is always a blow-out right when I need to finish the dishes. Someone always spits-up or spills something all over my freshly washed clothes. One of my boys always seems to get sick, or have a rough nap, right around the time I sit down to read a book, write an article, or watch a show. And forget trying to make a gourmet meal. Dinner time is when they often need me the most.

There are many days where I get nothing crossed off my to-do list, unless you count doing extra loads of spit-up covered laundry as productivity.

In the very early days of mothering my little miracles I would often feel resentment rising in my heart whenever I heard one of them stir or whimper before his nap was supposed to be over. I would stew in frustration over the fact that he needed me more than I anticipated. I had big plans for my to-do list. And unfortunately, he wasn’t one of them.

I can’t remember exactly when it happened, but one day conviction hit me like a nauseating illness. And I was undone. By God’s grace, I slowly started to realize that these babies are my to-do list. For me, productivity is found in the daily care of my own flesh and blood. When I stand before God one day I will not answer for how many articles I wrote, dishes I washed, or meals I made. But I will give an account for how I loved these babes. I will give an account for how I cared for their souls.

What I tell myself every day is that these days will not last forever, and not in a pep-talk, you can get through this kind of way. Reminding myself that these days are numbered is a wake-up call to treasure the little moments that seem to get in the way of my to-do list. The tasks will always be there. These babies will not.

Obviously, I can’t forget my necessary responsibilities. There are legitimate things that need to get done. My kids do need clean clothes. And so do my husband and me! We need to eat. A clean house does make everyone feel a little more put together. But I can work against being a slave to trying to do too much. I can learn to be more flexible with the interruptions. They aren’t a death sentence to my productivity. They are God’s way of telling me to stop and savor the moments.

So as I start this Monday with a to-do list staring me square in the face I want to focus more on the little faces that so joyously greet me every morning. They won’t be here forever. And the dishes can wait.

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Gel-Pen Faith

In Gals,Home and Family on October 2, 2013 by The Spillover

From Lizzie at Femina:

Not too long ago a young woman was over at my house for some reason that I cannot remember. Now on a typical day  at my house you would find dishes in the sink, junk on the floor, a baby unloading a drawer, laundry on the stairs, and about 410 things on my to-do list. Children are always coloring, wielding scissors, and gluing things on the window when I’m not looking. Hopefully, you would also find me running around in the midst of it, because long experience has taught me that giving up on it won’t get results. I don’t remember what exactly was going on when she came by, but at some point she commented that she was the sort of person who liked things to be really orderly. It wasn’t a criticism and it wasn’t offensive, although it did make me laugh. Because, lo. Me too.

The thing is, when I look over my past I feel that God has written it on the wall here, there, and everywhere that He doesn’t care about that. That part of my personality that used to seem like a positive attribute  is something that God didn’t treasure. He has asked me to put that on the altar. When push comes to shove and it is either the house or the kids, God choses the kids, and He tells me to. When it is the laundry all done or the kids all loved, it had better be the kids. When it is mom as an uptight dictator about the shoe placement or the mom who is laughing at the huge spill in the kitchen, I know which one God wants me to be.  He wants me to be  joyful, hard-working, full of gratitude, laughter, and above all He wants me to have spit-spot closets. Wait. Does He? All but that last bit.

Of course God is honored when I am combining joy with closet organizing. Laughter with clean floors. Gratitude with getting all the dishes done. But you know what? If something has got to go around our house, it better not be my attitude. Because that is the one thing that God actually told me to keep track of.

As I look back at my life I can see that almost every time that there was something that I felt good at, or capable of, or confident in, God would give me a wonderful opportunity to lay it down. There is a way of looking at it that says, “God just keeps not letting me be happy! He just makes the conditions perfect for me to be miserable! He knew that I need a certain amount of alone time every day and He keeps not giving it to me!”

But this is the way that I see it. Those things that I consider part of my personality – loving to decorate, loving to cook, wanting things to be beautiful and organized and perfectly crafty and satisfying. I believe in these things. But I believe in them as things that I can use to honor my Creator. Back in the days when I wasn’t being challenged, these things came naturally, and I believed in them because I could cobble together reasons that they were good. But they primarily came from my own strength. I could be that way without really any pushback. So God brought the push back. He made it take more than the capacity I think I have to do these things. He said to me, “I know you like it, and you think you believe it. Now I’d like to see you do it without yourself.” God isn’t interested in my strength. He is interested in my obedience in weakness. Do you hear that? God said enough with my hobbies and my preferences. Lets see about her obedience and her faith.

When we believe something, we can sign our cute little names on the dotted line. Children are a blessing? Check! You should be full of joy? Check! You should honor your husband and love your children? Check! Enjoy all the days of your life? Check! Watch me go with my cute little gel pen in my journal!

So then God gives us those children. And now we believe something that He has told us, but we are not dancing around ready to sign our names on it anymore. Why not? Well because we feel like fussing about the laundry. Because it is messing us up to believe this, because now our faith about this is not abstract. So we feel broken. Like the things that we believe aren’t coordinating with our emotions anymore. Like we can’t find ourselves. Like the old us with the journal and the gel pen had a much better grasp of motherhood than this weird lady we have suddenly become.  Why so much brokenness? Doesn’t God love us?

God has brought me through this time and again. It is like He holds up my little statement of faith from my youth and says, “cute.” But He doesn’t want me to sign my name on it.  He wants me to put myself on the altar. Enough with this chit chat. God wants to see action. Take that belief, and live it. Not when you have all the emotional strength to do that, but when you don’t.

Do it when it must be all His strength. Do it because you believe, not because you feel. Do it in faith.

This has been happening to me long enough now that I can see His hand in it. I can see the tremendous mercy that it was for me (the wedding coordinator for other people) to be the sick bride. I remember standing at the window in my parent’s room looking out at all our wedding guests arriving. I didn’t want my dress on because it would make me throw up again. And as I saw them all coming, I could also see that God was giving me a chance to walk in joy down that aisle. I knew I believed that the wedding was just about the vows, and about honoring them for the rest of my life. That all the rest was just superficial. God didn’t want me walking down the aisle in superficial joy. He didn’t want me to be buoyed up by the fun, and the dress, and the flowers. He wanted me to take His joy and walk with it. And if that was all I had, it would be enough.

This is a pattern. I felt capable of being a mother, back before I was. God gave me more to handle than I could possibly handle on my own strength. I felt capable of keeping house. I’m sorry. I don’t know if I can stop laughing about that. Anything that I felt capable of doing,  God will both make it seem impossible and simultaneously ask me to do it. And there I am – in the sweetest place you can ever be – relying on Him. Walking in faith. Living in joy.

This broken feeling is only broken if it stays there. If it stops in self-pity. If it wallows in grief about the lost emotions of our journaling days. But this is richer. When we seek His joy instead of our own, when we lay our best on His altar, and we have nothing left for ourselves, that is when we are truly accomplishing His purpose in our lives.

We are not broken. We are being healed. We are not alone. We are in His hands. We are not overwhelmed. We have a champion. We are not stupid. We are being made wise. We are not weak. For He is not weak. We are not hopeless.  For we are His.

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Seven Ways for Busy Moms to Get in the Word

In Gals,Home and Family on September 11, 2013 by The Spillover

Courtney Joseph:

Fall is almost here, and for most moms this is the beginning of the busiest season of the year. Back-to-school to-do lists lead right into Thanksgiving and Christmas to-do lists, and we will not find rest again until January 2nd. And while God’s word sits on our shelves waiting for us to get a slow moment, the world bids us to keep busy. Get those kids signed up for soccer, piano, gymnastics, basketball, football, and the list keeps going. You just name it, everybody else is doing it.

The world tells us to get our calendars full and stay on the move. If you don’t, your kids might miss out, or they won’t be cool, or they won’t learn important life lessons, or they won’t be socialized, or they won’twon’twon’t. “Get busy and keep busy” is how the unspoken mantra goes.

The world says this chaotic running around is what the good moms do.

But the truth is that we need slow moments.

It’s in the slow moments that God speaks to us through his word and we speak to him in prayer. This is when we step away from all the busyness in order to fellowship with our heavenly Father. This is when we come to his word for the precious purpose of drinking from the living well — Jesus Christ.

Here is a simple guide for busy moms who want to build more of these slow moments into their everyday — moments to stop and drink deeply from the living well.

1. Choose one passage of Scripture for the week. My favorite passages for meditating on come from Psalms, Proverbs, the Gospels, and the Epistles.

2. Write the passage on a note card, and slip it in your pocket or beside your computer. Pull it out periodically, and read over it. Keep it in your purse all week long, and pull it out at convenient times and read through it.

3. Read the passage first thing in the morning. Read the passage as soon as you get out of bed, so it’s the first thing on your mind that morning.

4. Open your Bible to that passage, and place it on the kitchen counter. All day long, when you walk through the kitchen, pause, read the passage, and then move on.

5. Read the passage out loud. Read it to yourself, and read it to your children during mealtime and at bedtime.

6. Reread the passage before you go to bed at night. Bookend your days with the reading of this passage of Scripture.

7. Write the passage at the top of your to-do list. This way, every time you look over your to-do list, you can review the Scripture passage.

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The Most Frightening Prayer I Could Pray for My Children

In Home and Family,Perspective on July 18, 2013 by The Spillover

Christina Fox:

The most frightening prayer I could pray for my children is the one they need the most.

Now, I always pray about their behavior, their health, their progress in school, and their friendships. I also pray about their future and their jobs. I pray that my boys would marry “nice Christian girls.” But to be honest, when I pray for my children, it is easiest to ask that their lives be smooth and stress-free. It is easy to pray for their comfort and ease, for their lives to be absent of pain and grief.

When It Gets Uncomfortable

Yet when I reflect on my own life and look back on my faith journey, I see all the challenges and trials I have faced along the way, and the good God accomplished through them. I see the heartaches I’ve endured and the suffering that brought me to my knees. I also see the sins I’ve struggled with and the idols God graciously stripped from my hands. I see how God used all those valleys and painful circumstances to draw me closer to himself, to refine me, and to teach me to rely on him.

They have been the most important events in my life, but it’s not easy to ask this sort of thing for my children. It is hard to ask that God reveal their sin to them, that they see their need for a Savior, that they would be broken over their corruption and truly learn to cling to the gospel.

That kind of prayer is uncomfortable.

The Path to More of Him

It means that they will have to dig through rocky terrain like I’ve experienced before. They will have to walk through their own story of sin and repentance — of learning what it means to have empty hands. What’s frightening for me as a mom is to realize that their lives will not be smooth, comfortable, or safe — not if they will learn most deeply what it means to rely on God. In fact, my children may yet have to endure great trials, walk through dark valleys, and experience great sorrow. That could be God’s pathway to giving them more of himself.

I don’t want my children to treat God like a vending machine or like a fire insurance policy. I want them to have a passionate love for him that is alive and outgoing, bowing to his supremacy and anchored gladly in his gospel. I want them to love God’s word and hold to it firmly in times of uncertainty. I want them to show Jesus to the world. This is what I want.

Nothing More Important

And it will mean that my children have to see that they have sinned against a holy God and that it is only through the grace and sacrifice of his Son that they can be forgiven. Jesus said that those who have been forgiven little will love little (Luke 7:47). My children need to know what that means. They have to see the utter depths of their sinfulness and that without Jesus, they are without hope. And they have to trust in Jesus as their only source of hope and righteousness. Only as they acknowledge their need for him and his forgiveness will they grow to love God in the way I most want for them.

The path could be hard, and praying for this can be frightening, but there really is nothing more important. . . . Father, give my children more of you.

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Doma and the Rock

In Home and Family,Perspective on July 12, 2013 by The Spillover

Rosaria Champagne Butterfield:

In 1996, when Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), I grieved with my people. I was an atheist then, and lived in a monogamous lesbian relationship, working as a tenure-track professor specializing in English literature and Queer Theory.

Now, some 17 years later, in the summer of 2013, the Supreme Court has delivered its historic DOMA decision. I am now a Christian, married to a man who serves God as a pastor, and I homeschool in the Classical Christian tradition the two youngest of my four children. And again, I grieve with my people.

Standing with the Disempowered

Perhaps you think that I have a knack — call it a spiritual “gift” if you like — of affiliating with the losing team?

One of my enduring life values, which carried me through the Feminist and Gay Rights movements of the 1990s, and continues to motivate me today as one of Christ’s own, is the desire to stand with the disempowered. So here I am. Standing in a familiar place, bearing a new heart supplied by the Holy Spirit, a renewed mind, transformed by Christ’s atoning love, a new mission, created from before the foundation of the world by God’s sovereignty, and a new identity as a daughter of the King. But here I stand, still sporting my comfortable shoes.

An Electric Few Weeks for a Former Lesbian

This has been an electric few weeks for a former atheist, now Christian disciple. First, Exodus International closes down. Truth be told, this is fine by me. Reparative therapy was never part of God’s method, and Jesus Christ did not die to make any para-church his bride. But Exodus detonated with a colossal bang, and took with it gospel integrity, leaving even more theological turbulence in its wake.

Now the Supreme Court, using strong, cosmological, moral language defending the human dignity of same-sex unions, overturns DOMA and Proposition 8, sending a resounding rebuke to the Christian ideal of creation ordinance, and with it, the normative (albeit not always redeemed) heterosexuality that undergirds it.

Gathering the Children in Close

So I did what parents across the country did — believing parents and unbelieving parents, gay parents and heterosexual ones. I gathered my children in close, and I talked with them. You probably did this, too. No big surprises in my talk.

No new news. No identity bombs were dropped. My children have always known that their mother used to be an atheist and a lesbian. They cut their teeth on this vocabulary, and could say the words before they knew what they meant. Saved by grace. Closets are for clothes, after all.

Here is what I know: God is bigger than my sin. And God is sovereign over Supreme Court decisions and shifting worldviews. He has had the first and he will have the last word on all matters of sin and grace.

The Church, Christ’s bride, is a God-made institution and will sustain herself in majesty in times of persecution or revival. Context matters not. Providence will paint the walls of this worldview.

Who Owns Your Heart

But Jesus, the Word made flesh, will not be drawn and quartered. He came to fulfill the whole law, every jot and tittle. And he wants your whole life relinquished to him. Any theology that denies God’s moral law, and then domesticates sin by its absence, does not have Christ’s atoning love, God’s justifying pardon, or the Holy Spirit’s kind company. The Red Letters of the New Testament, unmoored from the moral law of the whole Bible, offer only half the God-man, mangling the gospel by wrenching salvation from sin and belief from repentance. Even the demons believed in Jesus — and it only sent them straight to hell. All dangerous lies pack a dollop of truth. That was true when Jesus walked the earth, and it is true today. That we are saved from our sin simply reveals the obvious: God was right all along. No shame in truth that loves like this.

The Bible is not some pragmatist’s paradigm. It is the double-edged sword that chiseled truth into my stony heart, rendering it new and with it, recreating me as a new creature in Christ, a daughter of the King. I have no personal sexual orientation to call my own after Christ chisels my heart anew — and neither do you. We have Christ orientation, an alien identity to which we claim no rights. Do we struggle with sin? Yes. Is temptation a sin? No. What distinguishes temptation from sin? Temptation clobbers you from the outside and lures you to do its bidding. Sin makes temptation a house pet, gets it a collar and leash, and is deceived to believe that it can be restrained by impositions of civility. What you do with temptation reveals Who owns your heart. How you talk about other people’s sin patterns reveals Who owns your heart.

Lessons in Losing

So, here is what I have learned from being on the losing team of both historic, public, and political renderings of homosexuality.

Homosexuality is a sin, but so is homophobia. Homophobia is irrational fear of a whole people group, failing to see in that group God’s image diminished but not extinguished by sin, and that God’s elect people linger there, snared by their own design and awaiting gospel grace. Biding time. Think about that. Waiting like the caterpillar that spawned today’s butterfly. God has set apart a people from before the foundation of the world to receive his grace, and they are waiting for you in every nation and people group. It is an act of homophobia to believe that people in the LGBT community are either too sinful to respond to God’s call on their life, or to believe that people in the LGBT community have a fixed nature that will never, by the blustering, unfounded, and uncharitable declarations of secular psychology, change by the power of the gospel.

The only fixed feature of the human constitution or badge of personal identity is the soul; imprint of God to us, it will journey from life to death to life and will last forever, permanently, for eternity in heaven or hell.

Hopes, Dreams, Redemption

The gospel reorders and remakes people, and its metamorphosis manifests in a life that loves God more than itself. God doesn’t zap us. He walks with us through the valley of the shadow of death, promising that as we “proclaim and initiate an irreconcilable war against our choice sins,” as Puritan William Gurnell states, God will be there. The Rock. Never leaving nor forsaking. Never failing the soul who puts trust in Him (Psalm 9:10). No matter what.

God promises that he will make meaning, purpose, and grace out of your redeemed life. God provides the church to be family, from cradle to grave, where single Christians are cherished saints in Christ’s Kingdom, not people waiting to be fixed. And God provides Christ-redeemed heterosexual marriage so that his creation ordinance is fulfilled and so that his Bride, the church, has imaginative authority over hopes and dreams.

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I Still Believe in Marriage

In Being Real,Home and Family on July 8, 2013 by The Spillover

Jeremy Dys:

For two millennia, it has stood at the apex of human relationships. Every culture has witnessed it and added their own cultural significance to how it is conducted. It has been celebrated and lampooned, but it has survived. It has received the blessing of both Church and State. In recent decades, it has staggered. Culturally “enlightening” ideas of radical feminism, the sexual revolution, and even ‘no-fault’ divorce has all but reduced this venerable institution to its knees. Most recently, one judge (with the backing of four others) allowed for its redefinition.

And yet, it stands. It bows to no man, winces from no blow, and walks with head held high as yet the ultimate union of a man and a woman. No matter what happens to it, I still believe in marriage.

I still believe in that union of one man and one woman that has seen my parents weather 46 years together. I believe in their marriage that steadied a wife to her husband when his heart failed and bound the husband to his wife when cancer dared invade their union.

I still believe in the marriage of a grandfather who mourns his wife who has preceded him in death these dozen years. I believe in a marriage that, when one is taken to heaven leaves one of the “Greatest Generation” in tears at her absence when he holds the great-grandson she never saw. I believe in marriage because he has shown that, “’til death us do part” is not a momentary phrase on the lips, but a conviction of the heart.

I still believe in the marriage of a near-perfect woman to this imperfect man. I believe in the good and the bad, the rich and the poor, and the sickness and health that has been shared by a helpmeet so dear. I believe that my marriage, though imperfect, is the best means by which we teach my four sons what makes a husband, what makes a man, what makes a wife, what makes a woman.

I still believe in marriage as told from Genesis 1 through Revelation 21. I take God at his word that He meant for a man and woman to leave father and mother and be bound to one another. I believe that this is good.

I believe in the marriage bed of Solomon’s Song and the celebration Christ witnessed at Cana as the Son of Man and Son of God. I believe in marriage as the human picture of a God that pursues his people and sacrifices himself as a kindly groom for the good of his most precious bride. I believe in the Marriage Supper of the Lamb and the foretaste of that grand banquet that my humble kitchen table – amidst its din and crumbs – now prefigures. I believe I will sit at that Grand Banquet. I believe marriage protects against infidelity and is the most honorable of all human relationships.

I still believe in marriage as the best hope for my children. I believe a husband like me ought to be bound lawfully (not just genetically) to the children he fathers. I believe I can wrestle my sons better than any man alive. I believe there is something taught to my sons amidst my wrestling and tickling and horseplay.

I believe that I wrestle them better than my wife, but no man – no matter how compassionate – could rival the tenderness by which she heals a scraped knee with a kiss or patiently prepares an over-tired toddler for much needed rest. I believe no man – no matter how well he might sing – can better hum a lullaby to my child than my wife. I believe that my role as husband teaches my sons to be men. I believe that my wife as a wife pictures in real life what they ought to expect in a woman. I believe that, in their mother – my wife – that my sons first learn to protect women, gently treat them, and tenderly provide for them.

I still believe marriage matters beyond the four walls of my home. I believe that it is the last best hope for a government that is overburdened. I believe marriage is the foundation stone for democracy and when marriage is flattened into redefinition by a human government, it is government – not marriage – that is most harmed.

I still believe marriage is government’s best method of connecting men to the children that they father, protecting women from abuse, and creating personal wealth. No government program could ever hope to attain the efficiency by which marriage cares for children, provides for individual happiness, and increases one’s happiness.

I still believe that marriage increases individual liberty and limits the size and scope of government. I believe marriage allows us to assume the paternity of children born to a marriage, rather than force government to determine the same by DNA and courtroom drama.

I still believe that government cannot redefine what it did not first define. I believe the power of the judicial pen is rendered laughably impotent in the face of the Eternal Judge of the Universe that holds those who govern unjustly in derision. Despite his best efforts, I still believe that it is possible to believe in marriage and hold against its imitations without the slightest feeling of animosity.

I still believe in marriage and that means I don’t have much hope for the idea of divorce. I believe ‘no-fault’ divorce has done more damage to the institution of marriage than any alleged bigot or homophobe could have ever conceived. I believe that ‘baby-boomers’ have shamefully served their self-interest and made meaningless the terms, “vow” and “covenant.” In the process, they have damned the generation below them to distrust marriage and invent ideas like, “starter marriage” and “trash the dress.” But, I do not believe that marriage is beyond recovery – for them or for us.

Vilify me, mock me, and force me to submit under penalty of law, you will not change what I believe. Insult me, mock my faith, and use the supposedly limited power of the government to shout me down, you will not shake my resolve to better the loving and lifelong union of one man and one woman. Cite polls, tell me loud enough, long enough, and often enough that redefinition is inevitable, or come up with more variations to human coupling (or tripling, quadrupling….) than Baskin Robbins, I am resolved to support that which makes my grandfather pine to embrace once more, that has sustained my parents these 46 years, and has changed my life over the last (almost) twelve years.

I still believe in marriage. Do you?

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What Makes Dad Special

In Home and Family on June 16, 2013 by The Spillover

David Mathis:

All around the world, dads are special today. Father’s Day is the third Sunday of June in the United States and more than 80 nations. It is fitting that we not only annually honor moms on Mother’s Day, but our fathers as well.

God’s good design is for both moms and dads, and for their appreciation and honor, whether old covenant (Exodus 20:12) or new (Ephesians 6:2). It takes man and woman, father and mother, to image God to a child. “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27).

Beyond Precise Description

Having just one or the other isn’t God’s ideal, though we greatly revere those who give such valiant effort to leading single-parent homes, difficult as it is. And having two of the one and none of the other is even more trouble. Father and mother aren’t interchangeable. God’s created order doesn’t just call for a guardian or two, whatever the gender, but for a mother and for a father, together.

There is something distinct, some special imaging of God, that both father and mother display for a child. It’s a glory beyond precise description, but not above several good glimpses in the Scriptures.

Like a Father with His Children

In Paul’s letter to the young believers of Thessalonica, he gives a good deal of space to recounting his early days among them. He notes that not only did he share the gospel with them in word, but he also “shared his own self” in deed and depth of relationship. Here’s how he says it in 1 Thessalonians 2:7–12 — watch especially for the mentions of mother and father.

We were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.

Much could be said here about how the images of mother and father work together to communicate depth and closeness of relationship. Paul says he has shared his own self with them, and not merely communicated to them a message. Both motherhood and fatherhood demand such, but on Father’s Day it’s worth trying to discern what’s distinct — what makes mom and dad each to be special in their own way.

What’s Distinct About Dad

On the one hand, Paul says that he and his apostolic team were “gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children.” The associations here are not only gentleness and intense care, but also intimacy. Depth of relationship is in the offing. He sums it up in the first part of verse 8 as “being affectionately desirous of you.” There is manifest affection and tenderness. This Paul corrals in the mothering picture.

Then Paul takes up the father image. And it’s not the same as mothering. There’s overlap, no doubt, but they’re not interchangeable. He says, “like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God.”

A Father’s Exhortation and Encouragement

Don’t miss how personal this fatherly care is. He says he exhorted “each one of you,” not just the group at large. So he knows them personally. As Robert Coleman says, “The only way that a father can properly raise a family is to be with it.” And because he knows them, he doesn’t exhort like a slavemaster, or like a judge, or like a king, but he exhorts like a father — a father who knows his children and manifestly loves them and desires the best for them. There’s something about fatherhood that makes such warm but strong exhortation especially appropriate.

It’s not that mothers don’t exhort. It’s not that mothers shouldn’t exhort. It’s not that mothers should never step forward and, with manifest love and earnestness, charge a child to walk in manner worthy of God. But there is something about fatherhood that makes such exhortation and encouragement particularly fitting.

Dad’s Discipline for Our Good

While the mothering image is more gentle and nurturing and tender, the fathering image is more tough and strong and challenging. It’s the father who leads the way in discipline and correction. In Ephesians 6:4, Paul charges not the parents in general, but the fathers in particular, “Do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Same story in Colossians 3:21: “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.”

And the special place of a father in exhorting a child — disciplining a child — comes into focus in Hebrews 12:7–11:

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

God’s Good Gifts of Moms and Dads

When we honor our father and our mother, we love mom for her nurture, and we respect dad for his exhortation. Many disclaimers abound. Dads also must nurture and show affection, and moms must discipline and exhort, but there are parental virtues which, while having their proper exercise in both mother and father, make their particular home in either mom or dad.

On this Father’s Day, whether your dad has been all that you ever hoped and dreamed, or you’ve now grown old enough to see his faults and failings (sadly the more common story), there are distinct virtues to respect in dad, even as we love the overlapping virtues in mom. Yes, it’s worth having not a Guardian’s Day or a Parent’s Day, but distinct Mother’s and Father’s Days in celebration of God’s good gifts of both moms and dads.

Let’s see if we can honor dad today not just by pointing out what made him a good parent, but a good father.

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Christ-ian Marriage

In Home and Family,Perspective on April 15, 2013 by The Spillover

Via Dane Ortlund:

We must go back to our Bibles. The husband is the head of the wife just in so far as he is to her what Christ is to the Church. He is to love her as Christ loved the church–read on–and gave his life for her (Ephesians 5:25).

This headship, then, is most fully embodied not in the husband we should all wish to be but in him whose marriage is most like a crucifixion; whose wife receives most and gives least, is most unworthy of him, is–in her own mere nature–least lovable. For the Church has no beauty but what the Bridegroom gives her; he does not find, but makes her lovely. The chrism of this terrible coronation is to be seen not in the joys of any man’s marriage but in its sorrows, in the sickness and sufferings of a good wife or the faults of a bad one, in his unwearying (never paraded) care or his inexhaustible forgiveness: forgiveness, not acquiescence.

As Christ sees in the flawed, proud, fanatical or lukewarm Church on earth that Bride who will one day be without spot or wrinkle, and labors to produce the latter, so the husband whose headship is Christ-like (and he is allowed no other) never despairs.

–C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves, p. 105

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Straight, Bible-Believing Christians Can Undermine God’s Plan for Marriage Too

In Home and Family,Perspective on April 10, 2013 by The Spillover

Erik Raymond:

It seems that everyone has an opinion about Gay Marriage, and these opinions are rarely ambivalent. Christians have (and rightly so) been outspoken in their opposition to a redefinition of marriage. This recasting of the institution of marriage is not, we would argue, a progressive and healthy advancement but rather a disastrous detour from what biblical, therefore, right and good.

At the same time and while marriage is on the front burner, particularly the undermining of God’s plan for it, let me ask a question. Are Gay and Lesbians the only ones who undermine God’s plan for marriage?

The answer is, “Of course not!” Just because you are hetero-sexual does not mean that you are reflecting God’s plan for marriage. You don’t get a pass just on marriage because you are not Gay. The basis of a marriage reflecting God’s plan is how it reflects the gospel. In other words a marriage is reflective of God’s plan in so far as it reflects the marriage between Jesus the husband and the church the bride.

This is where it gets quite personal for us inside the Christian camp. God’s plan for marriage includes the following:

Love: Your marriage is to reflect the joyful sacrifice and service of your spouse in order that they might be blessed. This service and sacrifice is to reflect Jesus’ sacrifice and service of you in the gospel. This obviously excludes the selfishness that plagues far too many of our marriages.

Confession: This is the willingness to call sin what God calls it and to admit that we have done it to one another. Confession of sin is the precursor to the display of mercy and grace. Christian marriages are to be characterized by humble confession of sin rather than prideful defending of ourselves.

Forgiveness: This is a hallmark of Christianity and so therefore a hallmark of Christian marriages. How can a marriage that is characterized by anger, bitterness, resentment, and strife be reflective of the gospel of grace.

Distinction of Roles: Husbands and Wives have equal access to God, standing before God, joy in God and acceptance from God. There is no distinction of status (Gal. 3.28) but there are distinction of roles. The Christian husband is the loving leader of his wife who willfully lays his own life down for her while serving his wife in sanctification (Eph. 5.25-33). The Christian wife is to lovingly submit to her husband in a manner that reflects Christ’s willful submission to his Father (1 Cor. 11). This respectful, honoring, posture of love between joint heirs of grace is to be continually reflecting Christ’s love in the gospel.

These are just *some* of the distinctivess of Christian marriage. In so far as we do not love one another, blur roles, or deal unbiblically with sin—then we are undermining God’s plan for marriage. Far too many Christians are sharpshooters, adeptly able to pick off the various cultural perversions upon marriage without taking inventory of their own house. This does not mean that we should be silent until we have the perfect marriage, it just means that we should not act like we are all about God’s plan for marriage when we ourselves, are not. Because it vividly promotes the gospel, Christians are to passionately promote God’s plan for marriage, starting with our own.

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The Marks of Manhood

In Guys,Home and Family on September 11, 2012 by The Spillover

Al Mohler:

When does a boy become a man? That interesting question was recently posed to me, and it raises some of the most important issues facing Christians today. While the world seems increasingly confused about matters as basic as what it means to be male and female, Christians are called to frame our arguments in distinctively biblical terms.

All around us, cultural developments and media messages communicate a fog of confusion over questions of gender. In reality, these issues lie right along the fault lines of today’s culture war and its most controversial points of debate. For many years, this society has been experimenting with the most fundamental realities of human existence. The essence of what it means to be male or female has been routinely discounted by a society infatuated with unlimited self-expression and assertions of personal autonomy.

Women are now joined by men, who complain that traditional expectations about gender roles are oppressive, limiting, and intolerant. An entire generation of young women is trying to find a way to genuine womanhood against the tidal force of ideological feminism. Similarly, boys and young men are desperately looking for models of manhood and answers to their urgent questions of male identity, male responsibility, and male roles.

Christians understand that God created human beings as male and female–for His glory and for our good. The differences between the sexes are not matters of evolutionary accident, but are clear indications of God’s sublime and perfect design for human happiness. As followers of Christ, we understand that it is our responsibility to embrace, affirm, and fulfill the roles and responsibilities God has given us.

In the context of this confusion, boys are especially vulnerable. The feminization of society, mixed with confusing cultural signals, has led many boys and young men to be uncertain and unaware of their masculinity and proper role. In a desperate search for a secure male identity, some are attracted to gross distortions. Some embrace a brutalized and arrogant posture while others retreat into insecure manhood, never understanding a man’s responsibility to lead.

We now face the phenomenon of perpetual boyhood on the part of many males. Refusing to grow up, these young men function as boys well into their twenties–some even into their thirties and beyond. An extended male adolescence marks the lifestyles, expectations, and behavior of far too many young males, whose masculine identity is embraced awkwardly, if at all.

When does a boy become a man? The answer to this must go far beyond biology and chronological age. As defined in the Bible, manhood is a functional reality, demonstrated in a man’s fulfillment of responsibility and leadership. With this in mind, let me suggest thirteen marks of biblical manhood. The achievement of these vital qualities marks the emergence of a man who will demonstrate true biblical masculinity.

1. Spiritual maturity sufficient to lead a wife and children. The Bible is clear about a man’s responsibility to exercise spiritual maturity and spiritual leadership. Of course, this spiritual maturity takes time to develop, and it is a gift of the Holy Spirit working within the life of the believer. The disciplines of the Christian life, including prayer and serious Bible study, are among the means God uses to mold a boy into a man and to bring spiritual maturity into the life of one who is charged to lead a wife and family. This spiritual leadership is central to the Christian vision of marriage and family life. A man’s spiritual leadership is not a matter of dictatorial power, but of firm and credible spiritual leadership and influence. A man must be ready to lead his wife and his children in a way that will honor God, demonstrate godliness, inculcate Christian character, and lead his family to desire Christ and to seek God’s glory. Spiritual maturity is a mark of true Christian manhood, and a spiritually immature man is, in at least this crucial sense, spiritually just a boy.

2. Personal maturity sufficient to be a responsible husband and father. Christians often speak of raising boys to be men. In the face of today’s cultural onslaught, this is an important goal. However, it is just not enough. Biblical manhood is always defined in terms of functions, roles, and responsibilities. True masculinity is not a matter of exhibiting supposedly masculine characteristics devoid of the context of responsibility. In the Bible, a man is called to fulfill his role as husband and father. Unless granted the gift of celibacy for gospel service, the Christian boy is to aim for marriage and fatherhood. This is assuredly a counter-cultural assertion, but the role of husband and father is central to manhood. Boys must be raised to see themselves as future husbands and fathers. They must be taught what to look for in a godly wife and how to fulfill all of the responsibilities that Scripture invests in a husband and father. Marriage is unparalleled in its effect on men, as it channels their energies and directs their responsibilities to the devoted covenant of marriage and the grace-filled civilization of the family. Boys must be taught what it means to be a husband, how to respect and honor marriage, and how to earn the respect and confidence of a wife. Similarly, boys must be taught about the responsibilities of fatherhood. Christians must reverse generations of inattention by speaking directly and clearly to boys about their future responsibilities, including the care, training, education, protection, and discipline of children. They must aspire to be the kind of man a Christian woman would gladly marry and children will trust, respect, and obey.

3. Economic maturity sufficient to hold an adult job and handle money. Advertisers and marketers know where to aim their messages–directly at adolescent boys and young men. This particular segment of the population is inordinately attracted to material goods, popular entertainment, sporting events, and other consumer options. The portrait of young manhood made popular in the media and presented as normal through entertainment is characterized by economic carelessness, self-centeredness, and laziness. A real man knows how to hold a job, handle money with responsibility, and take care of the needs of his wife and family. A failure to develop economic maturity means that young men often float from job to job, and take years to “find themselves” in terms of career and vocation. Once again, an extended adolescence marks a huge segment of today’s young male population. A boy must be taught how to work, how to save, to invest, and to spend money with care. He must be taught to respect labor, and to feel the satisfaction that comes from a job well done, and a dollar honestly earned. Too many boys are coddled and entertained, demonstrating a laziness that will be highly detrimental to their future prospects as husband and father. Slothfulness, laziness, and economic carelessness are marks of immaturity. A real man knows how to earn, manage, and respect money. A Christian man understands the danger that comes from the love of money, and fulfills his responsibility as a Christian steward.

4. Physical maturity sufficient to work and protect a family. Unless afflicted by injury or illness, a boy should develop the physical maturity that, by stature and strength, marks recognizable manhood. Of course, men come in many sizes and demonstrate different levels of physical strength, but common to all men is a maturity, through which a man demonstrates his masculinity by movement, confidence, and strength. A man must be ready to put his physical strength on the line to protect his wife and children and to fulfill his God-assigned tasks. A boy must be taught to channel his developing strength and emerging size into a self-consciousness of responsibility, recognizing that adult strength is to be combined with adult responsibility and true maturity.

5. Sexual maturity sufficient to marry and fulfill God’s purposes. As a boy develops into a man, he becomes aware of the sexual powers God has put within him. In an age saturated with distorted sexuality, bombarded with sexual stimulation, and confused by unbridled sexual passion, boys must be taught to discipline their sexual energies into anticipation of marriage. Even as the society celebrates sex in every form and at every age, the true Christian man practices sexual integrity, avoiding pornography, fornication, all forms of sexual promiscuity, and corruption. He understands the danger of lust, but rejoices in the sexual capacity and reproductive power God has put within him, committing himself to find a wife, and to earn her love, trust, and admiration–and eventually to win her hand in marriage. Boys must be taught to respect this incredible gift, and to protect this gift until, within the context of holy marriage, they are able to fulfill this gift, love their wives, and look to God’s gift of children. Male sexuality separated from the context and integrity of marriage is an explosive and dangerous reality. The boy must understand, even as he travels through the road of puberty and an awakened sexuality, that he is accountable to God for his stewardship of this great gift.

6. Moral maturity sufficient to lead as an example of righteousness. Stereotypical behavior on the part of young males is, in the main, marked by recklessness, irresponsibility, and worse. As a boy grows into manhood, he must develop moral maturity as he aspires to righteousness, learning to think like a Christian, act like a Christian, and show others how to do the same. The Christian man is to be an example to others, teaching by both precept and example. Of course, this requires the exercise of responsible moral reasoning. Boys will not learn this on their own, but must be taught. True moral education begins with a clear understanding of moral standards, but must move to the higher level of moral reasoning by which a young man learns how biblical principles are translated into godly living and how the moral challenges of his day must be met with the truths revealed in God’s inerrant and infallible word.

Biblical manhood does not develop in a vacuum. A boy’s most important teacher is his dad, and one of a father’s chief responsibilities is to instruct and inspire his son into true manhood.

Articles

11 Practical Ways for Men to Lead a Family

In Guys,Home and Family on August 6, 2012 by The Spillover

From Mark Driscoll:

As men, we bear a greater burden before God for the well-being of our families and our church. Our wives and children should flourish under our loving leadership.

By the grace of God, you can be who God has called you to be, do what God has called you to do, and love as God has loved you.

As men, we will never in this life experience perfection, but by the grace of God we can experience progress every day until we enter perfection in the life to come. So don’t sulk, don’t sin, and don’t settle, but instead strive.

1. As the family leader, model humility, honesty, repentance, service, study, and worship. Your life preaches at least as loudly as your words, so teach and model humble godliness by the grace of God.

2. Make sure everyone in your family has a good, age-appropriate Bible that they regularly read. Read the Bible yourself and with them so they are encouraged to read on their own.

3. Make sure you have some basic Bible study tools available for your family in either print or digital form and that everyone learns to use them. If you do not know where to begin, ask your pastor or a godly student of Scripture in your church about things like a good Bible commentary, concordance, dictionary, and atlas.

4. Buy good Christian books for everyone in your family to read. Include Christian biographies among those books.

5. Choose good books that you and your wife can be reading together, including books of the Bible, and discuss what you are learning.

6. If there are Bible-based classes offered in your church, attend with your family.

7. Redeem your commute by listening to good sermons and classes, many of which you can download for free.

8. Have dinner together with your family most nights, and use that time to pray together, keep a journal log of prayer requests for other people, and read a portion of the Bible and talk about it together.

9. Pray for each member of your family every day and let them know you are praying for them.

10. Place a hand on the head of each of your children every day and pray over them.Then kiss them on the head and make sure they often get a loving hug.

11. While either snuggling or holding hands, pray with and for your wife every day and remember to include the reasons you are thankful to God for her that day. If these things have not been common in your home, it is very likely that your family has been aching for them and will be thankful for your loving leadership as the head of your home.

 

Articles

Raising Gospel-Centered Children

In Home and Family,Perspective on June 12, 2012 by The Spillover

From Luma Simms:

Because we are our children’s parents and earthly authority (while they are young) we can slip into the mindset that their salvation and sanctification depends on us. This slip then leads to mentoring and training that is child-centered. This is false. The Holy Spirit is responsible for conviction of sin and bringing people to salvation. That includes the little people in our homes. When we search out the Spirit, when we talk about Him and hold Him up before our children, we are modeling a life of Spirit-dependence for our children. This is training them to walk in step with the Sprit.

How do we set a good example of a disciple before the eyes of our children so they can emulate us? It’s not just about making Jesus our priority. It’s about showing our children that our identity is in Christ. From our identity in Christ, our identity as parents will naturally flow. Along with this we must model a life of reliance on the Holy Spirit. Our children need to hear us say: “I prayed for the Lord to fill you with his Holy Spirit today.” Or, “I prayed for the Spirit to give you wisdom when you met with your teacher.”

How can we get there? The Holy Spirit often prompts us to take a hard look at the things that excite us. Our children pick up on our excitement and our passions. If getting through today’s installment from the church family worship book takes precedence over having compassion on a red-eyed child who is up past his or her bedtime, our children will begin to sense that checking off a box on our godly to-do list is more important than loving our neighbor.

D.A. Carson says this extraordinarily well in the context of the student/teacher relationship:

Recognize that students do not learn everything you teach them. They certainly do not learn everything I teach them! What do they learn? They learn what I am excited about; they learn what I emphasize, what I return to again and again; they learn what organizes the rest of my thoughts. So if I happily presuppose the gospel but rarely articulate it and am never excited about it, while effervescing frequently about, say, ecclesiology or textual criticism, my students may conclude that the most important thing to me is ecclesiology or textual criticism. They may pick up my assumption of the gospel; alternatively, they may even distance themselves from the gospel; but what they will almost certainly do is place at the center of their thought ecclesiology or textual criticism, thereby wittingly or unwittingly marginalizing the gospel.

My husband and I saw this same mistranslation happen with our children when we were not deliberate about the gospel. Even worse than merely de-emphasizing the gospel, we started realizing that our children had become judgmental little scoffers. Why? Because we were so busy comparing and contrasting our education, parenting, and worship style choices with those of other parents that we had marginalized the gospel before our kids. We were way more excited about high church liturgy, classical education, “courtship,” family worship times, you name it. We actually believed they were signs of spiritual maturity. The only problem was, we had neglected the one and only thing that could ever give our children and us the power and strength for real spiritual maturity—the gospel.

Read the rest.

Articles

This Momentary Marriage: 8 Minutes That Will Change Your Day

In Home and Family,Soul Food,Videos on May 8, 2012 by The Spillover